Chartwell: The National Trust story
Chartwell opened to the public in 1966, but you may be surprised to learn the National Trust actually acquired Chartwell 18 years before Winston Churchill’s death.
A future hanging in the balance
Chartwell had always been a costly house to run and had almost been listed for sale numerous times during the Churchills’ time there. After the Second World War, with Churchill not having written any work for six years and his income significantly reduced as a result, once again the family had to consider selling the home they loved.
It was a group of friends and admirers who bought Chartwell for the Churchills and immediately gave it to the National Trust. Their one condition was that Winston and Clementine could continue to live there for as long as they wished, after which it would be opened to the public.
Leaving Chartwell for the last time
Chartwell had been the much-loved home of the Churchill family since they moved there in 1924. It was a playground for the Churchills’ children and a treasured private country recluse for a very public man.
'A day away from Chartwell is a day wasted.'
- Sir Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill left Chartwell in October 1964 to temporarily relocate to his London home in Hyde Park Gate for his 90th birthday celebrations. He celebrated his birthday on 30 November and died just a few weeks later on 24 January 1965.
Later that same year, Lady Churchill decided that she would live in London, at which point preparations began to open Chartwell to the public.
The National Trust's task
We wanted to open the house and garden as soon as possible, due to popular demand. Fortunately, having already owned the property for 18 years, much of the planning had already been done, with the Churchills working closely with the National Trust throughout this phase of preparations.
Chartwell opened to the public in the summer of 1966 to immense popularity. The queues outside the house were even reported in the newspapers the next day.
Working with the family
We worked closely with Lady Churchill, Lady Soames (the Churchill's youngest daughter) and Grace Hamblin (former secretary to Winston) to get the house ready for public opening and they are mainly responsible for the way we see the house today. Grace Hamblin even went on to become the first administrator for the Trust when the house opened to the public.
A glimpse into Churchill family life
It was decided that the house would be displayed as it was in the 1930s, the era when Winston, Clementine and their children were all in residence.
Much of the house remains as it was when it first opened for public viewing in 1966, though we have since been able to open Lady Churchill’s Sitting Room, the Secretaries’ Office and Winston Churchill’s bedroom and bathroom.
Chartwell is just one of many places that helps to preserve the memory of Winston Churchill. Visit the International Churchill Society to find out more about the life, leadership and experiences of Churchill and explore the other International Churchill Society Partners.
Explore the beloved home of one of Britain's greatest politicians, Sir Winston Churchill. The house has many treasures and provides an intimate portrait of the Churchill family.
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.
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?
Discover more about the extraordinary life of Sir Winston Churchill in this permanent exhibition at Chartwell, including five must-see items from the curator.
Read our report on colonialism and historic slavery in the places and collections we care for and discover how we’re changing the way we approach these issues.
Learn about people from the past, discover remarkable works of art and brush up on your knowledge of architecture and gardens.
From landscape gardeners to LGBTQ+ campaigners and suffragettes to famous writers, many people have had their impact on the places we care for. Discover their stories and the lasting legacies they’ve left behind.