Tag Archives: Prime

Churchill Museum within the Cabinet War Rooms

Published by:

Cabinet war rooms

Ever seeking more knowledge, some people say I am full of useless information, and my visit to the Churchill and Cabinet War Rooms in Central London, gave me the opportunity to learn more about one of the greatest leaders of British history, Winston Churchill (1940 to 1945 and again from 1951 to 1955).

The secret underground bunker which served as the Cabinet War Rooms in the Second World War, where the Chiefs of Staff and the Prime Minister worked continuously from 1939 to 1945.

Within the facilities, Winston Churchill, as well as other person holding high positions in the armed services, had his own bedroom, office and other amenities. There was a kitchen which catered for his eating requirements, and also a bedroom for his wife Clementine. To keep in touch with other world leaders but especially USA President Roosevelt, within Shefridges on Oxford Street, a special room called the Transatlantic Room was created, with a secure telephone/radio connection using a scrambler device called Sigsaly installed.

Cabinet war rooms

The Transmission Room in the Cabinet War Rooms, London

Sigsaly
was 40 tons of equipment, shipped from the USA and installed in the basement of Shefridges on Oxford Street. Another Sigsaly was installed in the Pentagon in the USA, and it was said the scrambled signal generated was “almost” impenetrable. Having now learned of the secret decoding work by the British at Bletchley Park, I wonder if the Germans had broken Sigsaly.

Within the bunker of the Cabinet War Rooms, is a very large space which was partitioned off for use by various departments of the Chiefs of Staff and the War Cabinet during WWII, as since 2005 become the Churchill Museum.

Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill was born at Blenheim Palace into the Spencer family on 30 November 1874, he came from a aristocratic family, his father being Lord Randolph Spencer-Churchill being the 7th Duke of Marlborough, his mother was an American.

Churchill was sent away to boarding schools, and had little contact with his parents despite his repeated requests for his mother to visit him. He was not a good student other than English and history, and his poor results could be attributed to him having dyslexia. Churchill also had a speech impediment, especially noticeable was his lisp, having difficulty pronouncing the letter “S” and, it has been said a stutter. All these problems did not deter Churchill, as he said, “My impediment is no hindrance“, and he became a great author and speech maker.

Despite having to take the entrance exam three times, he was accepted into the Royal Military Academy, better known as Sandhurst, to become an officer in the 4th Queen’s Own Hussars, using his family connections to be posted on active duties. It was from these campaigns that the public started to know him through his writings as a war correspondent, and writing his own books on the campaigns.

Throughout his life he was a world traveler, and in the military his campaigns to him to Cuba, India, Malakand (now Pakistan), Sudan and South Africa. He became First Lord of the Admiralty at the start of World War I.

His first try in politics in 1899 was in the English constituency of Oldham, where he stood for the seat to the British Parliament, and lost the vote. But, in the 1900 General Election he won his seat to Parliament in the same constituency of Oldham. In the 1906 General Election he had changed his political party from the Conservatives to the Liberals, and stood for the Manchester North West Constituency which again he won, only having the seat for two years, when he was elected as member of Parliament for Dundee. He became a high powered member of the Liberal Government, helping to pass many reforms.

During World War 1, Churchill again rejoined the military to fight, having the rank of Colonel in the Royal Scots Fusiliers but still being an MP (Member of Parliament).

In 1922 he lost his Dundee parliamentary seat, and despite standing for other constituencies, was not returned to Parliament until 1924 for Epping.

Throughout the following years, Churchill had many positions in the British Government, but also he feel out of favour sometimes, and had periods of obscurity. It was after the start of the Second World War, that Churchill again gained power being given the job of The First Lord of the Admiralty.

When the then Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain resigned due to the lack of confidence the county had in him in his handling of the outbreak of the war, Churchill was asked to become Prime Minister. 10 May 1940.

Throughout the Second World War, Churchill led the British nation with inspiration, his speeches were well thought out and rehearsed, that rallied the nation to fight on to the end. He formed good working relationships with other world leaders, Roosevelt, Truman, Stalin.

Some of Churchill’s greatest speeches contained now famous lines which rallied and inspired the embattled people of Britain and the world:-

I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat“.
“….… we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.

Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.

At the end of WWII, the British people voted Churchill’s Government out of power in the 1945 election, and he would lead the opposition party until the General Election of 1951,  he resigned in 1955.

All this history and more is on display in the Churchill Museum, along with his famous jump suits, his awards, his medals. They are displayed in such a way that it is as if one is having a personal tour. For example, his many famous speeches, which I have never appreciated before can be heard, by standing is one spot, the clever sound system delivers Churchill as if he is standing in front of you. You can sit and watch films and hear the commentary which hardly interferes with the other visitors.

Although as a young boy, not being old enough to have really experienced his leadership first hand, I remember vividly his State Funeral, not often given to commoners in the UK, after his death at the age of 90 on 24th January 1965. The whole nation stopped to view it on the TV’s. There, in the Churchill Museum were the same pictures, and I felt the emotion of the time once again, as tear welled up in my eyes.

