Curator's Choice: The chair scratched by Winston Churchill's fingernails

Cressida Finch interviewed by Ben Miller | 13 October 2011
Cressida Finch introduces the meeting room at the Churchill War Rooms

Parliament Week Curator’s Choice: In her own Words…Cressida Finch, of the Churchill War Rooms in London, on the Prime Minister’s wartime chair

"This is the chair on which Winston Churchill sat when he chaired meetings of the War Cabinet and the Defence Committee.

"115 meetings of the War Cabinet  – almost one in ten of all meetings of the War Cabinet – were held here in the protected environment of the Cabinet War Rooms, whenever air raids threatened.

Only those who look at the chair really close up can see one of the most interesting things about it – the scratches on the arms left by Churchill.

We think that these were made by his signet ring on one hand and his fingernails.

They are interesting as they betray that while Churchill was calm and collected on the surface, there was a certain understandable tension beneath.

They are a reminder of the intense discussions which took place here. Churchill had many fierce debates with his chiefs of staff.

Unlike Hitler, he never overruled them – and that is what makes this so significant for democracy: he was operating within a democratic system and as part of an elected government, not as a dictator.

Last year the museum staff were lucky enough to be given a tour of No 10 Downing Street, and we were shown a leather reading chair used by Churchill. I was delighted to see very similar scratches on its arm rests.

Very few people are allowed to sit in the chair – usually members of the Churchill families or VIPs. George Bush was given permission.

I've been asked several times if I have taken a sneaky sit in it and I can absolutely confirm that I haven't."

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