Sunday, 25 March 2018

Churchill War Rooms and Winnie-the-Pooh

Remember the lovely spring flowers I showed you at Tel Bet Shemesh? Well, shortly after my visit there I made a quick trip to London. There were most definitely no spring flowers blooming whilst we were there. It was freezing!
Our trips to London are usually jam-packed but our plans went awry because of the weather and it actually ended up to our benefit. We had a whole day in London with no car and thus no errands to run or people to visit. A museum day was called for!
Mister Handmade in Israel and I saw the Churchill biopic Darkest Hour, which covers Sir Winston Churchill’s uncertain first few weeks in the role of prime minister of a country poised on the brink of the second world war. We were inspired to visit the Churchill War Rooms, beneath the streets of Westminster, to see where Churchill and his inner circle directed the war. It was the perfect solution for a very cold March day, and the 90 minutes recommended for our visit soon turned into 3.5 hours! The place was fascinating.
The Churchill War Rooms is one of the five branches of the Imperial War Museum. The museum comprises the Cabinet War Rooms, a historic underground complex that housed a British government command centre throughout the Second World War, and the Churchill Museum, a biographical museum exploring the life of Winston Churchill.
Construction of the Cabinet War Rooms, located beneath the Treasury building in the Whitehall area of Westminster, began in 1938. They became operational in August 1939, shortly before the outbreak of war in Europe. They remained in operation throughout the Second World War, before being abandoned in August 1945 after the surrender of Japan.
After the war, the historic value of the Cabinet War Rooms was recognised. Their preservation became the responsibility of the Ministry of Works and later the Department for the Environment, during which time very limited numbers of the public were able to visit by appointment. In the early 1980s the Imperial War Museum was asked to take over the administration of the site, and the Cabinet War Rooms were opened to the public in April 1984. The museum was reopened in 2005 following a major redevelopment as the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms, but in 2010 this title was shortened to the Churchill War Rooms.
During our visit we viewed the cabinet room where the wartime cabinet was held, and the map room where pins were used to mark the progress of fleets across the ocean. Some sections of the map were so badly damaged by pinpricks that they had to be covered over with new material. These patch jobs can clearly be seen to this day. We saw the suite of rooms used as accommodation by Churchill, his wife and close associates, and Churchill's own bedroom, which he only slept in for three nights altogether, though he did use this room for many afternoon siestas and was famous for holding meetings there in various states of undress! A 'lavatory' with an engaged sign actually contained a secure transatlantic line for the American and British heads of state to communicate.
All the rooms are presented and furnished as they were. We got a real feeling of how busy it must have been, especially when you consider that hundreds of people lived here at any given time throughout the war. In the Churchill Museum I learnt so much about the successes, failures, trials and triumphs that made the man. The audio guides, which were included in the ticket price, allowed us to walk through at our own pace and truly enhanced our visit. Mister Handmade in Israel is not really a museum person, but he enjoyed the place as much as I did. Maybe we'll go back with the boys one day.
Our next stop was at the Victoria and Albert Museum, or the V&A as it is affectionately known. Whilst I didn't have time to explore the whole museum, or even just part of it, I did have just about enough time to go to the wonderful exhibition Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic. Now Mister Handmade in Israel did opt out of this one, but that was fine. It gave me more time to wander through the delightful exhibition at my own speed, all the time with a big smile on my face.
The exhibition celebrates the iconic little bear and his chums, Piglet, Tigger, Eeyore and the rest, as well as of course, Christopher Robin. It features close to a century’s worth of Winnie-the-Pooh merchandise, including toys, books, clothes, and a hand-painted Christopher Robin and Friends china tea set presented to the baby Princess Elizabeth in 1926. The walls of the exhibition are lined with scores of ink and pencil drawings by E.H. Shepard, the English artist and book illustrator who worked with A.A. Milne on the books. The drawings show the care Shepard took, producing vivid sketches of real trees in Ashdown Forest, where the Milne had bought an old farmhouse, to get the setting absolutely right. The originals are from the V&A collection and are so fragile they were last displayed almost 40 years ago.
I absolutely loved the exhibition. It was good to see so many of the original drawings which brought back memories of all the Pooh stories, and it was lovely to hear people of all ages chatting, laughing and remembering their favourite books. A replica of Posingford bridge, the bridge on which Milne and his son first played the game Poohsticks, stands in the centre of the exhibition, while trees from Ashdown Forest and Winnie-the-Pooh quotes adorn the walls. Small visitors can climb a narrow flight of steps leading to a slide, and enter Owl’s tiny door with the brass bell labelled "RNIG ALSO".
The exhibition was designed by RFK Architects and the theatre designer Tom Piper. Piper created the installation of thousands of ceramic poppies made by the artist Paul Cummins, which filled the moat of the Tower of London to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the first world war. It left me with a warm fuzzy glow of nostalgia. Even with all the snow on the ground outside.
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22 comments:

Carol @Comfort Spring Station said...

