Anyone visiting Chartwell over the last week can’t have failed to notice that Sir Winston Churchill’s swimming pool is lacking something important at the moment. The water! We drain the swimming pool every year so that we can give it a thorough clean but we’ve done this a little earlier than usual this year so that we can repair a broken valve in the adjacent pump house.
The cleaning process has involved several stages. First of all we’ve had to remove masses of blanket weed (Spirogyra adnate) that has accumulated over the past 12 months. You are very lucky that this blog doesn’t have a scratch and sniff feature because this aquatic weed isn’t the most fragrant of algaes! The weed was collected into piles last week so that any water-based creatures had a chance to escape before we took it all away to be composted. In our composting area the weed will be combined with chipped woody material and other plant material such as the spent hops we collect from nearby Westerham Brewery.
The next stage involved actually cleaning the swimming pool’s fibre glass lining itself. Once the excess mud and general gunk (technical gardening term) had been washed off, it was the turn of the pressure washer to put in an appearance. This little contraption really allows us to get the pool lining as clean as possible by blasting the algal stains off. Click on the panoramic picture below to get a idea of just how big the swimming pool here at Chartwell is and just how much work it takes to scrub it clean!
The reason we have to spend so much time each year cleaning the inside of Sir Winston’s pool is because the water within it is pumped and circulated between the pool, the lakes and the fish ponds here at Chartwell in a continuous process. As you can imagine, a lot of mud and other grime can build up as a result. We have 2 pump houses to keep the water flowing between the various areas and although we also have various filter systems involved, the water in the swimming pool is never going to be beautifully clean all year round.
In the early years of their residency the Churchill family used the lakes for swimming but Sir Winston was determined to have a swimming pool at Chartwell. The pool you see today was completed in 1934 and was his third attempt to create one. Churchill began to build his first pool in 1931. The remains of his first try can be found within the woodland, while his second attempt is found a few hundred yards behind the current swimming pool. This second pool also still exists and although it is more of a natural pond these days, in the past it was used as a feeder pool for the actual swimming pool itself.
Once Churchill successfully completed his third and final pool, he also installed concealed underground boilers to heat the water within to 75F. During the construction of the pool you see here today, Churchill sought advice from his scientist friend Professor Lindemann on the amount of water needed to fill it as well as from Charles Goodwin, an architectural advisor, for more specialist help. He also got help from a chemist on the correct chemicals required to keep the swimming pool clean. We obviously don’t have that luxury today as you can see from this blog!
Churchill’s original pool covered an area of 3900 square feet, had a maximum depth of 7 feet 4 inches and could hold 20,000 gallons of water. He clearly loved the creation and the use of his pool and we therefore try our best to maintain and preserve it as best we can. It can make a great place to take photographs too. If you take a particularly good one here or anywhere around the gardens make sure you submit it into our photography competition, more information on which can be found by clicking here. We should be filling Churchill’s pool with water again over the Easter period so make sure you come and have a look for yourself. Just remember, no bombing, no diving and no heavy petting!