Tour Chartwell, the former home of Sir Winston Churchill


Chartwell in the Weald of Kent is the former home of the Churchill family. Sir Winston Churchill was a soldier, writer, aviator, held senior government posts and became Prime Minister twice. Chartwell is the family home that Churchill loved very much. 

The house is essentially the same as the family left it in 1964 with additional exhibits detailing the wartime Prime Minister's life. See his study, lounges, bedrooms and museum. See the beautiful gardens and art studio. 

Parts of the house have exhibition rooms with artefacts, such as uniforms, gifts and letters. There is an excellent café run by the National Trust. We can combine Chartwell's tour with nearby Hever Castle of Penshurst Place on a driver-guided day trip from London.

Churchill; Soldier, aviator, writer and statesman

A brief history of the life of Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

Growing up
Churchill was born on the 30th November 1874 at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire. His father was a natural speaker, Tory radical, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. His mother, born in Brooklyn, New York, and daughter of Leonard Jerome, a wealthy financier and speculator. 

Churchill's father, Lord Randolph Spencer-Churchill, was the brother of the 8th Duke of Marlborough. Still, being a brother of a Duke doesn't mean you receive a dowry or stipend, Randolph married well, which in turn financed his life-style. 

Winston didn't do well at school, and therefore he joined the Royal Cavalry. He was slightly built and made up for this disadvantage by being brave, sometimes recklessly so. We often find physically weaker or small men achieve great things in history; they compensate for their lack of stature.

Churchill loved to write and became a part-time journalist whilst soldiering in Cuba, Afghanistan, Egypt, Sudan and South Africa. During a skirmish in the Boer War (South Africa), Churchill was taken prisoner. He escaped the prison camp and hid out in the bush and managed to get to a British controlled seaport and sailed home. It must have been a remarkable adventure. Of course, Churchill wrote about his heroic deeds, and he became a bit of a celebrity. 

Member of Parliament
He became a Conservative Member of Parliament in 1900. Not long after in 1904, he switched sides to the Liberal Party. Historians often remark that the Conservative party never forgave him for being a turn-coat. It seems, Churchill was a Churchill man and not a 'party' person at all. Political parties were used as vehicles that drove Winston to power. 

Churchill married Clementine Hozier in 1908. They were married for 56 years and had five children; Diana (1909-2014) Randolph (1911-1968) Sarah (1914-1982) Marigold (1918-1921) and Mary (1922-2014). Famously Churchill proposed to Clementine at the Temple of Diana at Blenheim Palace. Sadly Marigold died of septicaemia (2 years old) in 1921. Clementine and Winston were extremely close and had many happy years, although Winston's hectic career made life difficult.

First Lord of the Admiralty
He is now First Lord of the Admiralty, at the apex of the world's greatest Navy, the Royal Navy. The position has immense power and responsibility. Britain and its allies, Japan, France, Russia, and Italy, are now at war with Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire. The Great War is here, and the Navy's new head is planning an attack on the Gallipoli Peninsula. The campaign did not go well at all. The Government and press criticise Churchill for a terrible error of judgement. He honourably resigns and goes and fights in the trenches on the western front.

On the western front
Lieutenant Colonel Winston Churchill sends a message ahead to inform the Royal Scots Fusiliers of his plan to meet with all officers over lunch and inspect the troops. One such officer records Churchill's arrival;  'Just before noon, an imposing cavalcade arrived. Churchill on a black charge, Archie Sinclair on a black charger, two grooms on black chargers followed by a limber filled with Churchill's luggage - much more than the 35 pounds allowed weight. In the rear half, we saw a curious contraption: a long bath and boiler for heating the bathwater.' 

The tank
Winston had another experience under his belt, horrific and futile trench warfare. Although, he seemed to have made an impression on his subordinates, but, not always good. Still, his eccentric ways humoured many of the men. The slow progress of the conflict led Churchill (First Lord of the Admiralty) to establish the 'Land-ships Committee' in 1915. Winston Churchill took great interest in the development of secret weapons, code-named 'TANK.' The committee devised the name to confuse the enemy into thinking the Brits were designing 'water tanks'. In fact, Britain was developing the world's first land-ship or tank with Churchill's encouragement. By 1918 Britain had built 2,600, and arguably the tank technology helped break the deadlock on the western front and shorten the war. 

The wilderness years
Churchill swapped political parties again and returned to the Conservative party. Now as Chancellor of the Exchequer, he returned Britain to the Gold Standard, a system whereby the Pound Sterling's value is fixed with a value of gold, creating stable, but, an inflexible financial environment. It didn't go well, Winston lost his position and spent eleven years spending time writing for a living and making speeches. During this period he warned the British Government of appeasing Nazi Germany. The Government and most of the public were pro-appeasement, no doubt remembering the carnage of the Great War (1914-1918).

