Where is Chequers and who owns it?


LAVISH 16th-century estate known as Chequers is the country home to the UK Prime Minister.

The residence can be used for entertaining and unwinding, nestled at the foot of the Chiltern Hills.

Where is Chequers?

Chequers, or Chequers Court, is a country house near the village of Ellesborough in Buckinghamshire at the foot of the Chiltern Hills.

The mansion is about 41 miles from Downing Street.

It takes around an hour and a half to drive between the two.

It is a Grade One listed building used by the Prime Minister as a country home outside Westminster.

Chequers is the country retreat of the Prime Minister

David Lloyd George was the first PM to use it.

Chequers has been the official country residence of the Prime Minister since 1921.

Who owns the Chequers estate?

The 1,000-acre estate has been in public hands since 1917, when its then owners donated it to the British government.

A formal act was written up for the donation, the Chequers Estate Act 1917 reads: “It is not possible to foresee or foretell from what classes or conditions of life the future wielders of power in this country will be drawn.”

Former owner Sir Arthur Lee, First Viscount Lee of Fareham, decided to write down his reasoning for the donations.

He wrote: “Apart from these more subtle influences, the better the health of our rulers the more sanely will they rule and the inducement to spend two days a week in the high and pure air of the Chiltern hills and woods will, it is hoped, benefit the nation as well as its chosen leaders.

“The main features of this scheme are therefore designed not merely to make Chequers available as the official country residence of the Prime Minister of the day, but to tempt him to visit it regularly and to make it possible for him to live there, even though his income should be limited to his salary.”

The current mansion was built by William Hawtrey around 1565, although the name possible comes from the 12th century.

Chequers is said to derive from an early owner of the manor of Ellesborough, Elias Ostiarius (or de Scaccario).

The name “Ostiarius” meant an usher of the Court of the Exchequer and scacchiera means a chess board in Italian.

Elias Ostiarius’ coat of arms included the chequer board of the Exchequer, so it is possible the estate is named after his arms and position at court.

Others point to the large number of chequer trees growing in the grounds.

Is Chequers open to the public?

Although the estate is publicly owned it is not open to the public.

On June 1, 2007, the estate was designated a protected site under the Serious and Organised Crime and Police Act 2005.

This means that it is criminal to trespass into the estate and you can be arrested and charged.

It is a listed building so protected under the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens.

The closest you can get is the Ridgeway National Trail which crosses over the private drive.

A stained glass window in the property bears the legend: “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.”

Boris Johnson recovered from Covid at Chequers in April 2020 after being hospitalised.

It was also revealed he planned to have his wedding party at the estate but after being removed as Tory party leader this was blocked.

In 2018, Theresa May used the estate to hold a Cabinet meeting about Brexit, known as the Chequers Plan.

The majority of the public have not seen inside the estate but the Prime Minister can invite anyone they choose.