“This Was Their Finest Hour” – Winston Churchill

Sir Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Churchill

70 years ago, on the 7th May 1945, the Allies formally accepted the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany’s armed forces. What had been fought for were the ideals of liberty, freedom, justice and fairness. But we had also fought for our national identity, bound up with the narrative of our island history and the English Romantic tradition.

Whenever the English find themselves under threat, they turn to their monarchy, their church and their landscape; our nation’s identity is bound together by these timeless threads. As 1944 drew to a close Winston Churchill said “A love for tradition has never weakened a nation, indeed it has strengthened nations in their hour of peril.”

Victory in Europe, VE Day, was celebrated on the 8th May 1945 with a public holiday. There was a sense of relief and exhilaration at the end of six years of war. Stepping stones of defeat and been turned to triumph. The hard fight to free Europe restored, preserved and changed our nation’s ideals and identity.

Photographs taken by Captain B. St. C. Tony Rutherford
Black and white photographs taken by Captain B. St. C. Tony Rutherford, group photographer of the 53rd Welsh Division, from late June in Normandy to Hamburg May 1945

In response to the attack by British Bomber Command on Lubeck in March 1942 Hitler ordered bombing raids on old historic English cities, noted as important places to visit in the Baedeker travel guides of the period. They became known as the Baedeker bombing raids. Targets often included our Cathedral cities like Canterbury, York and Exeter. In so doing the Nazis sought to strike at the very identity of our nation, the quintessentially English. Remarkably the Cathedrals of Canterbury, York and Exeter survived. The tragic loss of life and homes failed to diminish morale.

A view of the ancient Cathedral city of Chichester
A view of the ancient Cathedral city of Chichester

Although bombed on three occasions Chichester remained relatively unscathed and it is for this reason that it gives us such a wonderful and complete picture of an ancient English Cathedral city.

Suffragette movement via blog.tooveys.com
A photographic postcard depicting the suffragettes Mary Gawthorpe and Miss Pankhurst speaking to a crowd in the Market Place, Uppingham, Rutland, posted in 1907

At the heart of our modern freedom is our democratic right to vote. The Reform Acts, from 1832 onwards, had successively extended democratic voting rights to broader sections of British society. Women’s suffrage became a national movement in 1872. It was the efforts of suffragettes like Mary Gawthorpe and Emily Pankhurst which brought limited rights for women to vote in 1918. But it was not until the Conservative government passed the 1928 ‘Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act’ that all women over the age of 21 were given the vote. Women’s working roles during the war had been vital to Britain’s success. Women’s votes and equal rights would shape the future of British society.

Victory in 1945, and political victories before and since, have shaped our nation, upholding and defending our ideals of liberty, freedom, justice and fairness.

It is perhaps fitting, then, that our Parliamentary elections should fall on such an auspicious day as the 7th May 2015.

Late in the war the House of Commons was bombed. Reflecting on its rebuilding, in October 1944, Winston Churchill said “We shape our dwellings, and afterwards our dwellings shape us.” Our freedoms have been hard won and costly to defend. Rights come with responsibility. Our universal right to vote and shape our nation through the House of Commons is a vital responsibility.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 6th April 2015 in the West Sussex Gazette.

Sir Winston Churchill and Chartwell

Winston Churchill and Percy Cox at Chartwell
Percy Cox OBE wearing a flat cap, standing behind Sir Winston Churchill at Chartwell, image from the Percy Cox Archive

Sir Winston Spencer Churchill bought Chartwell in 1922. It was to be home to the Churchill family over the next forty-three years. Toovey’s paper collectables specialist, Nicholas Toovey, has uncovered a small archive of photographs, letters, telegrams and notes, which document the Churchills’ relationship with their friend and estates manager, Percy Cox, OBE. The correspondence and images give a very personal insight into life at Chartwell. The Percy Cox Archive is to be auctioned in November at Toovey’s.

View from Chartwell
The view from Chartwell looking south over the gentle landscape of the Weald of Kent

Churchill’s youngest child, Lady Mary Soames, has written that her father was “captivated by Chartwell from the moment he set eyes on the valley, protected by the sheltering arm of beautiful beech woods… and by the house on the hillside”. As you stand on the terrace at Chartwell, you are presented with a southerly view over the gentle landscape of the Weald of Kent; it speaks of an older England. Unsurprising, then, that this scene so inspired our greatest war-time Prime Minister. Whenever the English find themselves under threat, they turn to their monarch, their church and their landscape; our nation’s identity is bound together by these timeless threads.

An hour from London, Chartwell between the wars hosted a cast which included politicians, scientists and intellectuals. Among these were Lord Beaverbrook and Lord Camrose, the powerful proprietors of The Daily Express and The Daily Telegraph, and T.E. Lawrence and Charlie Chaplin. Famously, debates after dinner would continue into the early hours.

