Charting Churchill: Saint Martin’s Churchyard, Bladon

Churchill Family Plot, Saint Martin's Churchyard, Bladon 2014 by Leslie Hossack

Churchill Family Plot, Saint Martin’s Churchyard, Bladon 2014

© Leslie Hossack

While a cadet at the Royal Military College Sandhurst, Winston Churchill was called to London in June 1894 to say goodbye to his father who was departing on a trip. Lord Randolph Churchill was in declining health and Winston later wrote that this was the last time he saw his father “except as a swiftly fading shadow.” Randolph Henry Spencer Churchill, who died in London on January 24th, 1895 when Winston was twenty years old, cast a long shadow in life and death. Winston’s own son later wrote that “if Lord Randolph had lived, even in better health, he would have been an obstacle to Winston’s career and prospects” but now “he was free to leave the nest and soar.”

Winston’s relationship with his father was complex and conflicted. He craved his father’s affection and approval, but Lord Randolph remained absent physically and distant emotionally. Lord Randolph was briefly Chancellor of the Exchequer and Leader of the House of Commons, but quickly fell from office. Winston continued to idolize his father, but his father could be harsh. For example, Lord Randolph sent a devastating letter to his son upon learning that he had passed into Sandhurst, but with low marks that relegated him to the cavalry not the infantry. Lord Randolph wrote: “I no longer attach the slightest weight to anything you may say about your own accomplishments & exploits.”

The Churchill family plot pictured above reveals Winston’s father still towering over him. The tall cross to the right is Lord Randolph’s marker, and the cross lying flat in the middle marks Winston’s mother, Jennie Jerome. The graves of Sir Winston Churchill and his wife, Clementine, are jointly marked by one low stone lying beyond Jennie’s grave.

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.