Visiting Bladon Church, England: grave-site of Sir Winston Churchill
A solemn, historic site in Oxfordshire, England
Many North Americans will visit Oxford and Stratford-upon-Avon when they visit England; some, but not all, are aware that only 14 kilometres from Oxford is an historic site which they might find of great interest to be able to say they have also visited: the grave-site of Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965).
The church of St. Martin, at Bladon, near Woodstock, in Oxfordshire, is officially known as the parish church of Bladon-with-Woodstock. As the principal, local Anglican church, near Blenheim Palace, seat of the Dukes of Marlborough and associated with the extended Churchill family, this was Sir Winston Churchill's chosen burial site. He died in January, 1965.
Sir Winston's father was Lord Randolph Churchill (1849-1895), Chancellor of the Exchequer and Leader of the House of Commons. Sir Winston's mother Lady Randolph Churchill, was the former Jennie Jerome, of Brooklyn, New York and New York City (1). Both Sir Winston's father and mother are also buried in St Martin's churchyard, Bladon.
Sir Winston was later to follow his father in the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer, and prior to becoming Prime Minister of Great Britain in 1940, he had also already occupied some of the prominent offices of state such as Home Secretary and First Lord of the Admiralty. He also spent most of the years 1900 until 1964 as a Member of Parliament for various constituencies.
Sir Winston Churchill assisted in the meticulous plans for his own funeral, which he dubbed 'Operation Hope Not'. Exceptionally for a non-royal person, it was a state funeral, principally as a tribute to his role as Prime Minister in World War Two, having served in that office from 1940 until 1945. He is notably remembered as a symbol and active leader of the resistance of Great Britain to Nazi German attacks during the Battle of Britain in 1940. He also struck up a close war partnership with US President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Allied Supreme Commander, General (and later President) Dwight D. Eisenhower. Canadians may particularly recall that, after addressing the Canadian House of Commons in 1941, Sir Winston Churchill was memorably photographed by Yousuf Karsh of Ottawa, a portrait which was very widely disseminated and which formed the basis for a Canada Post special issue in 2008.
Sir Winston later served again as Prime Minister from 1951 until 1955.
A few years before Sir Winston's death, US President John F. Kennedy confirmed him as an Honorary Citizen of the United States, paying tribute to him having 'mobilized the English language'. As well as his many, often quoted speeches (2), Sir Winston earned the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953; his authorship included the 6-volume The Second World War , and A History of the English-Speaking Peoples , the later volumes of which being published after he received the Nobel Prize, when he was already aged in his 80s. Sir Winston Churchill's papers are held at Churchill College, Cambridge, founded in 1958 as a national and Commonwealth memorial to him.
A church is thought to have existed since the 11th or 12th centuries on the present site of St Martin's parish church at Church Street, Bladon. The 4th Duke of Marlborough subsidized the building of a new parish church in 1804. In 1891, architect Sir Arthur Blomfield (3) partially rebuilt and added to the structure.
(1) Given the Transatlantic marriage partnership of his father and mother, Sir Winston Churchill even described himself as 'an English-Speaking Union'.
(2) Sir Winston Churchill also chaired the English-Speaking Union 1921-25.
(3) Sir Arthur Blomfield was also responsible for numerous other buildings, including Selwyn College, Cambridge (1882) and the Royal College of Music, London (1892-94).
Also worth visiting
Nearby Blenheim Palace (distance: approx. 2 kilometres) is where Sir Winston Churchill was born in 1874; the palace was built from 1705 until 1724 and given to Sir John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, as a gift from Queen Anne from the nation, following the Battle of Blenheim, 1704. Charles Spencer-Churchill (1871-1934), 9th Duke of Marlborough, was a first cousin to Sir Winston Churchill.
Stratford-upon-Avon (distance: 61 kilometres) was William Shakespeare's birthplace and is the home of the Royal Shakespeare Company.
How to get there : United Airlines flies from New York Newark to London Heathrow Airport, where car rental is available. Distance from Heathrow Airport to Bladon: 84 kilometres. Be advised that some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. For up to date information, please check with the airline or your travel agent.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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