Final photograph of Winston Churchill goes on display as Chartwell marks Churchill 2015

By Richard Moss | 26 January 2015

Winston's last photo is among the family treasures on display at Chartwell as the National Trust marks 50 years since Churchill's death

a black and white photo of an elderly man in a chair
The last photo of Winston Churchill - seated at his desk.© Courtesy National Trust
The last photograph of Winston Churchill, taken just days before his death in January 1965, is among the family treasures going on show at the former Prime Minister’s home Chartwell, in Kent. 

The National Trust property is marking the 50th anniversary of his death and state funeral with a display called Death of a Hero, featuring a wealth of personal mementos of the great leader and his legacy. 

Churchill died on 24 January 1965 in his London home aged 90 and the photograph of the elderly statesman was one of only two photographs selected by Lady Churchill to be displayed on the desk in her bedroom when Chartwell opened to the public in the late 1960s.

Looking indomitably Churchillian, the faded black and white snapshot shows the 90-year-old wearing his dicky bow and waistcoat, seated at his desk in a comfortable floral chair.

Other treasures in the exhibition include the ‘Old Glory’ flag flown half-mast over Washington on the day Churchill’s death was announced and which was later presented to Lady Churchill; the silent typewriter used by Churchill’s secretaries so that he could dictate and write without distraction and a photograph of Churchill on VE Day, 8 May 1945, signed by all the members of the Royal Family pictured with him.

The image hung by Churchill’s bed when he was at Chartwell, which was a much loved family home and the place from which Sir Winston Churchill drew inspiration from 1924 until the end of his life.

Katherine Barnett, Chartwell’s house and collections manager, said curating the exhibition had been “very moving for all involved at Chartwell”.

“Churchill still has such a strong presence in the house,” she explained, “and it’s been a challenge to select just 66 objects to show the legacy of a life of such significance.”

Click below to launch a gallery relating to the exhibition:
One of the personal items that has made it into the exhibition is a large leather-bound book of newspaper cuttings given to Churchill’s then new-born great-grandson Randolph.

Describing Sir Winston as “a huge influence on my life personally” Randolph Churchill said, “so many objects in the Death of a Hero exhibition are dear to me, but the newspaper cuttings book is particularly close to my heart.

“A gift when I was just two months old, it contains many newspaper articles from 1965 which describe in great detail the love and gratitude the world had for Sir Winston. It’s a poignant reminder of the sheer scale of his impact.”

Death of a Hero’s five main themes include Churchill’s passing, the aftermath as the world mourns, the funeral, his legacy and remembering Churchill.

But it’s the state funeral in particular, which has become the focus of many of the commemoration activities in this 50th anniversary year of his death. It took place on January 30 and was watched live on TV by millions around the world. Representatives from 112 countries attended and it remains one of the most poignant moments in British political history.

“It is the enormous sense of loss, yet pride, felt around the world that this exhibition has aimed to capture, illustrating how in the words of Lady Churchill ‘it wasn’t a funeral – it was a triumph,’” added Katherine Bennett.

Visitors will be able to watch footage of the state funeral at selected times and take part in a life and legacy family trail around the gardens that Churchill landscaped himself.

Since it was left by the Churchill family to the National Trust in 1966, Chartwell has become one of the most important and evocative places to explore the life and legacy of Sir Winston. Its sense of atmosphere and authenticity is perhaps best epitomised by the resident house cat, Jock.

Churchill’s beloved cat, Jock I was at the foot of Churchill’s bed at the time of his death. The Churchill family requested that there would always be a marmalade cat named Jock, with a white bib and four white socks, in comfortable residence at Chartwell.

The National Trust has upheld this wish and the sixth incarnation of the feline, Jock VI, is currently in happy residence at the property.

A prototype figurine of Jock the cat has been designed for this year’s anniversary by Royal Crown Derby, modeled on Jock VI.

Death of a Hero is part of Churchill 2015, a commemoration of his life which sees a number of exhibitions and special events in museums and locations close to the Churchill family across the country. For more information see 
What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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