Step into Churchill's bedroom at Chartwell

A small room on the first floor of Chartwell has recently been opened to the public. Comparatively unadorned and even described as ‘monk-like’ by Boris Johnson, it has the power to tell some of the biggest stories in Chartwell’s history. The room in question, Churchill’s bedroom, is open to the public for the first time in its history.

Day to day Churchill's bedroom saw remarkable goings-on. His working habits would mean much of his daily output was composed from his bed; it was often late morning before he rose and greeted the rest of the household. Correspondences, articles and dictation were often composed as he sat upright in bed. One of his secretaries would perch on a nearby chair, trying to keep up in shorthand with the remarkable flow of words which were hurled in their direction.

Later in the day he would return to bed at approximately 4 o’clock in the afternoon for a rest. After a pause he was then able to work through until the early hours of the morning in the adjoining study. All of this enabled him to achieve a day and a half’s worth of work out of a single day.

His bedroom was both a place of rest and considerable productivity. There was one exception to this though, which took place a fortnight after Adolf Hitler’s Nazi troops entered Austria in February 1938.

HRH The Prince of Wales being shown Churchill's bedroom by general manager Zoe Colbeck at National Trust property Chartwell in Kent, the family home of Sir Winston Churchill
HRH Princes of Wales in Churchill's bedroom at Chartwell, a National Trust property in Kent
HRH The Prince of Wales being shown Churchill's bedroom by general manager Zoe Colbeck at National Trust property Chartwell in Kent, the family home of Sir Winston Churchill

Over the previous three years, Hitler had been pursuing aggressive policies such as building up German arms and demanding territories. Meanwhile, Churchill tried to warn of the danger that Hitler posed to Europe, and of the lack of Britain's preparedness for war.

His warnings went largely unheard and he was accused of being a ‘warmonger’. Then, late on the night of 20 February 1938, a telephone message reached the Churchills at Chartwell.

It brought the news that Neville Chamberlain, then Prime Minister, had made further gestures of appeasement towards Adolf Hitler. As a result of this, Anthony Eden, then Foreign Secretary and Winston’s ally in the Cabinet, resigned.

" From ‘midnight ‘till dawn I lay in my bed consumed by emotions of sorrow and fear"
- Winston Churchill

Eden’s resignation brought great despair to the Churchills. Clementine tried to console and reassure Winston, her husband of almost 30 years at that point. Writing later about that night in his bedroom at Chartwell he said;

‘My heart sank and for a while the dark waters of despair overwhelmed me. In a long life I have had many ups and downs. During all the war soon to come and in its darkest times I never had any trouble sleeping. In the crisis of 1940, when so much responsibility lay upon me, and also at many very anxious, awkward moments in the following five years, I could always flop into bed and go to sleep after the day’s work was done, subject of course to any emergency call. I slept sound and awoke refreshed, and had no feelings except appetite to grapple with whatever the morning’s boxes might bring. But now, on this night of February 20 1938, and on this occasion only, sleep deserted me. From ‘midnight ‘till dawn I lay in my bed consumed by emotions of sorrow and fear.’[1]

Winston Churchill's hairbrush on display in his bedroom
Winston Churchill's hairbrush at Chartwell, a National Trust property in Kent
Winston Churchill's hairbrush on display in his bedroom

In the months after that sleepless night at his beloved home, Hitler continued to pursue his aggressive foreign policy. He flouted the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, including the ‘the liquidation of Czechoslovakia’.

Churchill continued to campaign that the time had come to collectively resist Hitler. Unfortunately his remained a lone voice as the clouds of war formed over Europe.

By 1939 the Nazi regime’s actions could not be ignored any longer and following the invasion of Poland, Britain declared war on Germany. Churchill was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty and the following May, was made Prime Minister of Great Britain.

 

[1] Winston Churchill, The Second World War (6 vols. London, 1948–1954), 1, 201.

Churchill's bedroom

Chartwell themed house highlights tours

Gain exclusive access to Winston's bedroom on an intimate one hour journey through selected rooms in the house. Delve into the stories of the Churchill family or Clementine Churchill depending on which tour you book. Tours run at 4pm, Mon-Fri (excluding Bank Holidays), normal admission applies. Please book at least 24 hours in advance; spaces limited to 8.