Another Brick (Not) In The Wall

Emergency repair work has been carried out to the wall of Lady Churchill's Rose Garden

Emergency repair work has been carried out to the wall of Lady Churchill’s Rose Garden

Recent visitors to Churchill’s gardens may have noticed that all is not well with the walls of our Rose Garden! Earlier this year, a couple of our gardeners here at Chartwell, Ann and Rhiannon, were working on our stunning Hydrangea aspera subsp. sargentiana shrub in Lady Churchill’s Rose Garden when all of a sudden part of the wall surrounding the area collapsed! Luckily they were not in danger of being injured but this part of the garden was closed off for a time while we assessed the damage. More recently I was in the area pruning some of the roses when a further section of the wall again fell away. We think that the months of heavy rain that we had last year and this year combined with the heavy winds of the new year storms was probably the cause of the problem but we started to reach out for further advice when more cracks were spotted in the brick work.

Pits dug by archeologists to assess the foundations..

Pits dug by archeologists to assess the foundations..

...did not provide good news!

…did not provide good news!

The couple of excavation pits as seen in the pictures above allowed a local archeology team to determine that the foundations and footings of the walls were not as deep or as substantial as we had hoped. The walls were extensively rebuilt by German POW’s in 1946 under the supervision of Sir Winston Churchill himself from the already existing walls dating from pre-Churchill owners, the Colquhoun family. It is even said that he used to bring the Germans out glasses of whiskey and water while they worked! Whoever was responsible for the section of wall that is currently suffering, they were perhaps not as good at building walls as the great man it seems. Churchill’s own handiwork around the Kitchen Garden is still standing strong yet this is not the first time that repairs have had to be carried out on the walls of the Rose Garden since the National Trust took over at Chartwell in 1966!

An engraved brick on the outside of the Rose Garden wall simply reads: POW WORK GERMAN 1946

An engraved brick on the outside of the Rose Garden wall simply reads:
POW WORK
GERMAN
1946

The most important thing to do next was to make the wall safe and ensure that it didn’t crumble or collapse any further, putting staff, volunteers or visitors in any danger whatsoever. This process was achieved in a couple of ways:

Firstly, the doorway within the offending wall was braced with an inner frame

Firstly, the doorway within the offending wall was braced with an inner frame

Work was completed today by our regular building contractors...

Work was then completed this week by our regular building contractors…

...resulting in a pair of temporary wooden buttress fittings to brace the entire section of wall

…resulting in a pair of temporary wooden buttress fittings to brace the entire section of wall

While we are happy that the area is now safe, obviously the aesthetics of these temporary measures are not what we or our visitors really want to see when walking around the gardens at Chartwell. With this in mind we will be working hard to plan the best way to restore the wall to its former glory as soon as possible. During the residency of the Churchill family, the Rose Garden was simply called the Grey Walled Garden but it was one of Sir Winston’s favourite places to entertain and relax as the following pictures show perfectly…

Here Sir Winston and Lady Churchill can be seen enjoying the sunshine in the corner of the Rose Garden (picture taken from The Sunday Times Magazine - February 7th, 1965)

Here Sir Winston and Lady Churchill can be seen enjoying the sunshine in the corner of the Rose Garden
(picture taken from The Sunday Times Magazine – February 7th, 1965)

And here in his later years Churchill is so relaxed in this part of the garden that he has in fact fallen asleep! (picture again from The Sunday Times Magazine)

And here in his later years Churchill is so relaxed in this part of the garden that he has in fact fallen asleep!
(picture again from The Sunday Times Magazine)

Here, as the Churchill family entertain Albert Einstein, you can see the section of the wall we've been talking about in the background over Sir Winston's shoulder! (picture courtesy of Time Magazine)

Here, as the Churchill family entertain Albert Einstein, you can see the section of the wall we’ve been talking about in the background over Sir Winston’s shoulder!
(picture courtesy of Time Magazine)

Keep reading our Chartwell Garden Blog for more updates on the progress with restoring the Rose Garden wall in future weeks…

Jamie

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