Over 400 years ago there may have been a modest manor house on this site commanding a view of The Weald, but when Winston Churchill arrived here in 1921 he found a gloomy Victorian structure suffering from serious neglect. Undaunted by the sad state of the property, he dreamed of owning a place in such a spectacular setting and, by the autumn of 1922, he was able to complete the purchase of his Kentish home.
18 months later and the new family home was ready to be occupied by Winston, his wife Clementine, and their four young children. Chartwell, once described as a "dreary house ..... weary of its own ugliness" had been completely remodelled, partly re-built, extended and thoroughly modernised. Although Clementine never regarded Chartwell as attractive, she spent years decorating and furnishing the interiors to make them comfortably practical. While she was absorbed in her indoor activities, Winston Churchill was putting his practical skills to work in Chartwell's gardens. He was a very good bricklayer and built a little summerhouse for his youngest daughter, brick walls to enclose various garden areas, and a cottage. Being outdoors was something Churchill loved, and the garden he created encapsulates his energy and enthusiasm as a worker, and an artist.
Until the outbreak of War in 1939, life must have seemed idyllic at Chartwell. There was space for the Churchills to enjoy their growing family, a study where Churchill had privacy and peace to conduct his political business or continue his literary efforts, a studio where he could paint, and ample accommodation for weekend entertaining. From the time he became Prime Minister in 1940, signalling a return to London, the house was effectively closed. Churchill was able to make the occasional brief visit to Chartwell, seeking some solace in his gardens, but these were only momentary escapes from the mounting pressures of War and politics. In 1945 when the Churchills returned to Chartwell, they were faced with the daunting task of cleaning up after several years of virtual abandonment. Consequently the house was re-arranged for economic and practical reasons to accommodate the elderly Winston and Clementine, who now preferred to spend most of their winters in Europe.
After Winston Churchill's death in 1965, Chartwell was restored to its pre-war appearance as a lasting memory to the life and times of a great man. He was a good husband, a loving father, a brilliant writer, an avid painter, gardener, and builder as well as becoming one of the most respected politicians of the 20th century. Today, this charming residence, loved by Churchill from the day he first set eyes on it, admirably reflects all the facets of his long career by much memorabilia displayed throughout the house. The gardens that gave Winston and his wife so much pleasure are beautifully maintained to the delight of its many visitors.