Charting Churchill: Prime Minister’s Bathroom, Ditchley Park
by Leslie Hossack
Prime Minister’s Bathroom, Ditchley Park 2014
© Leslie Hossack
While he was Prime Minister during World War II, Winston Churchill followed his usual daily routine. Whether he was at 10 Downing Street, the Annexe, Chequers, Chartwell or Ditchley Park, he woke to breakfast in bed between 8:00 and 8:30. He then worked in bed all morning: reading the newspapers; dealing with government business delivered in his boxes; and dictating letters, directives and speeches to his personal secretaries, often Miss Elizabeth Layton. Around noon hour, Churchill’s valet Sawyers would draw a bath, ensuring that it was the desired temperature, and then help him dress just before luncheon.
Much later in the afternoon, Churchill always took a nap. He is quoted as saying: “Nature has not intended mankind to work from eight in the morning until midnight without that refreshment of blessed oblivion which, even if it only lasts twenty minutes, is sufficient to renew all the vital forces.” He also said: “You must sleep sometimes between lunch and dinner and no halfway measures. Take off your clothes and get into bed, that’s what I always do. Don’t think you will be doing less work because you sleep during the day. That’s a foolish notion held by people who have no imagination.”
Following his afternoon nap, Churchill would take a second bath before dressing for dinner. The bathroom shown above is the one he used at Ditchley Park during the weekends he spent there in 1940 – 1942. Elizabeth Nel (née Layton) was the Prime Minister’s personal secretary from 1941 to 1945. In her book Winston Churchill by his Personal Secretary (2008), she described Ditchley Park as “the other place,” a heavily guarded secret. Although Churchill spent his last weekend there in 1942, Nel recalled a trip from Chequers to Ditchley Park, a drive of about 40 miles, on March 7th 1943. Churchill was recovering from pneumonia at Chequers, but he decided to go to Ditchley Park for a luncheon. As usual, he dictated to Miss Layton in the car all the way there and back.
To learn more about events of 1943, please visit the BBC World War II Timeline. This BBC summary, prepared by Bruce Robinson, was last updated in 2011.
The image featured above is part of the limited edition collector’s portfolio created by Leslie Hossack to mark the 50th anniversary of the death of Sir Winston Churchill. She presents locations that chart Churchill’s personal and political life, from his birth at Blenheim Palace in 1874 until his death in London in 1965. THE CHURCHILL PHOTOGRAPHS are part of Hossack’s larger body of work that explores Nazi architecture in Berlin, Stalinist structures in Moscow, contested sites in Jerusalem, a Cold War bunker in Ottawa, NATO’s Headquarter Camp in Kosovo, and buildings linked to the Japanese Canadian internment during World War II.
To view more photographs, please visit Leslie’s website. lesliehossack.com