Sunday, August 14, 2016

Chartwell and Churchill

Roses from the Golden Rose Walk, Chartwell

Today I'm excited to share my visit to Chartwell with you. As a long-time admirer of Sir Winston Churchill, I was so happy to finally be in the place where he and his wife, Clementine, once walked and lived their lives. I just knew this would be one of those highlight days.

Be forewarned ... it's a long post so you might want to have something near to hand like a cup of tea or maybe a rose lemonade.

Speaking of rose lemonade, I first tasted this refreshing drink seated in the outdoor cafe at Chartwell. That first sip and I knew I was experiencing something quite wonderful. A sparkling lemonade lightly flavoured with rose oil, it was a refreshing drink most sublime. A perfect way to end a visit to this beautiful place.

Aside... On our way home at the end of our trip I tucked one bottle into my bulging suitcase. Since then, I've been informed that it's available in certain places on this side of the pond -- so Google it for more info.

It was a gorgeous, sunny day when we visited Chartwell, the beloved family home of Sir Winston Churchill. Chartwell was purchased in 1922 and remained the family home until his death in 1965, at which time the house was willed to the National Trust. I think the NT does a wonderful job of taking care of this and many other wonderful historic places.

When Churchill first saw Chartwell he fell in love with the situation and the view, and Clementine his wife once wrote she could 'think of nothing but that heavenly tree-crowned Hill'. Although now it's not quite like what they first saw all those years ago, there is still so much that makes it quite lovely.

Sir Winston once said, "A day away from Chartwell is a day wasted." Now I totally understand why he felt thus -- with those tranquil, beautiful gardens, lush green lawns, clusters of towering trees, and a view that spans the countryside, it would have been hard to tear oneself away to go do his Prime Minister duties up in London.

Churchill's preference was always strongly for Chartwell but, as Anthony Montague Browne related in his book Long Sunset (Cassell: 1995), the permutations of domestic arrangements became something of a trial for Clementine. He recalled one conversation at Downing Street during the early 1950s:

    Winston: "I shall go to Chartwell next weekend."

    Clementine: "Winston, you can't. It's closed and there will be no-one to cook for you."

    Winston: "I shall cook for myself. I can boil an egg. I've seen it done."

    Churchill's threat was received in dumfounded silence on all sides but it was not carried out. His gastronomic priorities clearly prevailed!

That last line of his makes me chuckle: he can boil an egg, he's seen it done.   hahaha

A popular feature of the Chartwell garden is the walled rose garden, and running in the centre is the  Golden Rose Walk. With yellow roses and purple lavender planted all along this walkway leading to the sundial, it truly is the most romantic of spots.
Both Winston and Clementine had a long standing love of roses. Did you know that, as a young man, Winston proposed to her in the rose garden at Blenheim Palace, the place of his birth? And, as a young officer in India during the 1890s he once wrote home to his mother saying how much he enjoyed tending roses around the officers' living quarters. No wonder Clementine fell in love. By the way, their love for each other lasted their whole lives, through the thick and thin of it all.

The Golden Rose Walk dates from 1958, the year of Winston and Clementine's golden wedding anniversary. Its beginning was an anniversary gift from their children with twenty-eight varieties chosen for planting in an east-west avenue. At the centre sat a sundial flanked by the 'Peace' and 'Lydia' varieties. Today, more modern varieties with greater durability and disease resistance are used in the garden.

Isn't this yellow rose a beauty? I was so smitten, I forgot to look for her name. As I'm not sure, I shall call her the Chartwell Beauty.


I'm including a two-minute video I found online. Many of my own photos are close-ups so the video allows a broader look of Chartwell. Below are pictures of what I saw and loved that sunny, blue skied day.

I hope you get a sense of the graceful texture and feeling of this lovely home and garden which once offered Sir Winston Churchill refuge and inspiration during some of the hardest days of his life, and brought so much joy to him and his family during the more peaceful and good times.

The house as it looks today

My first glimpse of Chartwell
as we walked into the grounds

A corner pavilion that might have been a shady nook
on a hot summer day or a shelter on rainy one

The other side of that wall
-- doesn't that brick corner look inviting?

A sweep of lawn inside a low brick wall
overlooking the river and wooded area

Flowers, glorious flowers!

Inside the walled garden -- don't you just love that doorway
arch all covered in climbing roses?

And doesn't that winding walkway
invite you to walk forward?

Can you pick a favourite? I'm hard-pressed to choose one over another.  After the yellow rose photo, I think I'd pick the arched wall and gate with the white climbing rose over it. How about you? Any favourites?

Some other interesting and fine qualities that I appreciate so much about this great man:

His wit and sense of humour...

"History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it."

"I could not live without champagne. In victory I deserve it. In defeat I need it."

"Nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result."
(Having been, as a young man, in the thick of real battles either as war correspondent or combatant in pre-World War battles. I don't think I'd want to be that exhilarated!)

His strength of character, statesmanship, and powerful leadership during the Second World War...

His love for painting and beauty. We took a walk down to the Studio, which was filled with many of his wonderful paintings. Oh goodie, goodie! A small crowd of people all waiting for the little lecture on Churchill's work. It was fascinating.

Years ago I bought a wonderful memoir by Mary Soames, Sir Winston's daughter. It was titled Winston Churchill, His Life As A Painter. I wouldn't wonder if after reading that book that I didn't fall just a little bit in love with the man. He obviously loved what he was doing when he painted. Such zest and appreciation for colour and beauty. He did not begin to paint until he was forty, but from that moment painting became a passion that endured for the rest of his life.

I'm not an artist with paints, but I can so appreciate the creativity as expressed through the lives of other artists. The creativity of individuals like Sir Winston makes me excited to go paint ... with words. And to maybe gather up coloured pencils in a jar to feast my eyes upon as I sit at my desk.

