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Appeal to find identity of 15 signatures in Winston Churchill's Chartwell home visitors book

Charlie Chaplin, Christabel Pankhurst and the Queen Mother are among the many famous visitors to Chartwell, the former home of Winston Churchill, who all signed Winston Churchill's visitors' book.

Some 700 personalities signed the book at Churchill's Westerham home between 1924 and 1964 - but 15 names in the book remain a mystery.

Chartwell visitors' book with a mystery signature Picture: John Millar
Chartwell visitors' book with a mystery signature Picture: John Millar

National Trust volunteers have spent two years researching the names - but have 15 signatures left undeciphered.

Now the trust has launched an interactive version of the historic book so that people can look through the handwritten entries and help solve the mystery of who they might be.

The book is filled with many of the most significant names of the 20th century history.

Katherine Carter, Chartwell’s project curator, said: "From the moment the Churchills moved into the house in April 1924, they kept a visitors' book.

"This gives us a unique insight into their world, through what is perhaps the single most important record of their private life in existence.

The visitors' book Picture: Ciaran McCrickard Photography
The visitors' book Picture: Ciaran McCrickard Photography

“The range of visitors from politicians and writers, to actors, scientists and royalty, shows what an extraordinary life and reach the Churchills had across almost every aspect of life in the 20th century. The family also had close relationships with former staff, some of whose names appear.

“There are also a few people who we know visited but for some reason didn’t sign the visitors' book, such as Albert Einstein. Others may not have wanted to sign, such as Fabian von Schlabrendorff who had been part of the German resistance against Hitler.”

The team of 16 volunteers have researched 2,361 signatures, from 773 visitors who signed the book.

Chartwell House's steward Lizzie Wilson wit the visitors' book Picture: John Millar, National Trust
Chartwell House's steward Lizzie Wilson wit the visitors' book Picture: John Millar, National Trust

A searchable database now means people can search through names by category and discover more about the lives, stories and careers of those that signed the book.

Zoë Colbeck, Chartwell’s general manager, adds: “Our volunteers have been instrumental in giving this remarkable piece of history a voice. When the volunteers started their research, there were 132 names that couldn’t be deciphered but they have managed to identify almost all of them.

“However, despite extensive searches through letters, diaries, biographies, and other avenues, there is still a handful of names that they haven’t been able to identify.

“We will continue to research them, but by putting the signatures online we are hoping there may be someone out there who recognises a name and can help us solve the mystery."

The digitisation has been funded by the National Trust’s Churchill’s Chartwell Appeal.

To see the remaining fifteen mystery signatures online from 10 October 2019 and for further information on Chartwell visit nationaltrust.org.uk/chartwell

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