Winter exhibition, Child of the Commons, opens at Chartwell
PUBLISHED: 13:45 07 November 2016 | UPDATED: 13:45 07 November 2016
©John Hammond 2016
It will feature over 50 objects, from personal family mementoes to commemorative gifts that will tell the stories of Churchill’s time in politics
The home of Sir Winston Churchill, Chartwell in Westerham is set to launch a new winter exhibition, Child of the Commons, full of discovery as well as items that have never before been on public display.
Running from November 12 to February 19 2017, the exhibition focuses on the political career of Sir Winston Churchill. It will feature over 50 objects, from personal family mementoes to commemorative gifts that will tell the stories of Churchill’s time in politics and why, in his own words, he would spend his life as a Child of the commons.
Many of the objects are items Chartwell hopes to acquire with the Keep Churchill at Chartwell appeal. Launched on the September 5, the appeal hopes to raise £7.1 million by the end of January 2017 in order to save these and many more items once belonging to Churchill for the nation.
Churchill started his political career when Queen Victoria was still on the throne and his time in Westminster would see him through two world wars and through to the onset of the Cold War. By this time he was the longest-serving MP of the twentieth century.
Child of the Commons has been researched by a team of National Trust staff and volunteers, and offers a unique insight into the breadth of Churchill’s political career. It will take visitors from a childhood spent idealising his politician father, through his early days as constituency MP, his ‘crossing the floor’ between Conservatives and Liberals, and his holding most of the major offices of state, including being Prime Minister twice.
Highlights of the exhibition include:
• Nobel Prize in literature - awarded to Churchill in 1953 primarily for his oratory and iconic speeches. Many of these were composed at his Chartwell home, which features prominently in the design on the accompanying diploma.
• Speech box – confidential notes from Churchill’s advisers were stored in this unassuming box ready for him to transform into his rousing speeches.
• House of Commons 80th birthday book - an illuminated book in green leather was signed by almost every member of the House of Commons and was presented to Churchill as a tribute of their affection on his 80th birthday in 1954.
• Public school fencing medal - A silver medallion in the shape of a Maltese Cross with lion surmount awarded to Churchill as the most talented fencer at Harrow school.
• Pair of hairbrushes - among many personal items, these hairbrushes are made from wood from the deck of the Second World War ship HMS Exeter. Only two other pairs were made, for the captain of the ship and for King George VI.
Katherine Barnett, house and collections manager at Chartwell comments: “Child of the Commons has been a wonderful exhibition to curate as it’s allowed us to focus on Churchill’s wider political career. His achievements ranged from being the youngest person in the Cabinet for over 100 years, right through to being the longest serving MP of the twentieth century. With constituencies across the length of the UK, having contested 21 elections and served with two different political parties, Churchill’s political career was a real rollercoaster and it’s wonderful that we get to share these stories here at Chartwell.
“At times, squeezing it all in was challenging, after all this is someone whose interest in politics started in childhood and lasted through the entire 90 years of his life, but the collections we are able to show really help tell the key stories of his career. From early career despatch boxes to awards and gifts in thanks for a lifetime’s work in Westminster, this exhibition truly depicts why Churchill always thought of himself as a ‘Child of the Commons’.”
Beryl Nicholson, one of the volunteers who researched the exhibition, adds: “Research for the exhibition, whilst very time consuming, has been most enjoyable and eye-opening. The hours spent reading through newspaper cuttings and archive letters always reveal something new.”
Child of the Commons is open daily from 11am–3pm (closed December 24 and 25). National Trust members receive free entry. Adult entry to gardens, studio & exhibition £7.40. For more information visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/chartwell or telephone 01732 868381.