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New Winston Churchill exhibition by the National Trust to open at Chartwell in Westerham, Sevenoaks

By Angela Cole

How do you sum up possibly the nation’s greatest leader in just 50 objects?

This was the challenge for staff and volunteers at Chartwell in Westerham, near Sevenoaks, during their paintstaking work to organise the National Trust property’s new permanent exhibition, A History of Winston Churchill in 50 Objects, which opens this weekend.

Focussing on his life, it will give 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.

Winston Churchill at home in Chartwell Picture: National Trust
Winston Churchill at home in Chartwell Picture: National Trust

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.

Curator Katherine Carter said: “It was quite a challenge choosing just 50 objects to represent as extraordinary a life as Sir Winston Churchill’s, but we have such wonderful treasures here at Chartwell and have been able to showcase a number of never-before-seen items which is really exciting.”

An Italian lake scene painted by Winston Churchill, included in A History of Winston Churchill in 50 Objects at Chartwell
An Italian lake scene painted by Winston Churchill, included in A History of Winston Churchill in 50 Objects at Chartwell

Alongside the exhibition is a new outdoor contemporary art trail, Who Was Winston Churchill? with large scale installations in the garden, reflecting different stories and sides of the man.

A History of Winston Churchill in 50 Objects and Who was Winston Churchill? are open daily from Saturday, January 12. The house re-opens on Friday, March 1. Details at nationaltrust.org.uk/chartwell

A History of Winston Churchill in 50 Objects is at Chartwell near Sevenoaks Picture: John Hammond, National Trust
A History of Winston Churchill in 50 Objects is at Chartwell near Sevenoaks Picture: John Hammond, National Trust

Key themes of the exhibition are...

Family man: Discover why family was always important to Churchill, having been distant from his own parents as a child. On marrying Clementine, he said he ’married and lived happily ever after.’

The writer and orator - find out how he started writing as a journalist and war correspondent, before turning to writing histories, and becoming an award winning author, as well as being given honorary membership to the Press Club in 1921.

Politician, wartime leader and statesman – his parliamentary career spanned more than six decades, including 21 elections, winning16. By the end of his career, he was the longest-serving MP of the 20th century.

Pluto, part of pipework to power army equipment, one of 50 objects summing up the life of Sir Winston Churchill
Pluto, part of pipework to power army equipment, one of 50 objects summing up the life of Sir Winston Churchill

A soldier and military leader– items on display include a collection of toy soldiers from his childhood through to military honours awarded for his victory in the Second World War.

The artist: He took up the hobby at 40 and went on to pain more than 500 canvases. In 1921 he said: ‘If it weren’t for painting, I could not live; I could not bear the strain of things.’

A miniature paintbox, one of the items included in A History of Winston Churchill in 50 objects Picture: John Hammond, National Trust
A miniature paintbox, one of the items included in A History of Winston Churchill in 50 objects Picture: John Hammond, National Trust

Curator Katherine added: “It’s been wonderful to look in detail at Churchill’s cherished possessions and objects that represent the breadth and variety of his interests, passions and pursuits.

Chartwell in the winter Picture: National Trust
Chartwell in the winter Picture: National Trust

From the most personal of keepsakes to international recognition and honours, A History of Winston Churchill in 50 Objects offers a new take on one of the most extraordinary figures in British history, and all against the backdrop of his beloved home.”

Ever popular, the bookies believe the BBC1’s Icons show, which starts this week, will see Churchill named the ultimate 20th century icon, beating the likes of Albert Einstein, Emmeline Pankhurst, Muhammad Ali, David Bowie and Ghandi.

Winston and Clementine Churchill statues at Chartwell
Winston and Clementine Churchill statues at Chartwell

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