Friday, July 16, 2010

Churchill's choppers

British prime minister Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965) had 3 sets of dentures, crafted by dental technician Derek Cudlipp (1915-2007) for eminent dental surgeon Sir Eric Wilfred Fish (1894-1974). One set was in Churchill's mouth as he lay in state in St. Paul's cathedral in London, was transported down the River Thames, and was taken by train to his final resting place in Bladon, Oxfordshire. A 2nd set (3rd image) was donated to the Royal College of Surgeons of England by Cudlipp in 2000 and added to the Hunterian Collection. The specimen is described as a skeletal partial upper denture with gold base, platinum clasps, and mineral teeth. It was worn by Churchill c. 1941 and was designed to leave a gap between the plate and the roof of his mouth to compensate for his natural lisp. And a 3rd set (2nd image) is being auctioned by Keys Fine Art Auctioneers on July 29th and is expected to fetch up to £5000. They are being sold by Nigel Cudlipp, who says, "My father was extremely proud of those teeth - but they are not something you keep on the mantelpiece....The dentures were extremely difficult to design and make and I think Churchill found them rather uncomfortable...they were delicate and often broke, especially when he was in one of his bad moods. Father said that Churchill had a real temper and would bite down on them and break them. He would constantly get calls to see him at Downing Street or the War Office at all times of day or night so he could pick up a set for repair and fit him with a spare set....Churchill did not have a lot of patience and would be being measured and fitted, while sitting there with brandy, cigars and dictating to his secretary." The job of keeping Churchill's dentures repaired was so important that Cudlipp was spared being called up to fight in World War II instead joined the Home Guard." His efforts were indirectly praised in a letter Churchill wrote to Dr. Fish, which was auctioned in 2008: "I am very glad it fell to me to recommend you for a well-deserved honour, I enclose one set of dentures and I should be so much obliged if you would tighten them up a little for me. The others are working very well."

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