Sunday, 12 August 2018

Chartwell

25 July 2018
 

"a day away from Chartwell is a day wasted"
(Winston Churchill)
 
 
Having seen a letter from Winston Churchill on display at Hever Castle just the day before, we decided to call in at his family home, Chartwell, when we found out just how close it was to Hever. It is a National Trust property and, as members, it doubly appealed as a 'free' day out!
 

 
You can spot the house from the road, just by its distinctive brick wall. Despite its countryside aspect, Chartwell has a functional and slightly utilitarian look to the exterior. Rather than a traditional wall-flowered country cottage, you can imagine it standing up to a bombing...so it probably suited Churchill to a tee! You can in fact admire some of Churchill's own brickwork in the garden.
 
Again, it was a fantastically hot day, which did not make overly comfortable garden exploring weather. There is plenty of parking, a shop and a café. The location of Chartwell is stunning. Churchill was involved in the design of the gardens, pools and water garden as well as the re-modelling of the house (with the help of an architect).

 
The house has been set out as it would have been in the 1930's. It is comfortable without being showy, with many personal items on display and you feel as though you truly get an air of how he may have lived.

The photo below shows Lady Chartwell's desk with his last framed photo and a picture of one of their daughters, who sadly died as a young child.
 
 
 
Churchill has been voted the greatest Briton and, indeed there does not seem to be very much he was not very good at...You can see his paintings on display, and the letters and the exhibitions about his life are fascinating. I saw my first Monet at close quarters in his sitting room and found out that he was fond of bezique - which is a card game we play a lot on holiday. There is a display of all of his clothing in some of the rooms upstairs (including his famous velvet boiler suit) and various items and awards which had been given to him and Lady Churchill.

 
 

As you leave the house, there's a video running of his state funeral, which strikes a really poignant note in his much more humble home. You really get a sense that he was a very intelligent, down to earth man, who achieved amazing things (and was probably quite difficult to live with!).


The only disappointment was that the house does not include visiting Churchill's own bedroom (for which the National Trust organise private tours at a cost - which I think was around £45 when I visited). If I had known this beforehand, I might have booked one of these before visiting. The house does include the downstairs rooms, the dining room, Lady Chartwell's bedroom and the study and sitting rooms.


 
My favourite spot at Chartwell actually turned out to be one of Churchill's own favourites, which is next to a small pool near the house. His chair is set by the pool, which you reach with stepping stones (the stone are now unfortunately closed off to visitors) where he used to sit to think and feed the fish. It is a really lovely quiet spot, the pool is teeming with small fish and you can easily imagine losing a few hours sitting there. Unfortunately, this was the one place I forgot to take a photo.

 
After looking around the house, we went to the café and sampled a fruit cake made by a recipe from his own cook, Georgina Landemere. I have to say that this cemented my impression that Churchill knew what a good cake would taste like. I have now ordered her book and got the recipe and am hoping to re-create this at home. It was easily the best fruit cake I have ever eaten.


 
















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