Introduction to catalogue of the Chartwell Papers.

Reference code: CHAR

Next record: CHUR

Date: 1690-1945


The papers of Sir Winston Churchill (WSC) are held at: Churchill Archives Centre, Churchill College, Cambridge, CB3 0DS (Repository Code: 014).

The papers have been divided into 2 groups. The papers dating from before 27 July 1945 when Churchill's first term as Prime Minister ended are known as the Chartwell Papers (catalogue reference CHAR) and were originally owned by the Chartwell Trust. The papers dating from after 27 July 1945 (catalogue reference CHUR) are known as the Churchill Papers and were given to Churchill College by Lady Churchill. This introduction focuses on the Chartwell Papers.

In April 1995, grants from the National Heritage Lottery Fund and the John Paul Getty Foundation enabled the Chartwell Papers to be bought from the Chartwell Trust and consolidated the ownership of all the Papers in a charitable trust, the Sir Winston Churchill Archive Trust. The papers will be held in perpetuity at Churchill Archives Centre where they are available for consultation by members of the public.

Custodial history Since 1974 the Churchill papers have been housed at Churchill Archives Centre. The papers were previously held at the house of Churchill's son, Randolph Churchill, at Stour, East Bergholt, Suffolk while he worked on the official biography of his father. When Randolph died in 1968 the papers were transferred to the Bodleian Library, Oxford where Martin Gilbert continued work on the official biography.

It was very difficult to divide all WSC's papers at a particular point in time so that there is some chronological overlap between the Chartwell and Churchill Papers.

Sorting, classification, arrangement and cataloguing the Papers The initial work of arrangement and listing was carried out between 1961 and 1964 by staff of the Public Record Office (PRO). The first stage in this work was the distribution of the papers into classes within each of which researchers could expect to find the documents, or the sort of documents, they were seeking. The Papers had been arranged according to contemporary requirements and the decisions of WSC's secretaries. Various methods had been employed which were not always carried out logically. The resulting confusion was increased by the removal of papers from place to place, or for literary purposes.

It was necessary to re-classify the majority of the papers, and this was done in answer to the question "as a result of what function or in what capacity did WSC produce or acquire this paper?" The two main classes which do not reflect this arrangement by function are Speeches (CHAR 9), which tended to be preserved in distinctive form and seem to have been largely kept separate in the past, and Acquired Papers (CHAR 28), which WSC acquired at various times by inheritance or gift.

The defects of the following classification arise mainly from the impossibility of dividing a man's life into watertight functional compartments: a single document often contains material attributable to two or more classes. It was not always a straightforward matter to decide into what class a particular subject fell and some inconsistency inevitably arose in making a series of such decisions over a period.

After the distribution of documents into classes each class was divided into chronological units, each representing the papers for one year, and the units were arranged into files according to their nature and bulk.

The computer software currently being used at Churchill Archives Centre to catalogue the papers means that the descriptions of all catalogued documents can be searched for references to individual people or subjects almost instantaneously. This means that the inevitable inconsistencies in the classification scheme are much less of an obstacle to the retrieval of relevant information. The Chartwell Papers have been catalogued at class, file and item level.

The staff of the PRO destroyed redundant duplicates (mainly printed material).

The extent of the Chartwell Papers is: 1,385 boxes of 3,640 files.

The papers consist of original documents accumulated by Sir Winston Churchill including personal papers, public and political papers; constituency papers, literary papers; speeches and official papers.

Contained records

Reference Record Date
CHAR 1 Personal 1884 - 1945
CHAR 2 Public and political: general 1898 - 1945
CHAR 3 Political: Constituency: Oldham [Lancashire]. 1900 - 1905
CHAR 4 Political: Constituency: North West Manchester. 1904 - 1908
CHAR 5 Constituency: Dundee 1908 - 1922
CHAR 6 Political: Constituency, out of office 1923 - 1924
CHAR 7 Political: Constituency: Epping [Essex] 1924 - 1945
CHAR 8 Literary 1890 - 1945
CHAR 9 Speeches 1897 - 1945
CHAR 10 Official: Colonial Office 1902 - 1908
CHAR 11 Official: Board of Trade 1906 - 1911
CHAR 12 Home Office 1910 - 1911
CHAR 13 Official: Admiralty 1911 - 1915
CHAR 14 Official: Duchy of Lancaster 1915
CHAR 15 Official: Ministry of Munitions 1917 - 1919
CHAR 16 Official: War and Air 1918 - 1921
CHAR 17 Official: Colonial Office 1920 - 1922
CHAR 18 Official: Treasury 1924 - 1929
CHAR 19 Official: Admiralty 1939 - 1940
CHAR 20 Official: Prime Minister 1940 - 1945
CHAR 21 Official: Cabinet 1908 - 1915
CHAR 22 Official: Cabinet 1920 - 1929
CHAR 23 Official: War Cabinet 1939 - 1945
CHAR 24 Official: Committee of Imperial Defence 1909 - 1914
CHAR 25 Official: Committee of Imperial Defence 1920 - 1939
CHAR 26 Official: War Council 1914-1915
CHAR 27 Official: War Cabinet 1917 - 1919
CHAR 28 Acquired Papers 1690 - 1960
CHAR 29 Miscellanea 1906 - 1924
CHAR 30 Obsolete Lists 1921 - 1952