From Blenheim to Chartwell: The Untold Story of Churchill’s Houses and Gardens by Stefan Buczacki is a very entertaining and wonderfully illustrated volume on the residences Winston Churchill lived in, purchased, leased, or were loaned to him, including holiday homes and official residences. Churchill’s “property adventures” are a fascinating array of purchases, sales, house hunting, disputes with architects and builders, financial issues, occasional falling out with friends, and the recourse to legal advice. The book has a wealth of interesting detail, including the letting of his Bolton Street house whilst Churchill was travelling in East Africa to Robert Standish Sievier, “one of the most seriously infamous rogues of the day.” Especially prior to becoming rather more settled in the 1920s, Churchill and his wife Clementine were constantly worrying about buying or selling houses and maintained a “pattern of having either too many houses or none.”
Appropriately much space in the volume discusses Chartwell, Churchill’s beloved country home in Kent, which he purchased in 1922 and kept until his death in 1965. While Churchill treasured Chartwell, Clementine did not warm to the property until long after its purchase. Indeed it was bought by her husband without her knowledge. As Buczaki writes, the “purchase of Chartwell revealed Churchill at his most implacable, his most egotistic, his most deaf and blinkered to outside reason and influence.” Clementine only came to enjoy Chartwell once she and Churchill were more financially secure after the Second World War, but tellingly she left Chartwell soon after her husband’s death and rarely returned. The story of Chartwell becoming a National Trust property is related by Buczaki and a chapter on “Chartwell after Churchill” concludes the volume.
Buczacki, author of several volumes on gardening, has written an excellent book that would have only benefited from the inclusion of a map of London showing all of Churchill’s residences. It is the definitive word on the topic.