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The visitors book at Chartwell

The guest book featuring a signature of Queen Elizabeth II at Chartwell, Kent
Queen Elizabeth II's signature in Chartwell's guest book | © National Trust Images / Chris Jonas

The signatures in the visitors book paint a unique picture of the Churchills' daily lives. It charts their successes, their sorrows, and their world, making the book a unique historic record as well as an important part of the collection.

A lifetime of visitors

Countless signatures from renowned public figures fill the pages of this book, showing a wealth of visitors from many walks of life.

The hundreds of signatures across the pages include politicians, military chiefs, film stars and even royalty. Vivien Leigh, Laurence Olivier, and President Truman are just a few of the well-known names to be found in the book.

The names that come up time and time again are those who were closest to the Churchills; their trusted advisors, confidantes, and faithful friends from over four decades of public life.

‘It’s the unique insight into their family life away from the public eye that makes Chartwell’s Visitors Book the single most important record of the private life of the Churchills.’

– Katherine Carter, Property Curator

Reading between the lines

From the pages, we can tell when the Churchills were economising, lessening how frequently and how long they entertained. It’s very telling that this didn’t tend to be for very long.

The record begins in April 1924, from the moment the Churchills moved into the house that they would call home for the next 40 years. During Winston’s ‘wilderness years’ the book is full of family, friends and the political allies and advisors who supported him during this time.

On the outbreak of war, the signatures stop as the family moves back to London for Winston to take up the mantle of wartime Prime Minister. The record resumes in January 1946, after Churchill’s election defeat, and continues until October 1964. Winston would go up to London for his 90th birthday, never to return to his beloved family home again.

Signature highlights

Frederick Lindemann

Trusted friend and adviser to Winston Churchill, the physicist, Frederick Lindemann, has more entries in the Chartwell visitors book than anyone else. Their friendship became when they met in 1921. He was among the first to recognise the danger posed by Hitler and the inadequacy of British air defence.

During the war he became Churchill’s chief scientific advisor. Lindemann was made a peer in 1941 with the title of Baron Cherwell of Oxford. With the fall of the Churchill administration in 1945 Cherwell returned to Oxford University where he had served as Chair in Physics before the war.

Field Marshal Montgomery

Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, KG, GCB, DSO, PC, DL (17 November 1887 – 24 March 1976), nicknamed ‘Monty’, was a senior British Army officer who fought in both the First and Second World Wars.

Montgomery commanded the British Eighth Army from August 1942, through the Second Battle of El Alamein and on to the final Allied victory in Tunisia in May 1943. He later commanded the British Eighth Army during the Allied invasion of Sicily and the Allied invasion of Italy and was in command of all Allied ground forces during the Battle of Normandy (Operation Overlord), from D-Day on 6 June 1944 until 1 September 1944. In 1945, Churchill said of Montgomery, 'in defeat, unbeatable; in victory, unbearable’. He was created 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein in 1946.

Monty’s personal relations with Winston Churchill were essentially good and after the war and Churchill’s election defeat in 1945 he established himself as a loyal personal and family friend. Clementine liked him very much, but never hesitated to rebuke him when he made some typically intolerable remark, which he always took well since he liked and admired her.

Violet Bonham Carter

Helen Violet Bonham Carter, Baroness Asquith of Yarnbury, DBE (15 April 1887 – 19 February 1969), known until her marriage as Violet Asquith, was a British politician and diarist.

Daughter of H. H. Asquith, Prime Minister from 1908–1916, Violet Bonham Carter later became active in Liberal politics herself, being a leading opponent of appeasement, standing for Parliament and being made a life peer. She was also involved in arts and literature.

She was Sir Winston Churchill's closest female friend, apart from his wife, and her grandchildren include the actress Helena Bonham Carter. She spoke on many platforms throughout the 1920s and 1930s, and along with Winston Churchill (and others), she very early on saw the dangers of European fascism.

Diana Mitford

Diana, the Hon. Lady Mosley (17 June 1910 – 11 August 2003), was one of the six well-known Mitford sisters. Her mother was Clementine Churchill’s first cousin, and her eldest sister was the novelist Nancy Mitford – who portrayed her as Linda in Love in a Cold Climate (1949).

On one occasion when she was 16 and returning to her school in Paris after a visit home, she was accompanied by Winston Churchill and his son Randolph who were en route to Rome for a meeting with Mussolini, whom Churchill admired at that time. Randolph always adored her, although the beautiful Diana never took him seriously.

In her autobiography she writes of visits to Chartwell and of attending ‘dozens of balls’ with Diana Churchill in London while staying with the Churchills.

She went on to marry Oswald Mosley in the Berlin home of Joseph Goebbels. Hitler's wedding present was a signed photograph in a silver frame. She was interned with Mosley soon after the outbreak of the Second World War and they remained under house arrest until the war was over.

A close-up image of a visitor using the digital visitors book at Chartwell
The digital visitors book at Chartwell | © National Trust Images/Sam Milling

Digitised book

Thanks to the success of the Churchill’s Chartwell Appeal, you can scroll through an interactive version of this unique book to learn more about Churchill’s friends, family and colleagues.

This interactive display helps show off this fascinating book in new ways, giving a glimpse into the famous friends, family and faces who visited Chartwell over the years and signed this unique historic record.

Located in the Exhibition Room, you can look through the handwritten entries of more than 700 personalities who visited his home across 40 years. With the use of technology, we have been able to offer in-depth profiles on these signatures.

A pair of handle-less wooden hairbrushes with Winston Churchill's initials inscribed on them on a wooden counter top at Chartwell in Kent

Chartwell's collections

Explore the objects and works of art we care for at Chartwell on the National Trust Collections website.

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