Weekend’s at Ditchley Park

Ditchley Park

Ditchley Park, Enstone, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire

Though I didn’t make the short drive from Oxford on Saturday afternoon to see Ditchley Park, I recently read an interesting story about it in the Churchill biography by Roy Jenkins.

I’ve always heard that Ditchley Park was offered to Churchill during W.W.I.I. because the weekend house for use by serving Prime Minister’s, Chequers:

“in its Buckinghamshire hollow, was held to be unacceptably vulnerable at the time on the month ‘when the moon was high’”.

This of course was deemed to present a much too easy target for the German Luftwaffe.

As I’ve always heard the story told it was offered as a safer weekend getaway.

As Roy Jenkins tells it; “Churchill reacted to this with a characteristic mixture of decision, buoyancy and self-centeredness. On the afternoon of Tuesday, 5 November (1940) he sent for Ronald Tree, Conservative MP for Haymarket Harborough, and informed him that, on the following Friday, he would like to arrive for the weekend at Ditchley, Tree’s north Oxfordshire country house, with the full apparatus of Downing Street-Chequers secretarial and communications (but not domestic) staff, and possibly a few other guests as well, and to use it on this basis on future weekends of security need. He in fact did so on a total of fifteen weekends over the next year and a half, the last being in March 1942.”

As Jenkins tells it, Tree and his wife were flattered at the request and most gracious and hospitable hosts, with Mrs. Tree writing the PM the following letter after the first weekend; “I have always been one of your greatest if most humble admirers – and I meant to tell you how delighted and honoured we all were to have you come to Ditchley. If it is convenient for you at any time to you no matter how short the notice – it is at your disposal.”

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