Conservation in action; making Chartwell watertight

Throughout 2016, Chartwell will be embarking on a huge project to keep its walls watertight for generations to come. Visit Chartwell this year to see our conservation work in action and support us through this journey.

What is happening?

From 11 April 2016, scaffolding will be put in place around the bell tower, south and east wings so that essential conservation work can be carried out on the windows and walls of Chartwell.

Why are we doing this?

Long before the Churchill’s moved in; water ingress had been a problem at Chartwell. Such issues cause considerable damage to historic buildings and require urgent attention.

The house is very vulnerable because it is exposed to harsh prevailing weather conditions from the south and east with little protection from the elements. We need to conduct urgent repairs to prevent further damage and ensure the safety of the collection and historic interiors.

If you look at the windows, you will see that most are made up of steel, wood and glass. Whilst the steel and glass have survived well, the oak sub-frames which hold them in place have deteriorated. It is because of this that water is able to penetrate the building.

A history of water issues

When Sir Winston Churchill bought Chartwell in 1922, he wanted to remodel the house, in part to solve the problem of water ingress that the previous owners had. It was said that the problems were so bad that some of the family even had to have umbrellas up in bed because of the water coming in through the ceiling.

" The Nursey Wing Gable is not yet a complete success as the driving rains of late have percolated through the wall again, and the children have had to leave the Nursery Wing again"
- Sir Winston Churchill, 1927

Churchill hired the architect Philip Tilden to renovate, redesign and extend the building. As part of his work, some sections of the building were removed as they were suffering from damp and fungus. The Churchill’s moved in the summer of 1924 but the problems had not been solved. Within months the Churchill family were having to cope with water coming in through the walls and ceilings again.

How are we going to fix it?

Over the coming months 11 of the failing windows will be removed. They will be taken away, refurbished and then re-installed into new wooden frames which will be hand built from English Oak using traditional methods and materials. Other frames with weaknesses will also be investigated and repairs conducted to them in situ. Once this is finished, the affected walls inside the house will be able to be redecorated.

How long will the work take?

Making the building watertight is a huge task that will take most of this year to complete but it is vital if we are to ensure that Chartwell is protected and able to survive for future generations to see.

By undertaking these works we will be able to protect the building, preserve the historic interiors and have the best conditions possible to care for our collection. Your support enables us to investigate and remedy these problems and bring the building back to a standard worthy of the home of our ‘Greatest Briton’.