Where Is Chequers? And 7 Other Facts About Where Theresa May's Brexit 'Sleepover' Is Happening

One of the rooms is an actual prison.

Theresa May is gathering her Cabinet at Chequers today for a meeting to thrash out the Government’s blueprint for Brexit.

The whole Cabinet will be at the Prime Minister’s official country retreat in Buckinghamshire on Friday. The venue offers more privacy than Downing Street, where reporters and photographers can linger outside the black door to No 10.

Ministers will be kept at the mansion until they have reached agreement – dinner will be served and they could talk late into the night.

But what/where/how old is Chequers? Well, you’ve come to the right place...

1) It’s Old

It's a rather grand building.
It's a rather grand building.

A house of some description has occupied the site since the 12th century but the building that stands there today dates from the 16th century.

It was built or remodelled - no one is exactly sure which - in 1565 by William Hawtrey, a rich landowner and MP.

Chequers is located around 41 miles from Downing Street to the south of Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire.

The origin of its name is still up for debate. One theory is it’s named after the chequer trees which grow on the 1,500 acres of land surrounding the property.

Another suggests an owner in the 12th century called Elias Ostiarius gave it its name as Ostiarius used to mean an usher of the Court of the Exchequer.

2) It Contains An Actual Prison

This is Lady Catherine Grey, great granddaughter of King Henry VII.

In 1565 she was imprisoned at Chequers and guarded by Hawtrey for two years after she married without her family’s consent.

This was to ensure she could not produce any children that could challenge for the throne, occupied at the time by Queen Elizabeth.

The room/cell in which she slept has been preserved in its original condition ever since.

She died of tuberculosis in 1568 at the age of 27. Tudor living was rough.

3) It Was Once A Hospital


During World War I Chequers was used as a hospital an convalescent home for injured British soldiers.

In the post-war world, the position of prime minister began to change as a new breed of working class politician rose to prominence alongside the traditional upper-class leaders.

This shift prompted the owners of the time, Arthur and Ruth Lee, to turn Chequers into what it is today...

4) It’s A Gift To England


The Lees handed Chequers to the nation so future prime minister’s would have a place to retreat to and relax regardless of their personal wealth.

In the picture above from 1921, prime minister David Lloyd George (centre), the first PM to benefit, is pictured with World War 1 French soldier Ferdinand Foch.

The Lees commissioned a stained glass window for the long gallery which bears the following inscription.

This house of peace and ancient memories was given to England as a thank-offering for her deliverance in the great war of 1914–1918 as a place of rest and recreation for her Prime Ministers for ever.

5) It Houses A Huge Art Collection


Chequers is home to around 190 pieces of art dating from this piece painted around 1520...

Lady Mary Grey (1545–1578) Hans Eworth (c.1520–after 1578) (attributed to) Chequers Court.
Lady Mary Grey (1545–1578) Hans Eworth (c.1520–after 1578) (attributed to) Chequers Court.

To this from 1937, the work of none other than Winston Churchill...

View of Lake Geneva, Switzerland (C.1937) Winston Spencer Churchill (1874–1965) Chequers Court.
View of Lake Geneva, Switzerland (C.1937) Winston Spencer Churchill (1874–1965) Chequers Court.

6) Charlie Chaplin Was Once A Guest

Chaplin with Winston Churchill at Chartwell Manor.
Chaplin with Winston Churchill at Chartwell Manor.
PA Archive/PA Images

Chequers has hosted multitudes of VIPs and dignitaries over the years but one of the more surprising was the legendary comedy actor Charlie Chaplin.

He and PM Ramsay MacDonald are pictured above out for a walk on the road to the house on March 3, 1931, after the Comedian’s arrival in his native country after an absence of 10 years.

7) It Costs You A Little Bit Of Money Each Year

Aerial view of the Tudor mansion.
Aerial view of the Tudor mansion.

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