Churchill History Lecture Series: Serving Winston: The life and times of Georgina Landemare, Churchill's longest-serving cook – Annie Gray

11 Mar 2019
Location: Wolfson Hall, Churchill College
Start time: 17:30
End time: 19:00

In all the enormous literature on the Winston Churchill, very little is said about his servants. But they weren't invisible, then, and shouldn't be now.  

Most people who have read anything much on the Churchills' personal life will be familiar with some of the service staff who surrounded them: the secretaries are familiar figures, rolling their eyes at Winston's casual nudity, staying up to the small hours to take dictation, and struggling, often, with the pace. Frank Sawyers, his wartime valet, is another frequent character, and the bodyguards (and Norman McGowan) left memoirs to be riffled for anecdotes. But beyond this, further below stairs, was another set of people, who didn't write about their experiences, and played often only fleeting roles in the Churchills' lives. This talk looks in detail at one, key, player in the domestic set up at Downing Street, Hyde Park Gate, Chequers and Chartwell: Georgina Landemare, the family's longest-serving cook, whose life was intertwined with theirs for over 20 years.  

Drawing on research for Annie's biography of Georgina, this talk will cover her life, and how she came to be the cook for one of the more significant kitchens in the country in 1940. It will also consider the food she cooked, the impact of rationing at No.10, and the relationship she had with her illustrious employers. Georgina's food was lauded as 'superb' and 'excellent' by Churchill's dinner companions, and the book she published, in 1958, is well worth rediscovering. The talk is both a celebration of a determined cook, and a reminder that behind every great man lies a woman who can make a mean custard. 

Dr Annie Gray is one of Britain's leading food historians. She is a writer, broadcaster and consultant, advising both on the history of food and dining, and the people and spaces associated with food. She's been a panellist on BBC Radio 4's The Kitchen Cabinet since its inception in 2012, and appears regularly on TV. Her first book, The Greedy Queen: eating with Victoria, was a culinary biography of Queen Victoria, and her next book, due to be published in spring 2020, is called Victory in the Kitchen: the story of Churchill's Cook.

The lecture will be followed by a drinks reception in the Jock Colville Hall.

@DrAnnieGray


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