After more than a year (15 months actually), we are back in business. This Tuesday, June 1, we reopen our doors to all vaccinated customers. Just show your vaccination card (a photo or copy is fine), and you’re in (Monday-Friday 10-4). With a mask, of course; the store remains as small and windowless as ever. 

To celebrate, we are inaugurating a new series: “Churchill Back in Business,” focused on sharing with you the most compelling rarities in the store, and also exploring the history of books about Winston Churchill.

Welcome back.

It is almost unheard of for previously unseen photographs of Winston Churchill to suddenly appear. Churchill’s was one of the most photographically documented mugs of the twentieth century. And yet, when one of our customers lugged in a sumptuous, oversized, Victorian-era photo album and asked us what it was exactly, we knew, because of two precious snapshots buried within it of young Winston Churchill and his brother Jack.

The album had first surfaced back in 2011, the longtime property of a well-born family then-bringing it to auction. The 51 pages contained 207 tipped-in and hand-annotated original albumen photographs documenting the social life at a number of country house residences frequented by the so-called “Marlborough House Set.” The album proved to have been assembled by Winston Churchill’s aunt, Lady Georgiana Curzon, Countess Howe (1860-1906), sister of Lord Randolph, daughter of Winston Churchill’s paternal grandfather John Spencer-Churchill, the 7th Duke of Marlborough; and the wife of Richard George Penn Curzon, 4th Earl of Howe.

Amidst an endless stream of horse portraits, dog portraits, and hunting scenes, one group of images stood out, taken at Canford Manor, the estate of another Churchill Aunt, Cornelia Spencer-Churchill, and her husband Sir Ivor “Bertie” Guest, the Viscount Wimborne. One was a stunning, never-before-seen photograph of Jennie Churchill; two others, also never-before-seen, were of “Winston and Jack.”

Young Winston Churchill famously spent the winter of 1892 at Canford with his family. As he wrote in MY EARLY LIFE:
“My Aunt, Lady Wimborne, had lent us her comfortable estate at Bournemouth for the winter… It was a small, wild place and through the middle there fell to the sea level a deep cleft called a ‘chine.’ Across this ‘chine’ a rustic bridge nearly 50 yards long had been thrown. My younger brother, aged 12, and a cousin, aged 14, proposed to chase me. After I had been hunted for twenty minutes and was rather short of breath, I decided to cross the bridge. Arrived at its centre I saw to my consternation that the pursuers had divided their forces. One stood at each end of the bridge; capture seemed certain. But in a flash there came across me a great project. The chine which the bridge spanned was full of fir trees. Their slender tops reached to the level of the footway. ‘Would it not,’ I asked myself, ‘be possible to leap to one of them and slip down the pole-like stem… I looked at it. I computed it. I meditated… To plunge or not to plunge, that was the question! In a second I had plunged, throwing out my arms to embrace the summit of the fir tree. The argument was correct; the data were absolutely wrong. It was three days before I regained consciousness.”

The accident nearly killed the 18-year-old Churchill. His recovery lasted over two months. The photographs here were no doubt the last taken of Winston Churchill before his fall.

We bought the album.

And, now, you can.

We continue to wish you health and safety (why stop?) and look forward to soon greeting you, all vaccinated, here at Chartwell Booksellers, where we are indeed back in business.