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Chartwell Papers, The majority of files date from the 1870s to 1945.

Reference Code: GBR/0014/CHAR

Scope and Contents

The papers of Sir Winston Churchill (WSC) are held at: Churchill Archives Centre, Churchill College, Cambridge, CB3 0DS (Repository Code: 0014).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.


  • Creation: The majority of files date from the 1870s to 1945.

Conditions Governing Access

From the Fonds:

The Churchill Papers are made available to researchers using Churchill Archives Centre and worldwide in digital format. The digital edition of the Churchill Papers is published by Bloomsbury Academic and is available online to subscribing institutions at The Churchill archive is freely available in our reading rooms and onsite at Churchill College (via the Churchill College wireless network). Researchers can download images of documents directly from and so are encouraged to consider bringing a laptop or other device for this purpose. For conservation reasons, the fragile originals are no longer issued to researchers.

This digital edition is open to researchers unless otherwise marked in the catalogue. Some material has been closed by the Cabinet Office or by Churchill Archives Centre in accordance with data protection legislation.


1,385 archive box(es)

Language of Materials


Repository Details

Part of the Churchill Archives Centre Repository

Churchill Archives Centre
Churchill College
Cambridge Cambridgeshire CB3 0DS United Kingdom
+44 (0)1223 336087