By BARRY SINGER
In spring 1917, Zeppelin and bombing raids were making life in London increasingly hazardous. Seeking to secure for his brood a safe haven, Winston Churchill bought Lullenden Manor, a rambling Tudor house on seventy-seven acres of Sussex farmland. There, Clementine and the children quickly moved.
Churchill purchased the manor for £5,500 that he raised by selling stock he had in the Pennsylvania Railroad and an Exchequer war bond. The house was really too grand for his needs—and for his purse—with nine bedrooms and a soaring, double-height, vaulted, timbered great hall lit by a wrought-iron electrolier.
Churchill dabbled with farming at Lullenden, purchased a few pigs and cows, and planted cherry trees, magnolias, Japanese azaleas, and Britannia rhododendrons (one of Clementine’s favorites). Initially there were three German prisoners of war on staff as workers. One day, however, one of Churchill’s children was sickened with food poisoning, and the POWs were soon sent to work elsewhere.
Lullenden was convenient to Penshurst Airfield. After Churchill became Minister of Munitions in July 1917, he frequently flew directly to and from his work in France, where he was eventually provide with a permanent headquarters at the Château Verchocq, handsomely appointed but lacking in hot water.
Barry Singer is the author of Churchill Style (Abrams Image, 2012) and the proprietor of Chartwell Booksellers in New York City.