Places to Visit: Chartwell, Kent

21 April 2014

Last Sunday, the mister and I went to visit some friends and we all decided to take a little trip to visit Chartwell.

Chartwell was the principal adult home of Sir Winston Churchill and his family, and the house is presented to reflect what it would have been like during the 1920s and 1930s when the Churchills were raising their four children. The rooms of the house contain lots of lovely little mementoes, paintings and family photographs, and books, so many books! When you look out of the windows of the house, or step out onto the gorgeous little terrace, you can see out to the lakes, gardens and estate beyond, and once you've finished exploring the house you can enjoy rambling around the gardens and estate at your leisure.

The hillside gardens include lakes (with ferocious black swans!), a kitchen garden, beautiful flowers and a wild expanse of woodland. After enthusiastically enjoying some of the swings hanging from the trees, we found a sunny patch and sat on the hillside looking towards one of the lakes and the house beyond.

You can also visit Churchill's studio, which is located in the gardens, and contains a large collection of his paintings. We unfortunately remembered this a little too late and didn't make it in time so that's something for the next trip! But there's definitely more than enough to see and do if you don't visit this spot.

Despite the gorgeousness of the old house and the gardens, I think my favourite little detail was discovering some of the correspondence exchanged between Sir Winston and Lady Clementine Churchill throughout their very happy marriage. This side of Churchill was definitely not conveyed during my history GCSE! Throughout their correspondence, Clementine referred to herself as 'Cat' or 'Kat' and Winston was 'pug' or (later) 'pig'. The letters were often illustrated with a little drawing of a cat, pug dog or pig. Shameless romantic that I am, I loved reading snippets of these letters and I've hunted out a couple to include here. 

Soon after Churchill proposed to Clementine in August 1908, they began exchanging notes and he wrote:
"My dearest, I hope you slept like a stone... The purpose of this letter is also to send you heaps of love and four kisses XXXX"
Her reply to this note ended as follows:
"Je t'aime passionement - - feel less shy in French".
The couple continued writing to each other whenever they were apart and many years later, on 23 January 1935, Winston wrote to Clementine while she was travelling abroad:

"My darling Clemmie, in your letter from Madras you wrote some words very dear to me, about having enriched your life. I cannot tell you what pleasure this gave me, because I always feel so overwhelmingly in your debt, if there can be accounts in love... What it has been to me to live all these years in your heart and companionship no phrases can convey".
There's something so special about a handwritten letter, be it a note from a friend with all their news or a romantic missive. Time to dig out the note paper, perhaps?

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