Winston Churchill bought Chartwell in September 1922 and lived there until shortly before his death in January 1965. Henry VIII was reputed to have stayed in the house during his courtship of Anne Boleyn at nearby Hever Castle. In 1946, when financial constraints forced Churchill to consider selling Chartwell, it was acquired by the National Trust. After Churchill’s death, Lady Churchill surrendered her rights to the house and it was opened to the public in 1966.
About Chartwell in brief
Winston Churchill bought Chartwell in September 1922 and lived there until shortly before his death in January 1965. Chartwell is a Grade I listed building, for its historical significance rather than its architectural merit. Henry VIII was reputed to have stayed in the house during his courtship of Anne Boleyn at nearby Hever Castle. In 1946, when financial constraints forced Churchill to consider selling Chartwell, it was acquired by the National Trust with funds raised by a consortium of Churchill’s friends led by Lord Camrose. After Churchill’s death, Lady Churchill surrendered her rights to the house and it was opened to the public by the Trust in 1966. The origins of the estate reach back to the 14th century; in 1382, the property then called Well-street was owned by William-at-Well. The origin of the name is the Chart Well, a spring to the north of the current house, Chart being an Old English word for rough ground. The site had been built upon at least as early as the 16th century, when the estate was called Well Street. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the house was used as a farmhouse and its ownership was subject to frequent change. In 1848 it was purchased by John Campbell Colquhoun, whose grandson sold it to Churchill. The original farmhouse was enlarged and modified during their ownership, including the addition of the stepped gables, a Scottish baronial genuflection to the land of their fathers.
The house has extensive views over the Weald of Kent, which was the determining factor in Churchill’s decision to buy the house. From the garden front, the house has the most beautiful and charming house he had ever seen, and the deciding factor in his decision to purchase it. It is now among the Trust’s most popular properties; 232,000 people visited the house in 2016, the fiftieth anniversary of its opening. The National Trust will have the house largely rebuilt and the presence of dry rot is a very serious factor in its future. It will have to be rebuilt to be very very good, as the house will be largely rebuilt, and will be very dry and will need to be kept in very good condition for a very long time. The Trust will also have to rebuild the front door, which has been badly damaged by a fire that broke out in the early 1990s, and replace it with a new, much-improved one. It has also had to replace the windows, which were badly damaged in the fire, and has had to be replaced by a new set of windows and a new front door. It was built in 1836, as a substantial brick-built manor, and was auctioned as a suitable abode for a genteel family. By the time of the sale to Churchill, it was an example of Victorian architecture at its least attractive, a ponderous red-brick country mansion of tile-hung gables and poky oriel windows. In July 1921, Churchill wrote of Chartwell’s drabness of Victorian umbrousness.