Why is the house at Chartwell closed from November?
During the winter months, the house at Chartwell closes to our visitors although the wider estate, studio, shop and café remain open. But why do we need to close at all?
What can I see?
Even though the house is closed from 4 November 2019 to 28 February 2020, there is still plenty to see on a visit to Chartwell. As well as admiring the views Sir Winston loved so much, we have a virtual tour available to watch of the inside of the house that showcases the closed rooms of the house, available from both the Exhibition Room and the Visitor Centre.
So why is the house closed?
Maintaining the Churchill home as the family wished you to see it is a balancing act. We want to be able to share the house they loved and the collection of internationally significant items within it, displayed as Lady Churchill intended her home to be seen. Whilst doing this we also want to offer museum level care to the objects inside the house, to ensure the house and its contents are there for future generations to experience.
Whilst Chartwell is open, March to October, the house team arrive in the morning at 8am and are then against the clock to work on cleaning and conservation for the whole house, whilst also getting it open and ready to welcome our visitors. Unfortunately, this does mean that day to day, a lot of the deep-cleaning and careful monitoring cannot be managed.
Closing the house over winter gives us full, unrestricted access to each of the rooms, allowing us to go through each in the depth and detail that they need.
The house team spend roughly a week in each room of the house over this period, going through it from top to bottom. This means a full deep clean on a level that they now have time for and a condition check of every single item in the house, from skirting boards to chandeliers. A full inventory check of the whole house is also completed as part of this process.
Keeping consistent stable conditions is vital to safeguard against everything from cracks in furniture to keeping insect pests at bay. During closure, humidity and temperature levels can now be managed throughout the house as we keep the doors and windows closed. We can also fully black-out rooms, only lighting the spaces we need to access, which helps us to prevent light damage.
Closure also enables us the time to think about sending certain items off site, both for any necessary conservation work that needs to take place, as well as out as loans to other museums or for exhibitions. This helps people continue to see some of these items and reach new audiences even whilst we must close, whilst also helping foster good relationships on an international level.
A lot of the general checks and maintenance can happen in the winter too dealing with minor building repairs, maintaining decoration and servicing systems in the house that would not be safe to do whilst open.
Whilst Chartwell is closed, we are also taking this opportunity to prepare two brand new rooms and spaces to open to view in 2020. Visit us from March when you can see the Secretaries’ Office and the Family Room, that have never been on show for visitors permanently before.
During November and early December, the house teams prepare for Christmas and dress the house ready for the opening weekends – this year running on the 7 & 8, 14 & 15, 21 & 22 December; 11am-3pm. Here, select rooms will be fully decorated as the Churchill’s may have known it for their own family Christmases at Chartwell with classic colours, natural foliage and beautifully decorated trees throughout.
During our Christmas opening weekends, stop by the Drawing Room for Conservation in Action, and discover some of the preventive conservation the house team would normally do behind closed doors. This year we will be carefully working on conserving some of the many textile items of our collections, giving you the opportunity to see our work first hand and ask any questions. They could be working on anything from curtains to uniforms, so make certain to stop by as you go!