Yesterday morning I woke up bright and early and drove to Oxted so that my fiancé could pick up some bits and bobs from a seller on eBay. Now, I’ve not been driving very long and to be perfectly honest (I can admit this here because nobody I know in ‘real’ life reads these posts), I can be quite nervous and not the most confident driver – especially on roads I don’t know. But, I did it. We decided to make a day of it and whilst we were in Kent we visited Chartwell.
Chartwell house and gardens is now operated by the National Trust (so you can expect it to be beautiful) and it was the later family home of Winston Churchill and his wife, Clementine, from 1922 until 1965. One of my favourite anecdotes is that Churchill finally bought Chartwell for a sum of £5,000 without telling his wife – cheeky. I can almost imagine him casually dropping it into conversation and her being shocked. The family instructed Philip Tilden, an architect, to make changes to the property such as a large extension to the eastern side. The renovations took longer than expected but the family finally moved into the house in 1924.
It was from Chartwell that Churchill ate with Clementine on 5th June 1944, as D-Day approached and the Allied forces prepared to land in Normandy. You can imagine it, the tension as the Churchill’s silently sat and ate their dinner, Clementine perhaps watching Churchill, silently surveying him and reading his mood.
Churchill died on 24th January 1965 in Chartwell after having suffered a serious stroke nine days previous.
We managed to make it to the estate in one piece, although I did run over a huge branch in the road, and was there by around 11 am. The car park was already brimming with cars. It makes sense really, the weather was absolutely stunning and especially in Kent – it was just beautiful.
The 80 acres of Chartwell are open to all, without having to pay entry; however, if you want to go on a self-guided tour of the house and visit the gardens then it’s £13.50 per adult as well as a timed entrance. So, we purchased our tickets and made our way to the house.
Unfortunately, the house itself was covered in scaffolding as part of refurbishment works, but I can imagine how lovely it would have been in the sunlight. We entered the house, where you aren’t allowed to take pictures, but that was OK. There was so much to look at, I didn’t want to see it from a lens. I suppose the restriction on photography is due to all of the original paintings hanging up by Churchill himself. Who knew the great politician and historian was an amazing painter? I didn’t, and now we both do!
The house was well preserved with so many objects and it was littered with imagery relating to Napoleon and Nelson. Churchill’s library was full of books, and the dining room light and refreshing. The house looked very modern. Lady Clementine clearly had great taste.
A few rooms had been converted into exhibition rooms. One of which was Churchill’s uniform room, full of his different outfits. It was really amazing, especially his dark
green velvet siren suit.
My only criticism of the house was that it was roped off, it dictates the direction in which you have to view the house. This led to a bottle-neck effect at first, and I felt quite rushed at the beginning.
Anyhow, we left the house and wandered around Kitchen Gardens and enjoyed the sun before we went to find a pub for lunch, which we did quite easily.
Naturally, I have to mention the shop which is full of some really nice pieces, although quite pricey. Notably there is a second-hand bookshop next door with a wide range of books for only a £1/£2 which I thought was such a good idea. There was also a café that we didn’t go into, but looked like it served the usual bits.
All in all, it was a genuinely lovely day out, spent enjoying the sunshine and learning a little bit more about Churchill, the man and not the politician.