After recently watching the film Darkest Hour, and being enthralled by Netflix’s The Crown, I was inspired to pay a visit to Chartwell. This country house near Westerham in Kent was the home of Winston Churchill for over forty years.
Winston and his wife Clementine had wanted a country house for years but they struggled financially. In 1921, he received an inheritance from a distant cousin which gave them a much-needed boost in funds. The first time Winston saw Chartwell, he fell in love with the setting straight away.
Clementine initially liked Chartwell too, but she soon became worried about the costs. Despite her concerns, Winston went ahead and bought Chartwell without telling his wife.
After a two-year building programme, they finally moved into the house in April 1924. Winston left the decor and furnishings to Clementine who turned Chartwell into a comfortable home for her family and their many visitors.
After the Second World War, following concerns about the Churchill’s finances, a group of admires bought Chartwell and presented it to the National Trust on the condition that Winston and Clementine could live there for the rest of their lives. After Winston’s death in January 1965, Clementine immediately relinquished her lease and the house was opened to the public in 1966. She remained interested in her former home and would call every Sunday to ask how many visitors had been there that week.
The rooms are still decorated as they were in the 1930s, the time when Winston, Clementine and their four children lived at Chartwell. The library, study, sitting room and dining room are all open to the public.
Winston was an avid painter and built a studio at Chartwell where he could paint without interruption. It now houses a large collection of his artistic works.
Chartwell enjoys glorious views across the Weald of Kent, but unfortunately I visited on a rather gloomy day so there wasn’t much to see. I think visiting later in spring or summer would be the ideal time, as that would allow you to enjoy the gardens to their full potential.
- Chartwell is located in Westerham, Kent. The house is open daily from late February until late October.
- Standard adult entry to the whole property costs £14.40, or you can access the gardens and studio only for £7.20. National Trust members can visit for free.
- Entry to house by timed ticket available from the visitor centre on the day, or afternoon tickets can be pre-booked via the National Trust website. Tickets can sell out on busy weekends and during holiday periods so pre-booking or arriving before midday is advised.
- Car parking is £3 all day for non-members and free for National Trust members.
- If you are a NT member there are a number of other properties located nearby if you’re looking to get the most out of your membership, including Knole, Quebec House, and Ightham Mote.