Saturday, 30 July 2011

A Day at Chartwell

On Friday of last week - our suitcases packed for a weeks stay in Kent we made our way there but first, stopped en route at Chartwell, the home of Sir Winston Churchill. We had rented a house in Whitstable but the changeover time was 6.00 p.m. We had thought this was a bit of a bind but when we finally got there, the house was a real gem and a corner of my heart will always belong there. More will be revealed in later postings but first let's deal with Chartwell.

We have been to Chartwell previously when Our Daughter was too young to remember and thought we would hit her with some education during the Summer holidays. When Our Daughter was born we became members of the National Trust - it seems to be a rite of passage - with parenthood comes responsibility and you feel responsible for your own heritage too! I'm sure it would be an interesting survey for the National Trust to conduct - why do people join, etc.

Anyhow, back to Chartwell - it is a wonderful day out. There is both a restaurant and cafe on site and plenty to see as will be revealed in this post!
When Churchill first saw Chartwell he fell in love with the house and its location with stunning views. He showed it to his wife, Clementine. She at first liked the property but then saw drawbacks. Churchill purchased the house and 80 acres in 1922 for £5,000. He bought it without telling Clementine what he had done and when she found out she was appalled - putting it mildly!

As you enter the garden you see Lady Churchill's Rose Garden which leads on to the Terrace Lawn and the Marlborough Pavilion. In the Pavilion there is a frieze by Churchill's nephew of the Battle of Blenheim - see above and below.

From the Pavilion you can walk to Churchill's Art Studio.

"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 on painting as a pastime.

As we entered the studio a National Trust volunteer was giving a talk on Churchill's foray into art. Churchill took up painting in 1915 and once he had started there was no stopping him. He painted over 500 canvasses. The largest collection is on display at Chartwell.

I took a few photos before the Other Half pointed to a sign on the wall which said that photography wasn't allowed - whoops!

Although an amateur painter I admire his choice of colours and his perspective. Many of his paintings are also displayed inside the house.

From the studio we went and had a look at the gardens. The rose above is from Lady Churchill's Rose Garden.

Flowers from the garden.


A flowering clematis.

A plaque on the wall.

The house from the Terrace Lawn.

The house from further away.
"A day away from Chartwell is a day wasted." - Churchill.

There are pet graves on the Top Terrace. Churchill's favourite dogs were brown poodles. He had two: Rufus who accompanied him throughout the Second World War, but was sadly killed in 1947, when he was run over during the Conservative Party Conference in Brighton; his successor Rufus II,  died in 1962. The house  always had a cat - the last of Churchill's cats was a marmalade cat, called Jock, who outlived his master by nine years and died in 1974. There is a tradition of having a marmalade cat at Chartwell and we came across this one lying fast asleep in one of the flowerbeds!

"I like pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals." - Churchill.

Some more clematis.

Some of the produce grown in the Kitchen Garden was for sale.

Some of the beetroot that was for sale.

The wall to the Kitchen Garden was built by Churchill. A man of many talents!

The Kitchen Garden has been replanted to resemble what it would have looked like during the Churchills time here.

What little girl would say no to playing in this house!

Look at the view from that little house!

Some more flowers from the garden.

Fruit from the Kitchen Garden.

The Golden Rose Avenue. This runs through the centre of the walled garden and dates from 1958, the year of Winston and Clementine's golden wedding anniversary.

One of the golden roses!

The gardens are truly delighful.

Flowers being blown by a gentle breeze.

A final photo from the walled gardens before we made our way back towards the house.

On your way to the house you pass the Croquet Lawn. You can just make out the summerhouse / croquet hut in the distance.

An upright photo of the above! You are not allowed to take photographs inside the house - some of the rooms were beautifully decorated. I was particularly taken with the Drawing Room and the Dining Room. The Kitchen was however much smaller than I expected it to be but was all the more charming for it!

After a tour of the house we walked down to the lake.

We saw Oscar Nemon's statue of the Churchills and Our Daughter spotted a heron on the far side of the lake.

In case someone fell into the lake there was some life saving equipment nearby!

Our Daughter posed for a photo on the lawned area by the lake. By now most people had left and we were the last of the few stragglers that remained.

Another photo of Our Daughter. I took none all day and then compensated by taking two in quick succession!

A last look at Chartwell.
"I could not live without champagne. In victory I deserve it. In defeat I need it." - Churchill.

We walked back to the car park and walked past a small fountain.
We said our goodbyes to Chartwell and drove towards our holiday destination - Whitstable!
If you've never been you will have missed something special.
More to be revealed soon!

Until next time.


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