|Chartwell from the south, viewed through the orchard|
There are some places where you get a sense of the people that lived there. And there are places where history was made. Chartwell is a bit of both. The house itself is mainly Victorian, though built round a 16th century estate where Henry VIII is said to have stayed whilst courting the saucy-eyed Anne Boleyn just down the road at Hever Castle. Churchill drove his children to it in 1922, to ask what they thought of it. They urged him to buy it; he already had, without telling Clementine, the long-suffering Mrs Churchill.
|Yes, it's part of the garden|
Chartwell, named for the Chart Well that feeds the lake below, would prove to be a challenge to the family’s often shaky finances. But Churchill loved it – he had partly fallen in love with the views over the Weald of Kent, which have to be amongst the loveliest in England. Initially, the property required a considerable amount of work. The house and gardens you see now are a product of Churchill’s dreams and personal input over the years. It is, unashamedly, a family home, yet also stuffed full of fascinating memorabilia alongside the personal items. The study, where Churchill worked on the nation’s budgets, his writings – and, presumably, his speeches – is an amazing room. The drawing room is elegant and the dining room is set ready for a meal. Heaven knows how many famous behinds dined there. There’s an exhibition on the man, and loads of his paintings if you like that sort of thing.
The house was bought by friends of the Churchill’s in 1946 and presented to the National Trust on condition that the Churchills could continue living there. Clementine gave it up after Winston died in 1965, but continued to visit right up to her own death in 1977.
It’s not really a place to take small children who get easily bored. But the main drawback is that it can get extremely busy. The National Trust very sensibly limits the number of people in the house at any time, so entrance is by timed ticket. But, weather permitting, you can easily lose yourself for several hours just wandering around the gardens and grounds.