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Churchill ephemera arrives unexpectedly - 09/12/11

River Reads was busy when Jeremy Wade visited to sign his "River Monsters" book.  Bill Murray, a local celebrity who sings with Mariners Way and is involved in the Devon History Society arrived clutching what appeared to be old sticks.  He had previously mentioned some old rods that needed restoring, but these wouldn't quite qualify as beansticks.

He said that they had been stored in the garage for years being hand-me-downs from his father. I told him that rods in this condition weren't worth repairing. He then added that his father had been in the employ of Sir Winston Churchill and that these rods were given to him by the great man himself.   

Bill said that he used to fish occasionally at Chartwell but had to restrict his fishing areas away from the view from the main house, however the larger fish always seemed to be around the island that Sir Winston created for Lady Churchill to improve the visual aspect.

People from the house used to come down from time to time to see how he was getting on and one sunny afternoon, a large black car came smoothly and slowly down the grass bank stopping close by. His father was in the front seat alongside the chauffeur Joe Bullock who was always very friendly. In the back seat was Sir Winston looking very comfortable with a rug on his lap.  The window was wound down and he was smiling broadly. Bill said he was a round 10 or 11 and was aware that he was about to have a conversation with the great man. To the best of his recollection it went something like this:

"So you are William,... I am very pleased to meet you. Have you caught any fish?"

"No. I did catch one but it fell off the hook"

"Well, in that case I am very pleased for the fish."

It was a simple chat, looking into the open smile of his round featured face, he felt completely at ease. He fished on and they stayed and watched for a short while before driving back to the house.

Some time afterwards, his father came home with this rod that the staff had found for him in one of the sheds at Chartwell. It was in a cloth bag but the top sections were broken and he noticed that on the reel fitting was inscribed "Duke of Marlborough" which he assumed originated from Blenheim Palace, Sir Winston's ancestral home.

He did use the rod on later visits but found it quite cumbersome as a youngster and it didn't improve his catches!

The name of the manufacturer could also just be made out- Nutting & Co.  Further work with the assistance of that mine of information, Ray McLaren, generated the full address:-

Nutting and Co.

17 Edgbaston Street


The only date that we have been unable to unearth was that the company was trading in 1893, but it is likely that this rod predates that by its style, more mid 19th century, and before Hardy were the supplier of choice to the nobility.

It seemed when he was given this rod, there was no value in old ephemera so he simply put it away in his gagrage, and it was only uncovered recently sorting the house out.

The rod was broken in places and so the ferrules which had become jammed and broken from the correct section were refitted discreetly, but it was recommended that as this rod were now of national significance it would be wrong for me to try to restore them in any way.

Bill also brought in a couple of broken old glass photographic plates, knowing that Angling Heritage is interested in such artefacts.  By scanning the plates held at the edges by tape and removing most  the cracks using photoshop, the pictures emerged of a man fishing.  Bill the said that these were of Churchill too - what a treasure.

We have been allowed to show them on the Angling Heritage site but you must be aware that the pictures are only allowed to be use with Bill Murray's approval as the copyright is his.