Last year we went on a mini-adventure, with our friends Jamie and Liana, to Chartwell. The house is based in Kent and is best known as the country house of Sir Winston and Lady Clementine Churchill. It opened as a National Trust property in 1966, one year after the death of Sir Winston.
On entering the Victorian red brick estate you start through the entrance lobby and follow your way through the house, almost as Churchill left it, to take in the living room, dining room, and the bedrooms, which have been turned into display rooms for the many honours and awards given to the Churchill’s. The stunning reveal at the end of the tour is Churchill’s study on the first floor. Despite the fact the house was rarely used during World War II due to its proximity to the coast facing Europe, it was an important room throughout Churchill’s political life.
Sir Winston loved the estate and he created many of the features in the estate including the lakes and the kitchen garden. A little-known fact about Churchill is that he was an amateur, but very competent, bricklayer and enjoyed building the Marycot, a playhouse, for his daughter. He was also a very accomplished painter and regularly painted across the estate, with some of his paintings hanging in Parliament. His workroom is full of some great works of art and the room is regularly used for demonstrations. The estate grounds stretch for some good walking routes through the woodlands and through the immediate grounds giving stunning views of the house. Just be mindful of the swimming pool!
Chartwell was bought by a consortium of businessmen in 1946, who bought the estate when the Churchill’s could not afford to run the property. The estate was to be given to the National Trust once both Churchill ‘s had died. They continued to live at the estate paying a nominal rent. The estate was given to the Trust shortly after Sir Winston had died by his wife Lady Clementine.
The estate is a great location to learn more about the private life of Churchill and a great house and gardens to explore. You can find out more about Chartwell here.
A couple of weeks ago, on our return drive from our Weekend in Devon, we decided to stop at the majestic Stourhead house & gardens to break up the journey. Located in Wiltshire, Stourhead was bought by the Hoare family in 1714 and one of the first palladian style houses in the country was built in the 1720’s. The Hoare family owned the property until is was passed to the National Trust in 1946 after the sole heir to the estate died in World War I.
The estate has over 2,500 of gardens to wander through with temples, ornamental cottages and a tower adding to the many vistas and pathways. The ever changing view as you walk around the lake adds to the dramatic nature of the estate. It does feel that any path will open onto an unexplored treasure. The statues in the pantheon and the grotto are a good place to stop on your walk around the garden.
Over the centuries the house has been expanded and adapted to meet the decor of the time. The current interior of the house is as impressive as the garden. The mass space of the library would make any readers relaxed in the comfort of a stylish turn of the 20th century library. Many of the rooms do look recently lived in, but that is likely to be due to the Hoare’s family current resident who has access to them. Much of the original artwork that the family owned was sold in the late 1800’s due to a member of the family who found himself in some financial trouble. There is still some very impressive pieces of art and furniture including the Pope Cabinet that was built for Pope Sixtus V and was purchased during a grand tour by Henry Hoare in the 18th Century. The cabinet has over 150 drawers including one that can not be opened.
As the estate is so large, it never feels busy and is a great place to take a picnic, enjoy the grounds and house at your leisure
Find out more about Stourhead at the National Trust website
Earlier this summer we visited the picture perfect Belton House in Grantham, Lincolnshire. A National Trust property that could possibly be the ideal English country house? Built in the 1680s by Sir John Brownlow, Belton House is cited as one of the finest examples of Carolean architecture that flourished after the restoration of Charles II.
To enter the house you ascend a grand sweep of steps into the grand marble hall. It is from here that you start your tour of the house. There is no set route, you can wander around the rooms at your will. The interiors feature a range of decorative styles, including: restoration, regency, victorian, and 1930 styles. The various styles are a product of ongoing refurbishment by subsequent generations of the family. Of particular interest is the friendship between Perry Cust, 6th Baron Brownlow and Edward, Prince of Wales. Bolton House was one of the locations in which the Prince of Wales’ affair with Wallis Simpson was played out, resulting in the infamous abdication crisis.
Once outside, the gardens include formal Italian and Dutch styles near the house, leading into informal gardens and small boating lake. There is a wonderful orangery showing lots of lovely exotic plants. Near the orangery is a 12th-century parish church, the church of St Peter and St Paul, where many of the Brownlow and Cust families are buried. The gardens are surrounded by a further 1300 acres of deer park, perfect for exploring, adventuring and picnicking.
Belton House has been used as a location for several films and tv programmes, possibly most famously used in the 1995 TV adaptation of Pride and Prejudice as the house of Lady Catherine de Bourgh.
The National Trust have made sure there is plenty for families to do. There are both indoor and outdoor adventure play areas which we have to say looked awesome! At the Discovery Centre there are craft activities and dressing up.
Belton House is a great day out, whether with kids or without. We really enjoyed exploring the house and garden and wish we had more time to explore the grounds. Find out more about Belton House at the National Trust website.