Sir Winston Churchill: In the Public Eye, at his Private Home, during his Darkest Hour
One of the most popular features of our tours, for both walkers and cyclists, has been an exploration into the life and times of Sir Winston Churchill, our famous Prime Minister (1940-45, 1951-55). With the UK release of the widely acclaimed film about his Darkest Hour earlier this year, we thought we would give our guests a little taste of what to expect from our tours, and an insight into both the public and private lives of this incredible man.
Blenheim Palace – Churchill’s Birthplace
Our tours enable guests to walk or ride directly into Churchill’s birthplace, the stunning 2000 acre Capability Brown landscaped estate of Blenheim Palace. Born on the 30th November 1874 into a privileged family, Blenheim was his family home and he visited many times during his childhood and throughout his life. The Churchill-Spencer family still live there now, and Churchill himself is buried at a nearby churchyard in Bladon, alongside his parents and, later, his wife.
Read more about Blenheim Palace.
Chartwell House, Churchill’s Family Home
On our Kent tour we see a different, and perhaps lesser known, side to Churchill; that of him as a family man. We visit Chartwell House, Churchill’s countryside haven, where he gardened, painted and spent time with his family from 1922. He was an avid amateur painter, painting over 500 canvasses while he lived here, many of which remain and are hung in the house still. Alongside his wife’s carefully curated rose gardens the house is displayed as it was in the 1930s, with a collection of over 1000 individual items belonging to Churchill on show. A beautiful property, Churchill once commented that, ‘a day away from Chartwell is a day wasted’, so it is definitely not one to miss!
Dunkirk and Churchill
From Churchill’s idyllic countryside cottage we take guests to see the coastline where hundreds of thousands of Allied troops were evacuated from Occupied France during World War Two, in a battle against time in May 1940; the result of Churchill’s decision, against all odds, to launch a rescue mission from the beaches of Dunkirk.
This past year has seen renewed interest in both the life of Churchill and the events surrounding Dunkirk. Christopher Nolan’s hugely successful movie Dunkirk, drew attention in exquisite detail to the a week of Allied evacuations – on land, at sea and in the air, and the highly anticipated movie Darkest Hour is released this month, exploring these same events from the perspective of those in charge, from inside government and Churchill’s own head. Starring Gary Oldman, golden globe winner for his performance, the film looks at the pressures facing Churchill as he launched Operation Dynamo which aimed to rescue up to 40,000 troops under attack on the beaches in France.
Dover Castle and Operation Dynamo
Our Kent tour visits Dover, the busiest of the British ports during this frantic rescue mission, and still a busy port today. Indeed its brilliant white cliffs are still the first land sighted by many travelers returning to England. We take guests to see Dover’s medieval castle which sits atop the secret cliff tunnels that formed the nerve center of Operation Dynamo.
Staggeringly, in a week of evacuations, Churchill announced that 338,000 troops had been saved! As well as the larger navy ships, all available ‘little ships’ – all small seaworthy craft in Kent – were assembled to make the hazardous crossing to Dunkirk. 933 ships were involved and 236 were lost under attack by Hitler’s forces during the crossings.
There is no better way to explore the life of Churchill, from birth to death or following some of his most critical decisions made as Prime Minister, than by visiting these iconic places and letting history come alive before your eyes.
For more information on Active England’s tours in Kent take a look at our Kent, Cantebury, Dover and Castles Tour.