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Charting Churchill

New Book by Leslie Hossack Looks at Churchill’s Buildings
Story by RON COHEN

Charting Churchill

While there are many Churchill-related works published annually, there are none that have ever manifested the approach to the subject that Leslie Hossack has given us in her beautiful Charting Churchill. Inspired by Churchill’s words in his 28 October 1943 speech to the House, “We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us,” she has built an entirely fresh approach to Churchillian biography. Beautiful contemporary photographs, all shot by the very talented and tasteful Ottawa-based but peripatetic Churchillian Leslie Hossack, illustrate this exquisite, even sumptuous, book. Somewhat pricey but well worth it, the book is not available in stores. To order online, please CLICK HERE.

There are (with good reason) dozens of biographical works about WSC published annually. They cover the general story of his life but they also probe and expand many facets of that life, and these do include photographic biographies. The latter frequently focus on the personal—Churchill and his family, from his youngest to his oldest days. They tend to be based on his paintings, his writings, his Prime Ministership, his leadership, his youth, his family, his relationships, his travels, his habits and tastes, his style, his funeral, and so on.

None before Leslie Hossack’s work tell us the Churchill story via the buildings, principal and peripheral, which were a part of his life. I emphasize “and peripheral” because those images are seldom seen, while they form a very relevant part of the Churchill story.

To be sure, we are familiar with the innumerable pictures of the most famous of the buildings, such as Numbers 10 and 11 Downing St., the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, Blenheim Palace, and Chartwell. But even those are touched on differently by Leslie Hossack; the corners of those grand venues relevant to Churchill’s life, such as the room in Blenheim Palace in which Lady Randolph gave birth to her first son, are of course shown. But Hossack also shows us other aspects of Blenheim including the South Façade, the Riding School, the River Glyme, the Stable Court, the State Dining Room, the Long Library, and the Temple of Diana, where Churchill proposed to Clementine.

All of the family’s homes, in their current state, are present, from 29 St. James’s Place through 28 Hyde Park Gate. And the family’s Kent home, Chartwell, lovingly acquired by Churchill in 1922, and now one of the most visited of all the National Trust properties, is photographically dissected. The wartime “business” locales, such as Ditchley Park, Bletchley Park, and what are now known as the Churchill War Rooms are there. And so, with the author’s light touch is the Prime Minister’s bathroom at Ditchley and the cinema at Bletchley.

On the personal style level, Lock & Co., the hatters; Turnbull & Asser, the shirt makers; and the all-important Berry Bros. & Rudd, the wine merchants, are all photographically represented.

The author has facilitated our appreciation of all of these images with a brief, digestible, enjoyable note on each and the relevance of each to the Churchill story. Her choices are simultaneously esoteric and central, and Leslie Hossack’s photographic skills are in ripe evidence. Moreover, she has divided the Churchill story tidily and logically into six very manageable parts.

The book is fresh and original, beautifully shot and printed, and will have pride of place on your coffee table or the coffee table of friend or relation you wish to spoil.

Ron Cohen MBE is President of the Sir Winston Churchill Society of Ottawa and author of The Bibliography of the Writings of Sir Winston Churchill.

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