A history of Winston Churchill in 50 objects
‘A history of Winston Churchill in 50 objects’ is an exhibition which focuses on the extraordinary life of Sir Winston Churchill, giving unique insights into the life and legacy of one of the best-known figures in history. Open daily, this permanent display at Chartwell presents the opportunity to understand the complex man behind the famous leader.
What will I see?
The exhibition includes a fascinating collection of Churchill’s own possessions, accumulated by him over the course of his lifetime, from personal mementos to gifts he received from friends, family, political contacts and members of the public around the world.
An army officer, writer and politician with a parliamentary career spanning over six decades, Winston Churchill achieved a huge amount over the course of his working life, including writing more words than William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens combined.
Despite a life spent on the world stage, he was at his happiest when at his country house at Chartwell, surrounded by the things he loved most, his beloved family and animals. The objects carefully selected for this exhibition consider both the public and the private life of Winston Churchill.
Curator's choice: five must-sees at Chartwell
Property Curator Katherine Carter has a passion for sharing the stories of Chartwell's heritage and using the tangible survivors of its history, collections and material culture, to enable everyone to connect with the past – the good, the bad and in some cases, the ugly. Here are Katherine’s five must-see items from A history of Winston Churchill in 50 objects:
- Those famous cigars
- Churchill’s cigars are part of what makes him an iconic figure and were integral to his image as wartime leader, along with his V-for-victory hand-symbol, his hats and his uniforms. Beyond this they were a part of everyday life throughout the happy years he spent at Chartwell. The unsmoked cigars on display are ‘Romeo Y Julieta’, from a small collection of Churchill’s that were left to the National Trust.
- 'The Few' Sampler
- The second most quoted person in the English language, Churchill’s words inspired a nation at war and this humble gift captures their power. The words were taken from the speech ‘The Few’ and were amongst his most impactful ever written. Cherished by Churchill, this embroidered sampler of words was created in 1951, a decade after they were spoken, by a grateful and seemingly still inspired member of the public.
- Italian Lake Scene painting by Sir Winston Churchill
- Painting became an antidote to pressure and strain for Churchill. He once said ‘If it weren’t for painting I couldn’t live, I couldn’t bear the strain of things’. The 1945 holiday to Italy after losing the general election saw a total of 15 paintings in just 21 days. Among these, was the tranquil and beautiful Italian Lake Scene, which embodies his response to the most difficult moments in his life.
- Orilux Trench Torch
- This shrapnel-damaged torch saved Churchill’s life. It was damaged while he fought in the trenches during the First World War. He was holding the torch in his hand when his temporary headquarters were shelled during breakfast. The torch bore the brunt of the shrapnel damage when he went to shield himself during the explosion, preventing significant injury to Churchill. He kept it for the rest of his life.
- Stevengraph of Lord Randolph Churchill
- The man Churchill thought he couldn’t live up to was never far from his thoughts, including in this cherished picture of his father, printed unusually on silk. Such images rarely survive, owing to their fragility and the ink being prone to fading. Its survival is a testament to the care it was given by Winston. As if an embodiment of his unfailing admiration of his father, it too has been perfectly preserved.
We regret the exhibition is not accessible by wheelchair. Assistance dogs only in the exhibition please.
The art and heritage collections we care for rival the world’s greatest museums. Learn more about the collection of paintings, decorative art, costume, books, household and other objects at historic places.
Discover the stories behind some of the greatest artworks and artefacts looked after by the National Trust, as told in a dedicated book, 125 Treasures from the Collections of the National Trust.
See the breadth of our collection of works of art, furniture and more: we care for around a million objects at over 200 historic places, there’s a surprise discovery around every corner.
The Trust’s story at Chartwell began whilst Winston Churchill and his family were still in residence. Discover how we helped to preserve a significant piece of British history.
Chartwell’s estate and surrounding countryside offers far-reaching views across the Weald. Walk in the footsteps of one of our founders Octavia Hill when you explore Mariners Hill.
From tasty treats and hot and cold dishes, to souvenirs, gifts and Churchill memorabilia, you'll be spoiled for choice in the Chartwell café and shop. Why not treat yourself?
Enjoy the views that the Churchills chose Chartwell for, and explore the garden they created and loved, from Lady Churchill’s Rose Garden, to the Walled Garden Sir Winston helped build.