An Ipswich Society outing, 17 April 2016
The first of the Society's outings for 2016 took us to Chartwell, the country home of the Churchills from 1922-1965, the year of Sir Winston's death.
Churchill bought the property in 1922 for £5,000. It stands 650 feet above sea level and has marvellous, far-reaching views of the Weald of Kent, which was its principal attraction for him. The Listed Grade I house, an Elizabethan manor house standing on the site of a 15th century house, had been enlarged in the 19th century. Churchill engaged the architect, Philip Tilden, to sweep away the gloomy Victorian facade, build a three-storey east wing, also modify and simplify the interior. The family was able to move in permanently two years later and the National Trust, on Lady Churchill's instructions, has arranged the contents of the rooms to reflect their family life in the twenties and thirties.
There is much of the Arts and Crafts style in the house. On the ground floor are Lady C's sitting room, the drawing room with windows on three sides and a London scene by Monet on the wall and the Library with book-cases going up almost to the ceiling on three walls. Upstairs Lady C's bedroom has beautiful views over garden, lake and the Weald; she also used this room as her study.
The ante-room, once a bath and dressing-room, contains the robes that Lady C. wore to the House of Lords after she had been created Baroness Spencer-Churchill in 1965 in recognition of her work for charity. The museum and uniform rooms were converted in 1966 from three guest bedrooms. The museum displays, amongst other things, many of the numerous awards Churchill received and some of the lavish gifts bestowed on him by foreign heads of state. The study, part of the original house with 16th century beams, is where he spent much of his working life: on his speeches and on his 43 books - for much of his working life he had to write to earn a living.
The Listed Grade II* garden is a great feature including a kitchen garden and studio where many of his paintings are displayed, as they are in the house. He found painting, which he took up in 1915 after the Dardanelles disaster, a great relaxation and a help with his ‘Black Dog' depressions. He completed over 500 in his lifetime. Many thanks to June Peck for organising a memorable visit.