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Child of the Commons

New Winter Exhibition Opens at Chartwell

Chartwell in winterChartwell in winter
The staff at Chartwell, Sir Winston Churchill’s beloved country home in Kent, have launched a new winter exhibition, Child of the Commons, full of discovery as well as items that have never before been on public display. Running to 19 February 2017, the exhibition focuses on Churchill’s extraordinary political career. It features over fifty objects, from personal family mementoes to commemorative gifts that tell the stories of Churchill’s time in politics and why, in his own words, he would spend his life as a “Child of the commons.”

Many of the objects are items Chartwell hopes to acquire with the “Keep Churchill at Chartwell” appeal. Launched on 5 September, the appeal hopes to raise £7.1 million by the end of January 2017 in order to save these and many more items once belonging to Sir Winston Churchill for the nation.

Churchill started his political career when Queen Victoria was still on the throne, and his time in Westminster would see him through two world wars and through to the onset of the Cold War. By this time he was the longest-serving MP of the twentieth century.

Child of the Commons has been researched by a team of National Trust staff and volunteers, and offers a unique insight into the breadth of Churchill’s political career. It will take visitors from a childhood spent idealising his politician father, through his early days as constituency MP, his ‘crossing the floor’ between Conservatives and Liberals, and his holding most of the major offices of state, including being Prime Minister twice.

Highlights of the exhibition include:

  • Nobel Prize in literature—awarded to Churchill in 1953 primarily for his oratory and iconic speeches
  • Speech box—confidential notes from Churchill’s advisers were stored in this unassuming box ready for him to transform into his rousing speeches
  • House of Commons eightieth birthday book—an illuminated book in green leather signed by almost every member of the House of Commons
  • Public school fencing medal—A silver medallion in the shape of a Maltese Cross awarded to Churchill as the most talented fencer at Harrow school
  • Pair of hairbrushes—made from wood from the deck of the Second World War ship HMS Exeter. Only two other pairs were made, for the captain of the ship and for King George VI.

Katherine Barnett, House and Collections Manager at Chartwell comments:

Child of the Commons has been a wonderful exhibition to curate as it’s allowed us to focus on Churchill’s wider political career. His achievements ranged from being the youngest person in the Cabinet for over 100 years, right through to being the longest serving MP of the twentieth century. With constituencies across the length of the UK, having contested 21 elections and served with two different political parties, Churchill’s political career was a real rollercoaster and it’s wonderful that we get to share these stories here at Chartwell.

“At times, squeezing it all in was challenging, after all this is someone whose interest in politics started in childhood and lasted through the entire ninety years of his life, but the collections we are able to show really help tell the key stories of his career. From early career despatch boxes to awards and gifts in thanks for a lifetime’s work in Westminster, this exhibition truly depicts why Churchill always thought of himself as a ‘Child of the Commons.’

Child of the Commons is open daily until 19 February 2017, 11am–3pm (closed 24 & 25 December). Please note the house is closed for winter. National Trust members receive free entry. Adult entry to gardens, studio & exhibition £7.40. For more information visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/chartwell or telephone 01732 868381.

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