As it turns out, Winston was one of the world's early aviators, and this experience had taught him that future wars would be won by dominance in the air. Of course, he stuck his nose into that too. He was closely involved in the creation of a Naval Air Service during his time as First Lord. In 1917, the Royal Flying Corps combined with the Naval Air Service to create the Royal Air Force or RAF. We owe something to Churchill regarding the founding of an efficient and modern air-force capable of taking on the Luftwaffe.

Wartime leader
Following Prime Minister Chamberlain's resignation in 1940, Churchill becomes Prime Minister of a coalition 'war' government. Winston Churchill has dictatorial powers during World War Two. He didn't always make the right decisions. Still, he persuaded the Government and public to fight on and on and never surrender. Once the Royal Air Force had defeated the Luftwaffe at the Battle-of-Britain, next came the Royal Navy victory of the Battle-of-the-Atlantic. The U-boat threat was now neutralised, and Britain could receive supplies and arms from the US. America declared war on Germany on 11th December 1941. Britain was no longer alone; Victory was inevitable.

Out of office
Labour won the general election in 1945, just before the end of the war. Churchill was out of office again, but, he had this great way of seeing the big picture and dedicated his time in sharing those thoughts with the world. He could see the next enemy of western democratic powers was the Soviet Union. Churchill made his 'Iron curtain speech' in the US, with the US President Truman's approval, although he denied it later.

Sir Winston Churchill wrote over 40 books, read thousands, fought on four continents, and was an accomplished artist. Many of such paintings you can see at Chartwell. He held high office and became Prime Minister twice. Winston had many flaws and had a knack of rubbing people up the wrong way, but, he was brave, faithful, honest for the most part and loved Britain. Discover more at Chartwell on a driver-guided tour of Kent. 

Winston and Clementine purchased the house and surrounding eighty acres in 1922. Chartwell is not the most attractive house, but its location is fabulous. Churchill loved the view from Chartwell's grounds and spent many happy hours in the garden, his art studio and talking to his koi carp. As he did, you will also enjoy the gardens and be fascinated by the time-capsule like interiors.

The interiors
There are ten or so spaces to explore from the study, lounges and bedrooms. Clementine put her stamp on what was a gloomy Victorian mansion. Clementine instructed builders to add bright, airy rooms, and she filled the house with uplifting chintzy furniture. Incidentally, you will see the house as it was in the 1930s'. 

The Museum and Uniform Rooms were originally guest bedrooms, but now give you an insight into how much Churchill was internationally admired and loved. It is filled with gifts and pride of position is his Order of the Garter gowns. The 'Order of the Garter' is the highest honour available to British subjects and endowed by the Queen only.

You will notice Churchill's obsession with maps, hats and his expert instincts for a photographic PR stunt. The whole experience is a wonderful insight into the world of Churchill. 

The National Trust has lovingly maintained the gardens. You will see the water gardens, where Churchill contemplated life and fed his Golden Orfe. The stone terrace has a small pavilion with frescos detailing John Churchill, the First Duke of Marlborough and his military exploits. He defeated King Louis XIV troops at the Battle of Blenheim in 1704. Winston enjoyed the stories of his great military campaigns and the victories against all the odds. The views of the rolling Kent Weald from the terrace are lovely.

On the lower section of the garden is the Art Studio. Not everyone is a fan of Winston's paintings. Still, many people regard them as very good, and the art generates a lot of interest. 

Touring and accommodation
Chartwell House's location allows us to combined a Chartwell visit with either Penshurst Place or Hever Castle on day tour from London.

If you have a great love for gardens, stay overnight in Kent or Sussex and enjoy visiting a fine collection of castles and gardens. Chartwell is in the middle of Weald of Kent and short driving distance from Sissinghurst Castle and Gardens, Great Dixter, Penshurst Place and Scotney Castle. All different, but all held in high esteem in horticultural circles. Not forget Leeds Castle, the iconic fairy-tale fortress known as the Queen's Castle.

Stay at Hever Castle has magnificent gardens and the Tudor village at Hever is a luxury Bed and Breakfast. You will be staying in William Waldorf Astor's beautifully crafted guest accommodation. South Lodge Hotel and Spa is the five-star option located in South Downs National Park. It is ideal for touring both Chartwell and the gardens mentioned, plus England's Wine Country

There are also many Manor House style hotels in the Kent region. We can provide options if you prefer to stay in the Kent, the garden of England and explore the county in more depth on a driver-guided tour.

Churchill's family home

Winston's place to escape, write and think

  • VIP private tours available
  • See museum and uniforms
  • Explore the gardens
  • Art Studio

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