Chartwell was the principal adult home of Sir Winston Churchill. Churchill and his wife Clementine bought the property, located two miles south of Westerham, Kent, England in 1922. Extensive renovations simplifying and modernising the home were undertaken directly, completely transforming it when complete.
When it became clear to the Churchills in 1946 that they could not afford to run the property, a consortium of wealthy businessmen organized by Lord Camrose purchased the estate. The arrangement was that for payment of nominal rent both Sir Winston and Lady Churchill would have the right to live there until their deaths, when the property would be presented to the National Trust. When Sir Winston died in 1965, Clementine decided to present Chartwell to the National Trust immediately.
Churchill employed architect Philip Tilden to modernise and extend the house. Tilden worked between 1922 and 1924, simplifying and modernising, as well as allowing more light into the house through large casement windows. He worked in the gently vernacular tradition that is familiar in the early houses of Edwin Lutyens, a style stripped of literal Tudor Revival historicising details but retaining multiple gables with stepped gable ends, and windows in strips set in expanses of warm pink brick hung with climbers. Tilden’s work completely transformed the house.
Similarly to many early 20th century refurbishments of old estates, the immediate grounds, which fall away behind the house, were shaped into overlapping rectilinear terraces and garden plats, in lawn and mixed herbaceous gardens in the Lutyens-Jekyll manner, linked by steps descending to lakes that Churchill created by a series of small dams, the water garden where he fed his fish, Lady Churchill’s Rose garden and the Golden Rose Walk, a Golden Wedding anniversary gift from their children. The garden areas provided inspiration for Churchill’s paintings, many of which are on display in the house’s garden studio.
During the Second World War, the house was mostly unused. Its relatively exposed position so near to German-occupied France meant it was potentially vulnerable to a German airstrike or commando-style raid. The Churchills instead spent their weekends at Ditchley, Oxfordshire until security improvements were completed at the prime minister’s official country residence Chequers, Buckinghamshire