Winston Churchill, famous for leading England as prime minister during the Second World War called Chartwell his home from the 1920s until his death. Located in Kent, just outside of London, the house provides magnificent views of surrounding countryside (20 miles on a clear day), access to his well-kept gardens and a walk through multiple rooms restored to the original condition as to when Churchill himself smoked a cigar inside.
A visit enables people to understand more than just about the times when he led England through its “finest hours” during the war against Nazi Germany. But to learn about his lifetime of heroics, accomplishments and adventures.
The Tour of Chartwell House
Countless interesting artifacts reside inside the house for public viewing and are easily identified. Upon entry each visitor gets access to a laminated guide that details the house blueprint and identifies all the items not to miss.
In the foyer the guest book that contains the signatures of many historical figures including a page from 1933 when Laurence Olivier paid visit. A Monet impressionist painting titled, “Charing Cross Bridge,” hangs on the wall in the first room of the tour, and in the study a model used to particularize the supply chain for allied troops after the D-Day invasion can be viewed.
The second floor provides many artifacts and medals from his early military adventures including a ‘wanted dead or alive’ poster dating back to his time in the Boer War of 1899. Also, the floor contains his Nobel Prize in literature that he won based upon his “mastery of biographical and historical prose.” Plus visitors learn about his honorary American citizenship awarded to him in 1963 by John F Kennedy.
The Paintings of Churchill
Churchill painted. Yes, he was an artist, not just a politician. A studio on the grounds contains over 100 of his paintings for the public to view, enjoy and discuss. He painted all through his life and his art largely reflect his travels. He painted the Egyptian Pyramids of Giza in the 1920s and other iconic scenes such as the canals in Venice in the 1950s.
In the house itself, a few additional Churchill paintings decorate the walls including an award winning painting. In 1947, he entered an amateur contest under a pseudonym and took home top honors.
Converse with the Stewards
Two hours is more than enough time to budget to tour the grounds and even stop in the souvenir shop to purchase a book or a spot of tea at its neighboring café. Certainly with the weather permitting, more time can be used walking the gardens, croquet field, or around his pool, but for the visitors that have extra time, talk with the volunteers.
All the stewards, one in each room, serve as volunteers. They serve as a resource and a wealth of information not just about the national treasure, but personal stories about Winston Churchill, his family, and the history of the house. Whether it’s a wine bottle hunt, a romantic interlude or who visited when? These anecdotes enhance any visit.
The Chartwell Estate maybe off the tourist track when visiting London, but for those interested in Winston Churchill, it can become a favorite and worth the trip out of the city.
The Early Years of Winston Churchill
Lord Randolph Churchill was educated at Eton and Merton College, Oxford. Sir Winston Churchill was educated at Harrow and Sandhurst. Lord Randolph met Winston’s American mother in New York in 1874, shortly before the first of their sons, Winston was born.
Winston’s only sibling, his brother John, was born in 1880 when Lord Randolph seized leadership of the opposition in the House of Commons. Prior to that, Lord Randolph was a virtual unknown, though he became best known as the leader of the “Fourth Party”, four conservatives who referred to themselves as Tory Democrats, favoring the industrial working class. They modeled their political stance after the great Conservative leader Benjamin Disraeli. Winston’s father later became secretary of state for India.
Lord Randolph was known for his biting invectives, not unlike his son Sir Winston. He would make enemies within the Conservative Party as a result of his advanced views, rebellious, eccentric and often times, irresponsible nature engendered by his early history as a spoiled child with charm and inevitable failings. He died relatively young at age forty-five. His son, Winston, would follow in his father’s political career in 1900 when he reached age twenty-five and was elected to Parliament for Oldham as a Conservative.
Sir Winston’s Military Career
He entered the British Army in 1895 as a subaltern in the Fourth Hussars. He participated as a correspondent in the Spanish campaign versus Cuban insurrectionists. Following this, he lived a garrison life in the South of India; but joined the British Forces on the Northwest Frontier. Two years later, he returned to England. By this time, though hostilities in the Balkans were under way, Winston Churchill made his way to Egypt, joining the Lancers Army under Lord Kitchener’s command. Kitchener had a distinct disliking of Churchill because the young soldier had a penchant for blending journalism and military life. But, Churchill’s indomitable spirit would not be dampened. He took part in the famous cavalry charge at Omdurman.
Churchill, The Correspondent
Churchill continued his desire to remain a correspondent when the Boer War broke out. He became a correspondent for the Morning Post in South Africa. But, his steely nature engaged him once again in fighting in defense of a British armored train just outside Ladysmith. Churchill fought bravely, but was captured. His amazing escape spurred books that centured on his experience and observations. He wrote The Story of Malakand Field Force, in 1898, The River War, in 1899 and London to Ladysmith via Pretoria, in 1900.
Upon his return to England, he was received with honor and acclaim. In 1903, rejecting the Conservatism of his father, he became a member of the Liberal opposition. His objections to protectionism issues raised by Joseph Chamberlain was cited as the reason for the change of party. He became one of England’s most forceful speakers, a significant factor that would prove fortuitious during World War II.
Churchill, The Author
Churchill wrote many books including a biography of his father, Lord Randolph Churchill, The Second World War, The Gathering Storm, Their Finest Hour, The Grand Alliance, The Hinge of Fate, Closing the Ring, Triumph and Tragedy, History of the English-Speaking Peoples: The Birth of Britain, The New World, The Age of Revolution and his last, Great Democracies. Winston Churchill visited the USA in 1946 coining the term “Iron Curtain”. He served his country as Prime Minister and a prominent military world leader.
He died January 24, 1965 and was buried near Blenheim palace.