The Marycot at Chartwell
During the construction of the red-brick walls which now make up the Walled Garden, Winston Churchill decided to build a little one-room cottage for his daughters, Sarah and Mary. But with Sarah away at boarding school, it quickly became the pride and joy of Mary alone, and was lovingly known as the ‘Marycot’ – or, ‘Mary’s Cottage’.
Laying the foundations
Churchill began construction in summer 1928, with a helping hand from Mary. Aged just five years old, she laid the foundation stone of her cottage, and made her first public speech. In a letter to his wife Clementine, Churchill wrote:
“Mary’s house is growing and I hope to have a treat for you when you come […] Mary has taken the greatest interest in the work and laid the foundation stone with great ceremony. She […] manifested a great desire to make a speech. We all had to stand for five minutes while she remained deep in thought, her lips frequently moving over the sentences. In the end she said she regarded it as a great honour to have been called upon to lay this foundation stone and hoped she would spend many happy hours in the house when it was finished.”
Creating a home
Although the door is adult sized, the interior furnishings were scaled down to suit the cottage’s small occupants. Despite their small size, they were still fully functional.
It was initially kitted out with a small Aga, a dresser, a kitchen table and chairs, utensils for baking, and specially chosen chinaware.
Then, for her seventh birthday, Mary received the gift of a small brass chandelier from her mother, and a Dovecote from her Nana, along with a pair of white fantailed pigeons.
Always the hostess
The Marycot was a lively venue for the Churchills. Mary loved to entertain friends and family at her ‘cottage teas’. She even hosted Charlie Chaplain during his visit to Chartwell in 1931.
Under the tuition of her Nana, Mary also learned to bake. Her specialities soon became drop cakes and - by her own admission - ‘very rocky’ rock cakes.
The Marycot was a ‘source of endless delight’ for Mary and her friends. It formed a unique part of the Churchills’ world and has always been treasured by the whole family.