Digitised Chartwell Visitors Book

A close up of the signatures in the Chartwell Visitors Book, with the entry for Charlie Chaplin visible on the digital version in the background

Chartwell’s Visitors Book is one of the most unique items in the Chartwell collection. It tracks the large number of visitors who stayed at Chartwell as well as the prominent visitors who met the Churchill family at home between April 1924 and October 1964.

With thanks to the continued success of the Churchill’s Chartwell Appeal, you can now scroll through a new interactive version of this unique book to learn more about Churchill’s friends, family and colleagues.

This interactive display helps show off this fascinating book in new ways, giving a glimpse into the famous friends, family and faces who visited Chartwell over the years and signed this unique historic record.

Located in our Exhibition Room, you will be able to have a look through the handwritten entries of more than 700 personalities who visited his home across 40 years. With the use of technology in this way, we have been able to offer in-depth profiles on a level that would not have been possible without it.

" From the moment the Churchills moved into the house in April 1924, they kept a Visitors Book. This gives us a unique insight into their world, through what is perhaps the single most important record of their private life in existence."

From film star Charlie Chaplin and suffragette Christabel Pankhurst to politician David Lloyd George and royalty including the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret, Chartwell’s Visitors Book is filled with many of the most significant names in 20th century history.

Katherine continues, saying, "There are also a few people who we know visited but for some reason didn’t sign the Visitors Book, such as Albert Einstein. Others may not have wanted to sign, such as Fabian von Schlabrendorff who had been part of the German resistance against Hitler."

The Queen Mother's signature from the Chartwell visitors book

Using this new display, visitors to Chartwell will be able to search for famous signatures such as Vivien Leigh or Laurence Olivier by name, or delve in via the different categories such as 'Politics', 'Family & Staff' or 'Socialites' through our searchable database to learn more about them.

Each signature has then been studied and researched, allowing you to read more about the person behind each signature.

Volunteer power

Since 2017, 16 volunteers have been involved in carrying out the thorough research into 2,361 signatures, from 773 visitors who signed the book.

Having begun with 132 signatures deemed ‘indecipherable’ extensive research has allowed Chartwell to identify 116, leaving the team with just 15 mysteries still to unravel.

" Our volunteers have been instrumental in giving this remarkable piece of history a voice, and thanks to their exhaustive research we have been able to identify almost everyone who signed the book at Chartwell across 40 years."
- Zoë Colbeck; General Manager

When the volunteers started their research, there were 132 names that couldn’t be deciphered but they have managed to identify almost all of them.

Zoë says, “However, despite extensive searches through letters, diaries, biographies, and other avenues, there is still a handful of names that they haven’t been able to identify.

"We will continue to research them, but by putting the signatures online we are hoping there may be someone out there who recognises a name and can help us solve the mystery!”

The digitisation of the Visitors Book has been funded by the National Trust’s Churchill’s Chartwell Appeal, which has enabled the conservation charity to acquire and put on display hundreds of objects that belonged to Churchill and keep them in his home that was gifted to the nation.

The project has ensured that Winston Churchill, his legacy and Chartwell remain relevant in the 21st century.

Major funders are the National Lottery Heritage Fund with other generous donations from The Royal Oak Foundation, The Wolfson Foundation, The Beaverbrook Foundation, National Trust centres and associations, private donors and members of the public.