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England

Chartwell (Well Street)

  • House & Family History: The core of the red brick Chartwell is 15th century; however, the oldest part, now occupied by Churchill's study, was built in 1086, making it 10 years older than Westminster Hall in London. In the 16th century the estate, then called Well Street, was the seat of the Potter family. Legend has it that Henry VIII slept in an oak-paneled room (long gone) at Chartwell while he was courting Anne Boleyn at nearby Hever Castle. The name of the house comes from the clear spring, the Chart Well, on the estate. In the mid-19th century Chartwell was remodeled and enlarged (adding bays, oriels, and two wings) by the Campbell-Colquhoun family, leaving the house, by all accounts, rather unattractive. In 1922 the house, together with 80 acres, was purchased for £5,000 (approximately £1 million in 2020 inflation-adjusted values using the labour value commodity index) by Winston Churchill using an inheritance from his first cousin once removed, Lord Herbert Vane-Tempest. Winston had just lost his seat in Parliament when he purchased Chartwell and was particularly captivated by the house's magnificent views over the Weald of Kent, which he found very relaxing and an inspiration for his writing. Between 1922 and 1924 Churchill engaged the architect Philip Tilden (Tilden was recommended to Churchill by Sir Philip Sassoon) to rebuild Chartwell (at a cost of £18,000); the work included creating Churchill's second floor study, in which the ceiling was opened up to reveal the old roof timbers. Tilden stripped away Victorian trimmings and added gables and a new wing that included a dining room, a drawing room, and Clementine's bedroom. On the entrance façade Tilden installed an 18th century wooden doorcase, purchased for £25 from London antique fittings dealer Thomas Crowther. Crowther also supplied many of the cast iron firebacks and paneled doors in the house, as well as the ship weathervane on the roof. During the summer of 1923, when Chartwell was being reconstructed, the Churchill family let a nearby house named Hosey Rigg; Churchill referred to the house as "Cosy Pig" (Winston and Clementine were very fond of nicknames) and was delighted to learn that Lewis Carroll had written "Alice in Wonderland" there. Though Churchill and Tilden were barely speaking by the end of the restoration work at Chartwell, many years later Tilden wrote "No client that I have ever had, considering his well-filled life, has ever spent more time, trouble, or interest in the making of his home than did Mr. Churchill." During World War II two East End mothers and their seven children were evacuated from London to Chartwell; they didn't stay long, as they quickly grew homesick for their own homes and became tired of the country. The rooms and gardens today remain much as they were when the Churchills lived here, with pictures, books, maps, and personal mementoes strongly evoking the career and wide ranging interests of Churchill. Sir Winston wrote virtually all his books at Chartwell and hosted a wide variety of visitors at the house, from Charlie Chaplin to Lawrence of Arabia, and all stripes of politicians. In 1946 a group of the Churchills' admirers and friends purchased Chartwell and gave it to the National Trust, under the condition that Winston and Clementine could continue to live there for their lifetimes. In 1965, after Sir Winston's death, Clementine took the decision to no longer live at Chartwell, and gave it over completely to the National Trust, who opened it to the public in 1966. In 1955 Churchill declined an offer by Queen Elizabeth of a dukedom (1st Duke of London), the only non-royal offered a dukedom since 1874. The Churchill surname has had an interesting journey. Burke's Peerage gives the family origin as coming from Gitto de Leon, whose son was Wandril de Leon, Lord of Courcil. The name then changed from "de Courcil" to "de Chirchil" and ultimately "Churchill." In 2017 The Prince of Wales visited Chartwell to thank those who had helped acquire many of Sir Winston's personal items for the nation.

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    Comments: Churchill said this about the house: "I love the place—a day away from Chartwell is a day wasted."

  • Garden & Outbuildings: The terraced gardens contain the lakes Sir Winston created, the Water Garden, Lady Churchill's Rose Garden, and the Golden Rose Walk, a golden wedding anniversary gift from Sir Winston and Lady Churchill's children. Many of Sir Winston's paintings can be seen in the garden studio. Philip Tilden designed the Marlborough Pavilion, a summer house folly that was decorated in 1949 by John Spencer Churchill (Winston's nephew) with trompe l'oeil plaques and murals that celebrate the Marlborough wars.

  • Architect: Philip Tilden

    Date: 1922-24
    Designed: Remodeled House for Winston Churchill. Designed Marlborough Pavilion.

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  • Country Life: CXXXVII, 169, 1965.

  • Title: Sassoon: The Worlds of Philip and Sybil
    Author: Stansky, Peter
    Year Published: 2003
    Reference: pg. 138
    Publisher: New Haven: Yale University Press
    ISBN: 0300095473
    Book Type: Hardback

    Title: Landmarks of Britain: The Five Hundred Places that Made Our History
    Author: Aslet, Clive
    Year Published: 2005
    Reference: pgs. 61-62
    Publisher: London: Hodder & Stoughton
    ISBN: 0340735104
    Book Type: Hardback

    Title: Chartwell Guidebook
    Author: NA
    Year Published: 2002
    Reference: pgs. 6, 12-16, 18-19
    Publisher: London: The National Trust
    ISBN: 0707801478
    Book Type: Softback

    Title: Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Visions of Glory, 1874-1932, The
    Author: Manchester, William
    Year Published: 1983
    Reference: pgs. 771-774, 776
    Publisher: Boston: Little, Brown and Company
    ISBN: 0316058130
    Book Type: Hardback

    Title: Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Alone, 1932-1940, The
    Author: Manchester, William
    Year Published: 1988
    Reference: pgs. 4-5, 410, 604
    Publisher: Boston: Little, Brown and Company
    ISBN: 0316058149
    Book Type: Hardback

    Title: National Trust Magazine, The
    Author: NA
    Year Published: NA
    Reference: Number 96, Summer 2002, pg. 10
    Publisher: Swindon: The National Trust
    ISBN: NA
    Book Type: Magazine

  • House Listed: Grade I

    Park Listed: Grade II

  • "Young Winston" (1972). "A History of Britain" (2000 - TV documentary series). "The Gathering Storm" (2002 - BBC TV movie).
  • Past Seat / Home of: Potter family, 16th century. Campbell Colquhoun, 19th century; A.J. Campbell-Colquhoun, until 1922. Sir Winston Churchill, 1922-65.

    Current Ownership Type: The National Trust

    Primary Current Ownership Use: Visitor Attraction

  • House Open to Public: Yes

    Phone: 01732-868-381

    Fax: 01732-868-193

    Email: chartwell@nationaltrust.org.uk

    Website: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk

    Historic Houses Member: No