Finest Hour 178, Fall 2018
By David Freeman, November 2017
“A day away from Chartwell is a day wasted.” Speaking thirty years ago in Dallas at the fourth International Churchill Conference, these were the words that Grace Hamblin, Lady Churchill’s former secretary and Chartwell’s first Administrator, remembered Sir Winston having said many times. He called it his “factory,” but it was so much more than that: it was his dream house, his refuge, his chief pleasure, his pride, and his muse.
In this issue, we look at the Chartwell story from its acquisition by Churchill to current plans of the National Trust for future development. David Lough, the leading authority on Churchill’s finances, starts us off with the story of how Churchill came to purchase his “blessed plot” and the constant monetary strains that went with it.
Life at Chartwell has been described by many. We are pleased to present here recollections from two voices new to the record. Leo Amery was a lifelong friend of Churchill’s. Published here for the first time are extracts from Amery’s diary recording some of his visits to Chartwell. Jonathan Dudley was only a boy when he visited with the Churchill family. He now draws upon his recently published memoir to give us a boy’s-eye view of the Churchills at home.
Chartwell was more than the home of the Churchill family. It was also the residence of countless animals. For Churchill was an animal lover of the deepest hue. His last pet out of many was an orange tabby cat named Jock. Knowing that his home would become a museum open to the public, Churchill wished for there always to be such a cat in residence. So it is that Jock VI, the current office holder, tells us the story of the animals of Chartwell.
Some of the Chartwell animals were immortalized by Churchill in oil paintings that he did at his beloved estate. Several examples help illustrate this issue. The house itself, however, also served as a muse for the artist- owner. Barry Phipps explains the impression that Chartwell made on Churchill’s mind and how impressionism influenced the way he painted it.
For more than fifty years now, Chartwell has been open to the public as a National Trust Property. Katherine Carter traces the history of this “jewel in the crown” and explains how the presentation has and must evolve. And from Sweden, Svante Janson tells the story behind one of the most interesting objects on display at Chartwell: Churchill’s Nobel Prize.
Major theatrical films about Winston Churchilll are few and far between. Darkest Hour, starring Gary Oldman in a towering performance, deserves special attention. Michael F. Bishop reviews the film and Michael McMenamin the related book.