Throughout his life Churchill wrote many books and articles. His speeches are orinspiring and are I have now found out, worth listening to for their content and construc
tion, In 1953 was award the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Here again there is a physical link back to the Bletchley Park in the 21 Century, for in one of the buildings is the Churchill Collect, a vast private collect of Churchill memorabilia. Winston Churchill visited Bletchley Park many time and said of the workers that they were :-

The geese that laid the golden eggs – but never cackled.”

The Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms

Published by:

English Afternoon Tea

In my article “I am still learning more on history” I mentioned the Cabinet War Rooms in Central London.

My interest in visiting the Cabinet War Rooms came about by reading R.V. Jones book Most Secret War, because in his writing, Jones reported his various meetings in this secret underground bunker with the Chiefs of Staff and the Prime Minister of Great Britain during WWII, Winston Churchill. I wanted to verify the information he was giving, and experience what had taken place some 70 years previously. His whole writings seemed to imply he was the most important person in the Second World War apart from Churchill.

I was not to be disappointed in what I learnt and saw, although gained no reference or mention when asking guides to R.V. Jones having worked there.

Located near Horse Guards Parade, opposite St Jame’s Park, and under what is now The Treasury Building, it was decided in 1930’s, because of the impending war with Germany and the probability of aerial bombardment, to build a central emergency working space for the War Cabinet and Chiefs of Staff of the military. One week before the outbreak of the Second World War, on 27th August 1939, the secret bunker was opened, and was in continuous until the end of the war in 1945.

At the end of the war in 1945, staff left their desks, control rooms and living quarters and returned to their normal working places, leaving the secret underground bunker as is, to be used as stores. But in the late 1970’s the Imperial War Museum was tasked with preserving this historic site, and to open the site to the public. From 2005 this site was fully open and included the Churchill Museum dedicated to the life and work of this great British Prime Minister.

A new entrance was opened allowing public access to the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms, the old access being in what is now The Treasury Building.

To protect the people working in the bunker, (it is stated that over 500 people worked at any one time in the facilities), extra wooden and steel girder reinforcements were built into the bunker, and a steel and concrete two-metre deep slab lain in the void above the bunker.

Cabinet War Rooms Churchill Museum

Cabinet War Rooms Churchill Museum

Cabinet War Rooms Churchill Museum



Among the many rooms and facilities is a room called the Map Room, it is said to be in the same state as it was left in 1945, with the original maps on the walls. One wall shows the Atlantic Ocean, and was used to chart the progress of the merchant shipping, more often being in convoys, still showing the tiny pin holes marking the ships positions. This room was staffed 24 hours a day by officers of the navy, army and airforce, to keep track of the war.

A link from the Cabinet War Rooms Map Room was back to another famed wartime site I have visited, The Battle of Britain Operations Room, at RAF Uxbridge. (click to see article). It was from this Ops room, that information would be fed to the Cabinet War Rooms. as can be seen by a board giving details of flights during the Battle of Britain.

RAF Uxbridge, The Battle of Britain Control Room

RAF Uxbridge, The Battle of Britain Control Room

Links would also be to other war time facilities, including Bletchley Park. The German encrypted messages made on the Enigma Machine would be decoded in Bletchley Park, which helped the Navy plan and fight the Battle of the Atlantic, against the German naval fleet and submarines.

The museum also contains as stated the Churchill Museum, more on that later.

I spent about four hours in the Cabinet War Rooms, so I was somewhat hungry and thirsty, and had an English Afternoon Tea, in the Switchroom Café. Finger sandwiches, (I eat one before taking this picture), made of cheese and cucumber and smoked salmon, a cup of English Breakfast tea with milk, and a piece of cake just like my mother used to make, with strawberry and cream filling, not like mass made factory cake. Paradise.

English Afternoon Tea

English Afternoon Tea in the Switchroom, Cabinet War Rooms.

Norbiton Hall, Kingston upon Thames

Published by:

Ten years ago, we gave up living on a boat, our Dicken’s Class 50′ ocean going vessel named Mr Toots, (click to see), and swapped her, with a friend Richard Morris, for our flat. Where are you now Richard?

I have often wondered where the name of the estate with 192 flats, Norbiton Hall came from. Here is what I have found out.Norbiton Hall aerial viewNorbiton Hall aerial view

The first clue obviously is that the estate is in the village or district of the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames, (Click to view film), called Norbiton, south west of London, and within the M25 motorway.

Another clue is a blue plaque on the outer wall of the flats which says:-

Plaque of Norbiton Hall

Plaque of Norbiton Hall

HERE FORMALLY STOOD NORBITON HALL
BUILT IN THE 16TH CENTURY ON LOVEKYN’S CHAPEL LAND
IT HAS BEEN THE RESIDENCE OF
RICHARD TAVERNER
GEORGE EVELYN
MR ANTONY BENN
THE COUNTESS OF LIVERPOOL
AMONG OTHERS

I decided to research in the library and museum. What was here before these flats?

