Collection highlights at Chartwell
Throughout the Churchill’s Chartwell appeal, over 1,000 individual items that belonged to Sir Winston Churchill were secured. These included a wide variety of objects from national honours and awards, to cherished mementoes from childhood, and beloved gifts from close family and friends, all of which enable us to share the stories of the Churchills and their lives at Chartwell.
Top 10 collection items
All the items in Chartwell’s collection are important and we are fortunate that the success of our fundraising campaign allowed us to acquire so many irreplaceable items. Here are the stories of ten of these items which will now remain at Chartwell for today and future generations.
- 1. Nobel Prize in Literature
- The Nobel Prize was awarded to Churchill in 1953 for both his writing of histories and his iconic speeches. Many of the speeches were composed at his Chartwell home, which features prominently in the design on the accompanying diploma.
- 2. Wooden speech box
- This small, unassuming plain oak chest is described as ‘Winston's speech box’ in an inventory of his effects. It held confidential notes from Churchill's advisers, ready for him to transform their contents into rousing speeches delivered during the darkest hours of the Second World War.
- 3. House of Commons 80th birthday book
- This illuminated book in green leather was presented to Churchill by the House of Commons on his 80th birthday, 30 November 1954. It was signed by almost all Members as a tribute of their affection to him. The book is the surviving half of his 80th birthday gift. The other was a portrait of Churchill by Frank Salisbury.
- 4. Miniature paint box
- Churchill once declared, ‘If it weren't for painting, I couldn't live’, and this tiny silver paint box is a powerful reminder of his prolific output as an artist, much of which can be seen in the house and studio at Chartwell. It is made from hall-marked silver by Charles Roberson & Co. Containing eight colour tablets on a fixing ring, Roberson & Co. are Artists' Colour Makers and Stationers were regular suppliers to Churchill from 1915, the year he took up painting as a pastime.
- 5. Collection of medallions
- Chartwell’s collection contains nearly 50 of Churchill's medallions, reflecting his long and varied life and career. Highlights include his City of New York Medal of Honor, which was given to Churchill on his first visit to the USA as a peacetime Prime Minister. He is said to have received this medallion from the Mayor of New York while in his pyjamas in his hotel bed when struck down with a cold.
- 6. Hairbrushes made from wood from H.M.S Exeter
- It's telling that these hairbrushes were made from the H.M.S Exeter for only three people; Captain Bell – the Captain of the ship, King George VI and Churchill, but not Neville Chamberlain who was Prime Minister at the time. The wood was taken from the deck of the ship as it was being refitted, after heavy damages in the Battle of River Plate in December 1939.
- 7. Louis XV embroidered armchair
- This carved and gilt chair, upholstered in needlework, was given to Churchill as part of the Brighton Freedom Award from the people of Brighton in 1947. He had an early association with the town as he was educated at 'The Misses Thompson's Preparatory School' in Hove between 1883 and 1885 and assured the city that the chair would 'always be cherished by me and my wife and by those who come after us'.
- 8. The Estuary of the River Scheldt at Antwerp oil painting
- Signed by the artist Isidore Opsomer in 1945, this large oil painting was part of the Antwerp Freedom Award gifted to Churchill 'whose steadfast trust and fortitude paved the way to the liberation of our country, of our city, of our port'. It was presented to Churchill on 17 November 1945 during a visit to Belgium, along with a lectern and colour print. It currently takes pride of place in the hall at Chartwell.
- 9. Lion sculpture
- The proud bronze sculpture was gifted to Churchill as part of the Luxembourg Freedom Award in gratitude by the people of Luxembourg after the Second World War. It has pride of place in front of the study, at the heart of Chartwell where Churchill worked into the small hours on his speeches, books and strategies. The lion is based on those displayed outside Luxembourg City Hall, cast in Paris in 1932 by sculptor Auguste Trémont (1892–1980).