What an amazing day in London. I've wanted to see the Churchill rooms for some time. When you add in Winnie the Poohk, I'm hooked. Great post!

Lydia C. Lee said...

We loved the War Rooms - if you see Darkest Hour, they film in (what I assume is a realistic copy of) there.

Su-sieee! Mac said...

Churchill and Pooh, a great combination. :-) Both exhibits sound and look interesting and fascinating. I haven't seen the Churchill movie yet, but I recently saw the one about Milne and Christopher Robin and the creation of Pooh. It was wonderful watch how that developed but quite sad that father and son became estranged later because of the media attention on the son.

Kim Carberry said...

It looks like you really made the most of your free day in London. The museums look amazing!

Tamar SB said...

So amazing! I would love to see them both. Chag sameach to you too!

Christy said...

I would love to go and see both of these museums. I enjoyed watching the Darkest Hour and also really enjoyed the Netflix show "The Queen", which has quite a bit of Churchill in it. I'd really like to go and see the War Rooms. #MMBC

Louisa said...

It sounds like a wonderful trip. I'd love to visit the war museums with my son who is studying WW2 and the V&A is somewhere I've always wanted to see too. #mmbc

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

I am a huge fan of Winnie the Pooh and crew and would have loved to see the exhibit.... I'm envious. The War Museum, not so much, but husband would have enjoyed it more of course. We missed both of those museums on our London trip .... so long ago now.

You picked perfect activities for a cold cold weekend.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

The Churchill exhibit would have been interesting to see as I love history, but the Winnie the Pooh exhibit would have definitely won my heart!
Did you know the original stuffed animals of Christopher Robin are owned by the NY Public Library much to the chagrin of Great Briton? I recently saw the movie "Goodbye Christopher Robin" and it put a different, sad spin on the life of both Milne and CR. That said I loved the books as a child and now share the stories with my grandchildren.

NC Sue said...

Churchill war rooms & Winnie the Pooh - an interesting combo for sure!
Thanks for linking up at https://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2018/03/a-peek-inside-biltmore-estate.html

VeggieMummy said...

I too my girls to the Churchill War Rooms and it was fascinating - we loved it. I'm also a big Winnie the Pooh fan, so would have been right alongside you at that exhibition! In fact, I might try to catch it if it's still on. xx

Anonymous said...

Oh the perfect outing for a rainy and cold day - and museums I would rally like to visit. Churchill is one of my favorite statesman (Trump reminds me a little of Churchill). And since Winnie the Pooh was on the book list to read for English class in high school, it has been one of my favorites - I still have it,the binding loosened and all!
Thank you for sharing your museum day with All Seasons! Have a bright week:)

Angie said...

London has the BEST museums, and many of them are free. I will have to add the Churchill rooms to the list for our next visit. And Winnie the Pooh! Your enthusiasm and joy radiates from your prose and the pictures - I would have enjoyed touring this with you!

Sara - Villa Emilia said...

Thank you for the fascinating and informative post of these two iconic characters! :) The War Rooms may be more important, but the Winnie-the-Pooh exhibition would have been my favourite too, it looks absolutely delightful.

Miss Val's Creations said...

What fantastic museums to visit! My husband would love the Churchill museum and I Winnie the Pooh!

Mandy 'n' Justin said...

Glad you found some interesting museums to fill your time. I'm definitely intrigued with that Winne the Pooh exhibit! How fun!

With Love,
Mandy

Esther said...

Those two activities are so much fun in London and excellent and diverse too! Lovely. Brr, even though it looks gorgeous in the snow I am glad we're heading for spring!
#Wanderful Wednesday

Ruth Rieckehoff said...

I hope the weather in London gets better since I am visiting in May (and I do not handle London that well). I have heard so many great things about the Churchill War Rooms. I am a history nerd so I am sure I would love this place. Sadly, the Winnie the Pooh exhibition is going to be over for my visit. He is my favorite character from childhood.

Sheltie Times said...

Thanks for sharing your experience and the pictures. Both sound like great trips.

Jibber JabberUK said...

I have been to both of these museums but it was some time ago. I remember the V&A was so big that it would need at least a week to see it all!

Jessi (Two Feet, One World) said...

Perfect museum weather! I've not visited the Churchill War ROoms in all my time here but now I'm intrigued to go! #WanderfulWednesday

Jann Olson said...

So glad that you had such a great time! Thanks for sharing with SYC.
hugs,
Jann

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