The first records I found for Norbiton was for 1174 when Henry II bestowed the Manor of North Barton to the Knights of Anjou. The word Barton I suspect being derived from the Saxon word “beartun”, meaning to store grain.

Lovekyn  plaque

Lovekyn Chapel

In 1309 Edward Lovekyn founded Lovekyn Chapel, still standing and in use opposite the end of Old London Road, and standing in the grounds of Tiffins Grammar School, at the start of London Road. It is said that most of the lands in the area belonged to Lovekyn at that time.

The plaque on the wall of the chapel says :-

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lovekyn Chapel plaque

“The Lovekyn Chapel founded 1309 by Edward Lovekyn bailiff and member of the butchers’ company of Kingston: rebuilt and re-endowed 1352 by John Lovekyn stock-fishmonger and Alderman and four times Lord Mayor of London: confiscated to the Crown 1535 granted to the Kingston Grammar School 1561 by Queen Elizabeth.”

There is mentioned that in 1532 a certain Mr Erasmus Ford who owned the land, complained bitterly to King Henry VIII, as some of King’s men had cut down 35 prime elms, it is presupposed to help built Hampton Court, which is not far away from Norbiton and Kingston, up the River Thames.

The Evelyn family in 1588 used the property to store and make gunpowder.

What building existed then could not be found, but there is reference of a building in 1631 as being newly built in brick and had 13 hearths. There is mention of the Jenkinson family owning Norbiton Hall in 1681 when major renovation and alteration was undertaken, saying that 43 persons could be comfortable sat for diner.

There were two large estates in the area, the one I researched Norbiton Hall, and the other which should not be confused with the Hall, which was Norbiton House or Place, the two estates divided by the London Road. Both areas prior to the 19th century being primarily agricultural land.

Norbiton Hall‘s grounds were to the north of London Road, the road was said prior to adoption by the local authority a difficult place to negotiate, as carts would become stuck for hours from the resultant mud and ruts after rain.

Norbiton House or Place was to the south of London Road, bordered by Cambridge Road and Coombe Road. The house and grounds were palatial, with the owner a rich merchant, a Mr Pallmer, trading in the West Indies, spending most of his money on the estate, eventually becoming bankrupt. He would open the grounds for the public to enjoy at weekends. The house was of more grandeur than the buildings at Norbiton Hall, having 23 hearths.

Old Norbiton Hall

Old Norbiton Hall

Old Norbiton Hall

Old Norbiton Hall

Opposite Norbiton Hall is St Peters Church, which was built in 1842 by Gilbert Scott in the Norman Style.

It was at this time that big changes started to occur in the area. By 1838 the Enclosure Commissioners alloted land from Norbiton Hall for development, and with the introduction of the railway line to Kingston and Maldon, the Norbiton Hall estate was split into two and got smaller. By 1873 there was only 12 acres left, and in 1882-4 the then owner drove a road though the estate calling it Birkenhead Avenue, named after the families favourite town. Land was sold in small plots to build houses adjoining the new Avenue.

In 1829 the estate was purchased by Mary, Countess of Liverpool, and her cousin Robert Jenkinson who was Lieutenant of Dover Castle, a well to do man, and was known as the squire. He died in the mid 1850s. The Countess died 1846. Lord Liverpool who died a year before the purchase was Prime Minister for 15 years, and was responsible for the erection of Kingston Bridge, the first stone being laid 1825 and opened 1828, replacing an earlier bridge which was documented crossing the Thames since 1219.

Norbiton Hall was acquired from John Guy 1864 by William Hardman, for 8000 guineas, he was to become Mayor of Kingston, magistrate and recorder, and was knighted in 1885. As a justice he had rooms in the hall which he used to hear cases against local villains on a daily basis.

In 1884 Norbiton Hall was advertised for sale with 4 servants bedrooms, 5 best bedrooms, dressing and bathroom, drawing dining morning and billiard room, library breakfast room. But the grounds were only 2 acres left and sold in lots.

A Mr E J Cave lived in the house for an annual rent of £200, and in 1884 brought the house for £3500, but it went into a long decline.

In 1933 a planning application was submitted for the land to be to become a dog racing track but was rejected by council, and subsequently by the government on appeal. Soon after the hall was demolished to make way for the 192 to flats as we see them today.

Old Norbiton Hall

The back of Norbiton Hall, in Birkenhead Avenue.

Front of Norbiton Hall

Front of Norbiton Hall

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Same position about 1925 with post box and tram lines

Norbiton Hall c. 1930 Norbiton Hall c. 1930

Old Photographs Copyright R.H.Byran
Reproduced with permission and fee from
Kingston Museum April 2007

See a film of Kingston upon Thames taken on a sunny day in April 2007, click here.

See Pictures of the London Road flooded in July 2007, click here.

See aerial view of Norbiton Hall, click
here.

See Cycling Improvements in London Road, Kingston