Leicester graduates in the news: Elisabeth C Murphy
The National Churchill Museum is dedicated to the life and work of Britain’s wartime Prime Minister and is housed inside a converted 17th century English church designed by Sir Christopher Wren. Elisabeth will be responsible for not only the public, front part of the museum but also the collections in the back, together with travelling exhibits and temporary exhibitions.
Hang on. What on Earth is a museum about Winston Churchill doing in a small town in the middle of Missouri? Come to that, what is a 17th century London church doing in a small town in the middle of Missouri?
It turns out that Westminster College was the place where Churchill made a famous speech on 5 March 1946. He was there to accept an Honorary Degree and, in his reply, criticised the rapid post-war spread of Soviet influence in Eastern Europe, coining the phrase “iron curtain”.
Twenty years later, as a memorial to Churchill, Westminster College bought the church of St Mary Aldermanbury, which had been designed by Wren in 1677 to replace a 12th century church lost in the Great Fire of London. The building was dissembled and each stone carefully marked, then groups of adjacent stones were loaded onto pallets. Unfortunately, in those pre-container days sea freight was loaded piecemeal by workers called stevedores who decided that the pallets could be more efficiently stacked and jumbled up all the stone blocks! Consequently, once they church reached Fulton all the blocks had to be laid out in a field and identified from their marks before the building could be reconstructed like a giant 3-D jigsaw. (Buying London landmarks and moving them to the States was in vogue at this time – see also London Bridge in Arizona.)
The Churchill Museum was founded in 1969 and has attracted numerous other world leaders over the years including Reagan, Thatcher and Gorbachev who officially announced the end of the Cold War there in 1992.