A £7.1 million appeal has been launched today by the National Trust to reinvigorate the legacy of one of Britain’s greatest statesmen – Sir Winston Churchill – and to acquire hundreds of historic and personal objects that belonged to him at his home, Chartwell in Kent.
It is fifty years since Chartwell, his family home, was opened to the public. The conservation charity is using this anniversary focus to call on its members, supporters, charitable institutions and public bodies to help reach its appeal target and ensure Churchill’s story resonates with future generations.
Monies raised from the appeal will not only secure many personal items that belonged to Churchill but will enable new interpretation across the property, along with increased access to the collections, and the opening of family rooms that have never been seen by the public.
An important part of the appeal is to acquire for the nation hundreds of precious heirlooms, many of international significance, that have been on long term loan to Chartwell.
Chartwell is the only place in the world where objects that belonged to Churchill can be seen in their original domestic setting and they are intrinsic to his life and achievements.
The Trust has been in discussions with Randolph Churchill over plans for Chartwell’s future and to agree the loan items which the Trust wishes to acquire. A successful fundraising appeal will ensure this historic collection can remain permanently at Chartwell for visitors and future generations to enjoy.
The items include Churchill’s library of inscribed books, medallions, gifts and awards that he received from around the world, including his Nobel Prize in Literature, along with personal and poignant mementoes such as the speech box in which he stored notes for his famous speeches.
Chartwell was Churchill’s beloved family retreat away from the stresses of political life and he often spoke of his wish for a museum on site at the house after his death.
The objects throughout his home represent his long and eventful life ranging from his distinguished political and writing careers to his passions for painting, farming and wildlife.
Among the priority objects of historic and cultural importance which the Trust hopes to acquire are:
- Nobel Prize in Literature – awarded to Churchill in 1953 primarily for his oratory and iconic speeches. Many of these were composed at his Chartwell home, which features prominently in the design on the accompanying diploma.
- Wooden speech box – confidential notes from Churchill’s advisers were stored in this unassuming box ready for him to transform into his rousing speeches.
- House of Commons birthday book – an illuminated book in green leather was signed by almost every member of the House of Commons and was presented to Churchill as a tribute of their affection on his 80th birthday in 1954.
- Miniature paint box – one of Churchill’s great passions was painting – “If it weren’t for painting, I couldn’t live” – and this tiny silver paint box is a powerful reminder of his prolific output as an artist, much of which can be seen in the house and studio at Chartwell.
- Collection of medallions – dozens of medallions reflect a long and varied life and career and range from a fencing medallion Churchill received as a boy, to the Aachen Charlemagne Prize medallion given to him in 1953 for his tireless post-war efforts to unite Europe for peace.
- Pair of hairbrushes – among many personal items, these hairbrushes are made from wood from the deck of the Second World War ship HMS Exeter. Only two other pairs were made, for the captain of the ship and for King George VI.
- Armchair – a carved and gilt chair, upholstered in needlework, was given to Churchill as part of his Freedom Award from the people of Brighton in 1947. He assured them the chair would “always be cherished by me and my wife and by those who come after us.”
- Painting of the port of Antwerp – this oil painting, signed by the artist Isidore Opsomer in 1945, was part of the freedom of the city award from the people of Antwerp to Churchill “whose steadfast trust and fortitude paved the way to the liberation of our country, of our city, of our Port”.
- Sculpture of a lion – after the Second World War, the liberated people of Luxembourg gave Churchill a bronze sculpture of a lion. He often used the metaphor of the lion in his speeches, once saying: “It was the nation and the race dwelling all round the globe that had the lion’s heart: I had the luck to be called upon to give the roar.”
Katherine Barnett, Chartwell’s house and collections manager says:“There is something very special about Chartwell where visitors can experience Churchill’s personal and public world through the possessions that meant so much to him. The family rooms and their collections are displayed as Lady Churchill wished them to be seen following her husband’s death.
“The collection at Chartwell tells us about Sir Winston Churchill the man. It is crucial that we do all we can to ensure these heirlooms stay here where he hoped they would remain. A successful appeal will not only allow us to secure these items but will enable us to tell Churchill’s story in new and dynamic ways as part of our wider plans for Chartwell so that one of our greatest Britons remains accessible to people of all ages.”
Dame Helen Ghosh, Director-General for the National Trust says:“As a conservation charity our core purpose is to look after places like Chartwell for ever for everyone. We want the experiences that our visitors have to be illuminating and moving, and one of the best ways is through the objects and collections that tell the stories of the people who lived there.
“In this 50th anniversary year of Chartwell opening to the public we have a focus for one of the biggest appeals we have ever made to safeguard a collection of this kind and ensure that we can continue to tell Churchill’s story for the next fifty years and beyond. We hope that our members and supporters, public bodies and charitable institutions will help us to do this and to keep Churchill’s memory alive at the home he loved.”
Professor Sir David Cannadine, historian and author, says:“The National Trust’s important and imaginative plans for Chartwell’s future will ensure that Sir Winston Churchill’s lasting and exceptional legacy will continue to inspire visitors from Britain and around the world for generations to come.
“The more that Churchill’s life recedes into history, the more important places like Chartwell become. It offers an opportunity we, the public, so rarely have – to immerse ourselves in the private world of one of the twentieth century’s greatest figures. It is through Chartwell and its profoundly personal collection that we can most vividly and most memorably come to know this extraordinary man.”
The Trust would like to raise the money by January 2017 to secure the collection and enable the wider project work to begin.
The objects can be seen in situ at Chartwell, and selected items are showcased in videos on the National Trust website.
Money can be donated to the appeal by:
- Making a donation online at nationaltrust.org.uk/chartwell-revive
- Making a donation over the phone by calling 0344 800 1895