Ninety-six years ago this month, at the end of January 1925, the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s official residence at No. 11 Downing Street became the Churchills’ London home. After a two-year hiatus, Winston Churchill had been returned to Parliament for Epping at the general election of 1924. He would continue to represent the constituency uninterrupted over the next forty years.
Although elected as the “Constitutionalist and Anti-Socialist” candidate, Churchill supported the new Conservative government of Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin. Since Churchill had been in the Liberal party for twenty years, people were surprised when Baldwin appointed him to one of the highest positions in the Cabinet. Churchill was as taken aback as anyone: “Will the bloody duck swim?” he thought when asked by Baldwin to serve as Chancellor.
Clementine had some of the family furniture brought over to No. 11 from their house in Sussex Square before leasing out her own home yet again. The Churchills would live at No. 11 for more than four years, and it would be the first house that their daughter Mary, born in 1923, would remember living in. She played in the garden of No. 10, where she often saw the Prime Minister.
Churchill maintained weekly visits to Chartwell—which he had only recently occupied—then spent most of the summer of 1925 there, painting the views and the house, while completing work on his dam, supervising the laying out of the garden, and, increasingly, entertaining. He and Clementine both favored round dining tables, the most conducive share for conversation.
Barry Singer is the author of Churchill Style (Abrams Image, 2012) and the proprietor of Chartwell Booksellers in New York City.
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