"Just to paint is great fun. The colours are lovely to look at and delicious to squeeze out. Matching them, however crudely, with what you see is fascinating and absolutely absorbing. Try it if you have not done so -- before you die." ~ Churchill

Photo from the souvenir catalogue

We weren't allowed to take photos inside the studio, but I found a picture in the souvenir catalogue that gives a good idea of what it looks like ... still set up as if he'd just left for the day.

His enjoyment of and love for his pet poodles and a marmalade cat named Jock. Jock had been a gift to him from Sir John 'Jock' Colville, Churchill's joint principal private secretary during his second premiership. Jock outlived his master by nine years.

"Only one thing lack these banks of green --
The Pussy Cat who is their Queen."
~ Churchill

When Chartwell was left to the National Trust in 1966, the family of Sir Winston requested "that there always be in comfortable residence a marmalade cat named Jock, with a white bib and four white socks." And, yes, we caught sight of him! Or, rather Rick did; I must have been looking at something else when he was spotted.

Sorry, I don't have a photo but here is a greeting card I bought in the gift store of Jock sitting in the tulips. It's from a painting by artist Celia Pike.

Finally, did you know Sir Winston had a passion for books? Now for sure he's a man after my own heart. We toured the house, and most rooms had shelves of books in them. I wanted to browse -- to see what books he read. Of course proudly sitting were all the books he'd written over his lifetime. Mrs. Churchill's sitting room was also stocked with books -- I was amazed to find a few with titles and by authors I recognized.

"Churchill had a library in every house he owned. It was among the priorities whenever he drew up plans for alterations and improvements; and Chartwell is no exception. As a young man, he devoured English literature and history with a voracious appetite and invoices from booksellers accounted for a significant part of his spending."

 "Nothing makes a man more reverent than a good library."

One such book was a slim volume called Painting As A Pastime. I was thrilled when I found a copy years ago in a lovely secondhand shop. But now it's been reprinted and is available through places like Amazon. I bought a new copy in the gift shop at Chartwell to pass along to painterly friends. Here's an excerpt from the Amazon site:
"The perfect antidote to his 'Black Dog', a depression that blighted his working life, Churchill took to painting with gusto. Picking up a paintbrush for the first time at the age of forty, Winston Churchill found in painting a passion that was to remain his constant companion. This glorious essay exudes his compulsion for a hobby that allowed him peace during his dark days, and richly rewarded a nation with a treasure trove of work."

There is just so much more that I could say, but the time is now creeping into late afternoon and I so wanted to get this up today. Let's call it done then, shall we? I do hope you've enjoyed the bits and pieces I've shared about Chartwell and about the man who loved the beautiful place on God's green earth called England.

Wishing you a beautiful day,

With hugs,

PS. I'll try to get the next chapter up sooner next time.


  1. I feel as though I have walked with you through this fascinating place.

  2. Oh...England! What beautiful pictures. The flowers and gardens are just amazing. Thanks for sharing your trip with us... I'm jealous, haha!

  3. What a lovely tour of a lovely place! Your pictures are wonderful, so glad you got to visit and connect in this way with a hero!

  4. A few years ago I got so interested in W. Churchill that I read several books about him and his thick autobiography volumes. What an interesting post and one I've really enjoyed! Hugs, Diane

  5. My daughter is a Churchill fan so it was wonderful to visit Chartwell with her about ten years ago. My most indelible memories are of the library, where we were allowed to take his own books off the shelves to look at! But how to choose? We were sorry we didn't even have a whole day there, but glad that the rain held off until we had toured the gardens, where I was quite impressed with the orderly training of sweet peas. It really is one of the most wonderful places I've ever visited.

  6. Thank you Brenda,
    I've just finished the tour. I think , like you, I like the picture of the walled garden, with the attractive arched gateway, covered with roses! Every picture is so attractive. Bless you. Look forward to more.

  7. I think it is popular these days to say that one does not like Churchill so to find you unapologetically a fan, even a little "in love," is refreshing. I admire him, too. And I loved learning more about him through this post.

  8. Interesting how history looks at events we cherish differently than how we see them and remember. Beautiful place with such lovely flowers.

  9. Such beautiful gardens! Thanks for sharing your tour.

  10. Thank you, Brenda, for sharing your lovely photos of Chartwell, and for sharing such fascinating tidbits about Sir Winston! I certainly learned things that I did not know...and related some of those tidbits to my family as I read. :)

  11. Oh Brenda I would not have wanted to miss your post. What a glorious place as well your wonderful information on an amazing man. He was certainly extraordinary. His witty quotes seem to be steeped with so much wisdom. Thank you so much for sharing Churchill as well as Chartwell. Will be looking forward to the next chapter. Hugs!

  12. Hi Brenda, this tour of Churchill's Chartwell is lovely. I so enjoyed the gardens, the vista when you first walked in, the beautiful estate and interesting tidbits of Churchill's life. He seems a true Renaissance Man - a master of many talents! I am just starting to read more of the history of WWII. There were true heroes during that time, and Churchill certainly was one. Lovely photos! xx K

  13. Another wonderful post! Churchill was a most interesting and gifted man. He seemed to live his life wholeheartedly, even in the midst of the darkness that was WWII.
    The roses against the wall and archway are so very pretty - my favourite, too. The National Trust does such a great job of preserving and presenting these places to the public. I'm glad England values its history so we can share it.


To My Beautiful Readers,

Some people come into our lives, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never the same. ~ Franz Peter Schubert

Thank you so much for leaving your 'footprint' here in my comment box. I do appreciate you taking a moment to share your thoughts today.

Brenda xo