Churchill’s fortune from writing was severely affected by the financial crash of 1929, which signalled the arrival of the Great Depression. Life at Chartwell was always accompanied by financial worries and these coloured Churchill’s wife, Clementine’s view of their country home. By 1946 there were concerns as to whether the Churchills would be able to continue living at Chartwell.

Winston Churchill always felt his roots were at Blenheim, where he was born in 1874. Blenheim had been given to John Churchill, the 1st Duke of Marlborough, by Queen Anne and a grateful nation after his victory at Blenheim in 1704. Lord Camrose felt it wrong that Winston Churchill, the great war-time leader, could lose his home. With resonances of the gift of Blenheim, he and a group of wealthy men anonymously purchased Chartwell, on the express understanding that the Churchills would continue living there undisturbed until the end of their days, after which it would be given to the National Trust.

Churchill was always influenced by the long shadow of history, mindful to heed the warnings the past offers to the present. Much of Churchill’s writing was historical. He employed researchers like Maurice Ashley and William Deakin and would draw on their notes. Whether preparing a manuscript for a book or a speech, he liked to work standing and to dictate, cigar in hand, as he paced the room, often late into the night. Once these notes were typed, he would engage in painstaking revision. His method of working gifts his writing with the immediacy of the spoken word and displays irony, rhetoric and an honest passion.

Churchill English-Speaking Peoples
Percy Cox’s set of Winston Churchill’s A History of the English-Speaking Peoples

Secure in his beloved Chartwell, he continued to write, working on his multi-volume war memoirs and his four-volume A History of The English-Speaking Peoples. The Percy Cox Archive also includes a first edition set of A History of The English-Speaking Peoples, published between 1956 and 1958, which has presentation inscriptions to Percy Cox. The worldwide syndication of these works made Winston Churchill a very wealthy man and all concerns about money vanished. Along with numerous acts of quiet generosity, it enabled Churchill to buy Chartwell Farm and a number of neighbouring farms. Nicholas Toovey comments, “The Percy Cox Archive relates to this post-war period and illustrates the fondness and respect in which the family held him. In particular, it casts light upon Mr Cox’s relationship with Winston and Clementine Churchill and their daughter Mary. Letters relating to the management of Churchill’s estates and invitations to dine at Chartwell and to attend Mary’s wedding with Lord Soames, together with photographs of Churchill and others, provide a very personal and poignant insight into their lives.”

The Percy Cox Archive contains some fifty items and is estimated to realise between £6000 and £8000. It will be auctioned at Toovey’s as part of our specialist sale of Paper Collectables on 5th November 2013. For more information, visit www.toovey’s.com or telephone 01903 891955.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 30th October 2013 in the West Sussex Gazette.

The Percy Cox Archive at Toovey’s Auctioneers

Percy Cox
Percy Cox seated at his desk, compiler of the fascinating archive

Advance notice of a fascinating archive to be sold at Toovey’s Fine Art and Antique Auctioneers.

Winston Churchill's presentation copies to Percy Cox
Lot 3271. Winston Churchill's presentation copies to Percy Cox

Toovey’s Specialist Sale of Paper Collectables includes The Percy Cox Archive. This interesting archive of material relating to the Churchill family will be sold at Toovey’s Spring Gardens auction rooms in West Sussex. The archive will be offered in two lots as follows:

Lot 3271. CHURCHILL, Winston Leonard Spencer. A History of the English-Speaking Peoples. London: Cassell and Company Ltd., 1956-1958. First edition, 4 vols., 8vo (242 x 152mm.) Occasional maps. (Some spotting.) Original cloth (extremities lightly bumped). Provenance: Percy Walter Cox (presentation inscriptions signed by the author to front-free endpaper of vols. I & II, signature to half-title of vol. III and presentation inscription to preliminary blank of vol. IV); and thence by descent. Note: part of The Percy Cox Archive.

Lot 3272. THE CHURCHILL FAMILY. – Sir Winston Leonard Spencer CHURCHILL (1874-1965), Clementine Ogilvy Spencer CHURCHILL, Baroness SPENCER-CHURCHILL (1885-1977), Mary SOAMES, Baroness SOAMES, and others. A small archive of photographs, telegrams, autograph letters, signed letters, notes and cards, most relating to the Churchill family’s relationship with Percy Cox, O.B.E., circa 1945-1974. Provenance: Percy Walter Cox and thence by descent. Note: Percy Cox (1888-1975), was the Estates Manager at the Churchills’ home, Chartwell, in Kent in the late 1940s and the 1950s. This interesting archive throws some light on Mr Cox’s work for Sir Winston Churchill and the personal esteem in which he and his wife were held by Winston, his wife, Clementine, and their youngest daughter, Mary. Further details on the contents of this archive are available on request.