- 10. Collection of inscribed books
- With 898 titles in some 920 volumes, the inscribed book collection at Chartwell is full of cultural and political history. Some titles are by famous authors whilst others one of a few examples left in the world. The collection consists of gift inscriptions from friends, family and well-wishers, presentation copies of books by strangers, as well as those from authors who were close friends and colleagues. Together, the inscribed books give a powerful impression of what a public institution Churchill became.
More collection highlights
Find out more about some of the other objects we've been able to save for the nation, following the Churchill’s Chartwell appeal, each one telling a vital story about the life of Churchill.
'Chartwell is a veritable treasure house. (It) is still just as enchanting to me as it was all those years ago'
– Celia Sandys, the Churchills’ granddaughter, writing in Churchill’s Little Redhead (2021).
Order of Service for Queen Elizabeth's coronation
One of just 150 copies, this Order of Service comes from Queen Elizabeth's coronation ceremony. As a friend of the Royal family, Churchill was invited to Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation and kept this Order of Service as a souvenir. As her first Prime Minister, Winston Churchill became a loyal and trusted confidante to the young queen in the early years of her reign.
Medallion for best cow in show
Having purchased the adjoining Chartwell Farm in 1947, Churchill purchased a herd of dairy shorthorn cattle that lived at Chartwell. As such a famous owner of the breed, it came as no surprise when Churchill was elected a member of the Shorthorn Society of Great Britain and Ireland.
In 1949 Churchill entered some of his prized cattle into the Tunbridge Wells show where his roan shorthorn dairy cow 'Gratwicke Beatrice 2nd' was fortunate enough to win the £10 first prize.
The Malta Trophy that hangs in Churchill's study at Chartwell was a gift from a Maltese citizen who believed Churchill to be the saviour of their nation.
The central Mediterranean location of the island put it in a strategic military position in the Second World War. Some of the most severe bombardments of the war occurred here; even the blitz in London did not compare to the destruction of Malta.
The Malta trophy remains a symbol of the close relationship built between the people of Malta and Churchill himself.
Roosevelt's gift to Churchill
On November 7, 1944, Roosevelt was elected for an unprecedented fourth term in office. This inauguration medallion, of which only 10 examples were struck in gold, was presented to Churchill in honour of a friendship that was 'forged in the fire of war’. What made the friendship between Roosevelt and Churchill so special was that they not only shared a single mission, to bring about ally victory in war, but they shared a true fondness for each other.
A symbol of freedom and of friendship
The Ordre de la Libération is a French order which was awarded to heroes of the Liberation of France during the Second World War. It is the second highest French military honour after the Légion d’Honneur.
The Ordre de la Libération was awarded to various honourees between January 1941–1946. While General Eisenhower was awarded the honour, Churchill was inexplicably missed out at the time. It was believed to have been a genuine oversight, but one that would not be forgotten by de Gaulle, who even 12 years later was still eager to make amends. As soon as he returned as French President in 1958 de Gaulle ensured Churchill was honoured and the order was reopened to allow the ceremony to take place. Churchill finally received the honour from de Gaulle in Paris on 6 November 1958.
Aachen Charlemagne Prize
Churchill's visit to receive the prize – one of the most prestigious in Europe – was his first visit to Germany since 1945. It consists of a medallion and manuscript. Montague Browne, who accompanied Churchill to Aachen noted, 'That he, chief architect of Germany's downfall, should be their guest excites him'.
Lady Churchill's gifts
Not every item in our appeal was once Winston's. The Aid to Russia medallion was a gift to his wife, Lady Churchill, in recognition of her successful fundraising efforts during the Second World War.
The glass Lalique cockerel in the drawing room was a gift to Lady Churchill from General de Gaulle. It followed a heated exchange, during lunch at Downing Street, over the future of the French Fleet, which had just been destroyed. After this incident the General apologised profusely and sent flowers. Later in the war he gave her the beautiful Lalique cockerel – the emblem of France.
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