Newest Review: ... the gardens and weald of Kent. The windows are particularly large allowing natural light in and giving the rooms an open and airy feeling.... more
Sir Winston Churchill's personal Kingdom
Member Name: garymarsh6
Date: 28/08/10, updated on 18/10/11 (242 review reads)
Advantages: Historically important.
Disadvantages: May be challenging for disabled visitors.
Where is Chartwell?
Chartwell house is situated in rural Kent near the beautiful countryside town of Westerham affording lovely panoramic views over the Weald of Kent.
What is so significant about Chartwell?
It was the family home of Sir Winston Churchill and his family from 1924 until his death in 1965 and it is set in beautiful landscaped gardens of which he was instrumental in designing which includes ornamental lakes, fish ponds, a croquet lawn, an apple and pear orchard and formal gardens such as the rose and herb garden.
Chartwell as previously said was the family home of Sir Winston and it is nothing at all like the formal gigantic and ostentatious Blenheim Palace where he was born. It was a simple family home where he learnt to relax and paint and pottered in his beloved garden. Dating from the 17th Century it is fairly isolated and would have given him a bolt hole to retreat to where he enjoyed landscaping the gardens and grounds and where he indulged in his passion of painting. There is a large studio situated in the grounds which used to be a small farm but converted into his art studio where he spent a lot of his time where there are some of his art works on display.
The house is situated near a road and is fronted by a large wall with an in and out driveway to the house. Admission to the house is timed to ensure that there are not too many people inside the house at any one time so that you can fully enjoy the features of the house without it being too crowded. There is a set route inside the house which takes you through the various rooms on a set route which starts off at ground level then to the upper rooms then down to the lower floors of the house which is set below the entrance level due to the houses position on a fairly steep hill.
A new wing was built which housed the upper floors containing the formal rooms including a large bedroom for his wife on the top floor, the drawing room on the middle floor and a grand dining room which gives fantastic views over the gardens and weald of Kent. The windows are particularly large allowing natural light in and giving the rooms an open and airy feeling. The rooms and walls are furnished with Churchills personal possessions and gifts given to him by his children and other dignitaries such as a crystal cockerel from President De Gaulle of France and a book of water colours of roses given to him by his children.
Entering the house through the main front door there are visitors books on display which contains the names of important and influential visitors to the house for example President Trueman the pages of which are rotated for people to see who had visited. Around the house are personal items, antique furniture and paintings some of which were painted by Winston himself including paintings of his wife Clementine and a gifted painting by Monet.
There is a display on one of the upper floors of some of Winston's formal suits including Uniforms, and a full set of clothing of the Order of the Garter and of the Lord Warden of the Cinq ports and his medals and various awards such as Cups commemorating the freedom of various towns and cities such was the esteem in which he was held. There are some large silver ornaments and personal gifts bestowed on him from various governments and leaders for his contribution to the creation of peace and in recognition of his achievements during World War II.
You can walk through his study where there is a large mahogany writing table he inherited from his father and a lectern where he would stand and read, write and prepare some of his speeches for his budgets and other major events. The Union flag that was raised in Rome on the 14th of June 1944 is also on display in his study and was given to him as a personal gift. It is his personal study and although calm and peaceful it is quite a blokey room! Whereas his wife Clementine had her own drawing room bedroom and dressing rooms where they are certainly more feminine.
The kitchens below the dining room were functional with many utensils still on display. Many of the contents of the kitchen are the original items belonging to the family. Leading out from the kitchen into a small area of photographic memorabilia then onwards to the terrace and gardens.
Churchill was not permitted to stay at Chartwell during the war due to its location and a possible strike by the Luftwaffe this was due to the Lake in front of the house which would have been an ideal reference point for the house instead he had to live in London or at Chequers but it was always his love for Chartwell that brought him back here.
Sadly he was finding it difficult to maintain this house due to its high running costs as he did not have a grand inheritance despite his prestigious birth. In 1947 a group of his friends clubbed together and bought the house for him and his family allowing him to continue to live in his beloved house for ever. When he died the house was handed over to the National trust.
Whilst the house is very comfortable it is after all a family home and not ostentatious or OTT in anyway. It certainly is not something that the normal person would live in but taking into consideration his silver spooned birth and upbringing it really is a down to earth and comfortable property.
The gardens were designed by Sir Winston Churchill and his wife Clementine and are very beautiful and peaceful with lovely garden walks. Due to its position on a fairly steep hill the grounds are tiered to allow different aspects at different levels. This also gives the impression that it is far larger than it is. There is a croquet lawn where the family and guests would play croquet in the summer months. There are little copses, nooks and crannies and arbors where the family could escape and sit in peace and tranquillity whilst enjoying the marvellous views. They are well tended with ornamental waterfalls which flow down to the ponds and lakes below. Some of the trees around the grounds are ancient beech trees some of them hundreds of years old.
There is a large pay per stay car park but it is quite steep and probably not good for people who have mobility problems. There is a drop off point nearer to the house for those in wheelchairs. Disabled visitors really only have access to the floors on the main level as there are no facilities such as a lift to explore the upper or lower rooms. The gardens can also be a bit challenging as the walkways and paths can be a little steep or shingled path ways. There is a licensed restaurant, shop and good toilet facilities.
How to get here!
From the M25 take the exit at Junction 5 or 6 and follow the route on the A25 towards Westerham. Follow the brown road signs to Chartwell. It is quite easy to find.
Address for those who have a sat nav.
Chartwell. Mapleton Road, Westerham. Kent. TN16 1PS.
The property was given to the National trust which runs and maintains the property and is open year round at various times. I would advise you to check the opening times from the National trust web site as there are varied opening times. The gardens are also open when the house is closed to enjoy the scenic views and beautiful countryside.
Would I recommend a visit here.
Yes I would definitely recommend a visit. I got a real feeling of who Sir Winston Churchill was, being a humble and down to earth family man who was so proud of his beloved home and cherished his family life. I think it appropriate that it is open to the public as Churchill is probably Britains most important statesmen and I found it to be a very pleasurable visit.
At weekends and bank holidays it does get rather crowded and there are also coach loads of visitors. However due to the timed visit the house does not seem over crowded allowing you to enjoy your visit without it being spoilt by too many visitors. The day I visited it was absolutely heaving with visitors as the car park was full and there were a couple of coach loads of visitors too but it did not feel over crowded at all.
National trust members free.
Summary: A beautiful country home.
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