Our story

Our story


The Fellowship was created in 1965 as the living legacy of Sir Winston Churchill for the nation. It aims to honour his memory and spirit in a unique community of changemakers across the UK.

“There is nothing wrong in change, if it is in the right direction. To improve is to change, so to be perfect is to have changed often.” - Sir Winston Churchill

Honouring the spirit of Sir Winston

The idea for the Churchill Fellowship was developed in the last years of Sir Winston's life and with his approval. It closely reflects his own concerns, with an emphasis on opportunities for individuals from all walks of life, international learning and discovery, and practical innovation in every area of society. These were elements which he strongly supported in his own life and in the formation of the Fellowship, and together they have created a remarkable resource for the nation.

In his own life, Sir Winston was not only a global public figure but also a lively and often self-taught enthusiast for a huge range of interests – from bricklaying to beekeeping, to painting and writing, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953. He was, too, an early adopter of new technology, such as oil-fired engines for ships and radar for aeroplanes. And in politics, he was a very early champion of social policies including state pensions, unemployment insurance and public health care.

Today’s Fellowships continue this spirit of curiosity and change, of universal interest and public service. Above all, they echo his enduring belief in the potential of the individual, whatever their circumstance or adversity, to achieve great things.

Sir Winston painting at the Miami Surf Club, 1946 Download ''
Sir Winston bricklaying at Chartwell, 1930's Download ''

Launching the charity

The Fellowship was proposed by close friends and colleagues from Sir Winston’s years in politics and wartime leadership, and championed by HRH the Duke of Edinburgh. Within days of his death in 1965, a public appeal was launched, with donations large and small collected nationwide - at banks, post offices and even door to door by Boy Scouts. This outpouring of support represented the people’s tribute to a hugely respected Prime Minister.

The charity was established from these public donations and a small government grant. Similar schemes were set up in Australia and New Zealand, with whom we collaborate to this day. Shortly after our foundation, we were graced by Royal Patronage from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, whose first Prime Minister had been Sir Winston.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II leaving No 10 Downing Street after dinner with Sir Winston and Lady Churchill, 1955 Download 'WSC with Queen Elizabeth and Lady Churchill in Downing St 1955 Alamy G6G9PA.jpg'

The Fellowship today

Since 1965 over 5,800 Fellows have been appointed, creating a network of experts and expertise in every sector and region of the UK. Their remarkable achievements are the living legacy of Sir Winston.

In keeping with the original concept, Fellowships are open to all UK citizens, regardless of their background, qualifications or age, and they offer a life-changing opportunity to gain practical insights from the world’s experts in every aspect of society.

Today there is controversy about certain aspects of Sir Winston’s life, particularly in connection with his views on race. At the same time, he is internationally admired for his global leadership during World War II in saving Britain and the world at their most perilous hour. We acknowledge the many issues and complexities involved on all sides, and have stated our position here. None of this takes away from Sir Winston's enormous contribution to the world as we know it today.

As a forward-looking charity aiming to improve lives throughout the UK, what we take from Sir Winston’s example are values for the future: global learning, public service and above all a belief in the potential of every individual.

Originally founded as the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, in 2021 we adopted ‘The Churchill Fellowship’ as our operating name.

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