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Review: Who Was Winston Churchill? at Chartwell, near Sevenoaks

By Angela Cole

Think Winston Churchill's war years and his famous speech about "the few" were what made him a great man?

A trip around his former home estate this half term will teach visitors - as small as pre-schoolers - that there was far more to the man with the cigar

If you were in any doubt of which famous man once owned Chartwell in Westerham, near Sevenoaks, then a glimpse around the back of the (currently closed) house will have you in no doubt.

Churchill on the art trail at Chartwell
Churchill on the art trail at Chartwell

Because, sitting proud overlooking the estate and beyond, is a massive bust of Churchill.

And when I say massive, it's no exaggeration. Without a tape measure to hand, a rough estimation would be 10ft wide.

It's one of the many ways that the National Trust property is showing visitors that Churchill was a great man.

And it seemed to be a big hit with the children on the trail, Who Was Winston Churchill?

Churchill's desk recreated in the grounds at Chartwell
Churchill's desk recreated in the grounds at Chartwell

Through a variety of large sculptures and installations around the grounds, as part of the new outdoor contemporary art trail, you'll discover Churchill as the family man, who built his daughter a little Wendy house (with some help) which still has a view across the fields to die for.

The gardens at Chartwell, Westerham
The gardens at Chartwell, Westerham

And you'll learn about Churchill, the hero, who, as a younger man, climbed a 10ft wall to escape as a POW and who had a ransom put on his head.

There's a recreation of his great desk, which includes family pictures and a dog statue, on the lawn, which show where he made some of his key decisions. His parliamentary career spanned more than six decades, including 21 elections, 16 of which he won. By the end of his career, he was the longest-serving MP of the 20th century.

The Churchill trail at Chartwell, Westerham
The Churchill trail at Chartwell, Westerham

You can also see him as an artist, and there's an opportunity to take a selfie, and leave a note about peace.

It's a perfect setting for all ages to learn about one of our greatest leaders. And it's also a chance to get little ones out in the fresh air at half term. They can also look out for the koi carp in the pond, the small waterfall you can throw pennies in to and make a wish, and there's plenty of space to let off steam.

There is also a permanent exhibition, which will also be open during half term, A History of Winston Churchill in 50 Objects.

Winston and Clementine Churchill are in the grounds at Chartwell
Winston and Clementine Churchill are in the grounds at Chartwell

Focussing on his life, it gives an insight into the world of one of Britain’s greatest leaders. It includes Churchill’s own cherished possessions, some of which have not been displayed.

The 50 objects, taken from the stores at Chartwell, include personal mementoes such as photos and private letters, along with gifts that Churchill received from family, friends and political contacts.

Try the new treehouse at Chartwell this half term
Try the new treehouse at Chartwell this half term

It would be easy to see somewhere like Chartwell as stuffy and not very child-friendly, but our experience was that there were plenty of children getting the max out of the day out.

The only downside for us? Not seeing Jock the cat. But maybe you will be luckier...

* The house is closed until Friday, March 1, but the exhibition room is open. There is an entrance from the terrace lawn at the back of the house. During half term it is open from 11am to 3pm. Details at nationaltrust.org.uk/chartwell

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