Chartwell, Westerham, Kent
We had a visit to Churchill’s beloved Chartwell on Wednesday morning. One of his private secretaries related a delightful story about each time the PM would arrive at the gates of the driveway. As one makes the final stretch of the drive, you come up a hill and then wind down and around several bends with the roofline of Chartwell finally appearing through the trees. Each time they were on this final part of the winding drive, cigars and papers would be flying everywhere around the car; once they reached the gates of Chartwell, Sir Winston would always repeat the words, “Ah, Chartwell!”
As one walks up to the house from the gardens and comes across the lawn, it’s not difficult to fully understand why he fell instantly in love with this hilltop manor. It was perhaps not because of the house itself, but the view from Chartwell is magnificent! Looking out across the front lawn at the trees, ponds, and the rolling fields below – it’s no surprise that the Churchill was always anxious to make the journey back here from London.
His purchase of Chartwell demonstrated just how brave a man he truly was—a very brave man indeed. In 1922 he purchased this home without first discussing it with Mrs Churchill and she was not at all pleased.
When she first arrived it was in a very bad state of disrepair. The former owners had not lived in the home for several years when Churchill purchased it, but the local doctor told a story of a visit to the former owner on a house call shortly before they moved away. When the doctor arrived, the infirm owner was sitting up in bed in one of the upstairs bedrooms with an umbrella over his head!
The house was originally on the market in 1921 for ₤6,500 and didn’t sell. It came back on the market for ₤5,500 in 1922, and Churchill negotiated them down to ₤5,000. The place was in such a bad state that it took two years and another ₤12,000 to get the house into good enough shape for the family to move in.