Our Visit to Chartwell was Deeply Moving
During a trip to Kent and Sussex we visited six homes in England. Five were Stately Homes. One was a private residence now owned by the National Trust––Winston and Clementine Churchill's home Chartwell in the Weald of Kent.
The home is situated in an extremely beautiful and romantic landscape overlooking a rolling valley. The official guidebooks says "On a misty morning it still speaks powerfully of an older England of Nanny Everest's remembering. Churchill often said he had bought Chartwell for the view."
The house is a warm red brick structure with intersecting rooflines and multiple chimneys. Ivy covers some of the walls and the gardens are wonderfully lush. My husband sketched the house which I painted.
Winston and Clementine Churchill's Chartwell
Simon Jenkins who wrote England's Thousand Best Houses says "Chartwell looks out over a lake and private valley, the Wealden hills rolling towards the horizon. This is very much rural Kent."
The day of our visit was alternately cloudy and clear. We arrived early and entered the house with other visitors from many corners of the globe. Unlike other historical sites, there was no guided tour and one was free to wander in the rooms and ask the docents questions.
Chartwell is not small by any means, however, the rooms are cozy and comfortable. Clementine and Winston regularly entertained politicians and important visitors at their round table on the lower level placed to take advantage of the beautiful landscape. Upstairs, one can see Churchill's study and imagine him seated at the desk concentrating deeply while writing under the peaked white ceiling with exposed timber beams.
The house is full of photographs of Churchill's family and friends as well as world leaders. In the small "museum" on an upper floor one can see letters, honorary medals and other memorabilia from his extraordinary career.
Churchill was a very talented and prolific painter and his studio on the grounds is open as part of the visit. We were very excited to find a painting of the Palladian Bridge at Wilton House we had seen and photographed just a few days earlier.
According to the official guide book with an introduction by the Mary Soames, Winston's remaining living child, "After Winston's death in 1965, Clementine did not wish to continue living at Chartwell and relinquished it to the National Trust. It was her wish that the principal rooms should be shown as much as possible as they were in Churchill's heyday--the twenties and thirties."
My husband and I were very moved to be in the home of the famous British Prime Minister who defended England with every ounce of physical and oratorical energy imaginable during the bleak years of World War II. As Americans we felt profoundly grateful to be standing in his home and recognizing his enormous contribution to the keeping the world free from tyrants.