Churchill’s teeth sell for almost $24,000

A set of Winston Churchill’s upper dentures sold at auction at the Keys’ Salerooms in Aylsham, Norfolk, today for £15,200 ($23,741). The pre-sale estimate was £5,000, but since this set was one of a few custom made for the prime minister whose dentures were an integral component of some of the greatest speeches of all time, a British collector of Churchilliana bought them for 3 times the estimate. (This same collector owns the microphone Churchill used to announce the end of the war in Europe in 1945.)

The set of dentures were designed to be loose-fitting so that Churchill could preserve the diction famous from his radio broadcasts during the second world war, an expert said.

“From childhood, Churchill had a very distinctive natural lisp; he had trouble with his S’s,” said Jane Hughes, head of learning at the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons in London. “These are the teeth that saved the world.” […]

“Churchill wanted to maintain [the lisp] because he was already so well known for it,” she said. “The dentures wouldn’t quite connect with the top of the mouth, but that was on purpose.”

These dentures and 3 or 4 identical sets were made in the beginning of the war by dental technician Derek Cudlipp. Churchill carried an extra set with him at all times. One of the other sets rests in peace with the great man himself who was buried with them. Another set is on display at the Hunterian Museum, the medical museum of the Royal College of Surgeons in London. Mr. Cudlipp’s son Nigel sold this set.

Winston Churchill personally destroyed Derek Cudlipp’s draft papers. According to Nigel, Churchill told the technician that he contribute more to the war effort by staying in England and repairing his dentures than by fighting on the front lines.

He was probably right given how important the prime minister’s speeches were to become, and given Churchill’s habit of throwing his dentures across the room at his staff when he was angry. Nigel says his father could tell how the war was going at any given time based on how much repair work he had to do.

Churchill's $24,000 dentures

15 thoughts on “Churchill’s teeth sell for almost $24,000

  1. I heard this story on the news during the week and reflected, again, on Churchill. I didn’t like his politics at all, and I thought he was anti-worker, anti-socialist, anti-Semitic and every other thing that I value.

    But oh could he speak well!!! His radio broadcasts were brilliant! Even listening now (2010) to a 1941 speech still makes a person’s skin go goosey. I am just not certain how these teeth, as opposed to any other false teeth, preserved his unique voice.

    1. Apparently the way the dentures fit ensured that his natural mushy-lispy sibilants remained unaltered. A perfect fit might have changed that characteristic sound.

    2. I agree with your take on Churchill. Seems to me that most great leaders lack that certain” ethic” we think would justify their influential positions. Methinks that oratory prowess is the criteria that wins the vote. What does that say about people who put them in a position of power???

  2. I just found out I am icked out by the thought of dead people’s dentures being knick knacks. Thanks for the new squick!

  3. Most stuff doesn’t ick me out at all. The laminated bodies are really cool. Hell the Pompeii casts were downright moving, but not icky.

    Nope, so far it’s just the dentures that made me go eeww

  4. His politics were brilliant! Conservative, like a true Englishman, he fought for the free market and defended us against the terrible onslaught of both communism and nazism.

  5. Anti-socialist he certainly was. Anti-worker … the evidence is mixed, he could be surprisingly even-handed and enlightened. Anti-semitic? This charge is preposterous. He was a Zionist, a personal friend of David Ben-Gurion! I can’t make out about the dentures. If he deliberately maintained the lisp, why did he practise with a pebble in his mouth till he could say ‘my impediment is no problem for me’? Or was this another impediment, the famous stutter which the Churchill Centre flatly denies? Well the man was full of contradictions. He contradicted well and often. Hitler and anyone else was unwise to make an enemy of him.

  6. Anti-semitic? Like Brian, I am terribly…I mean TERRIBLY…confused by that statement. An anti-semite Churchill most definitely was not!

    Anyhow, another great article. I learned a bit about the personality of Churchill. I mean, I knew he was easily angered, but I didn’t think he actually threw such fits of rage where he would rip his teeth out and throw them at somebody. 😆

    1. It would be scary to have anyone’s teeth flying at you, but Churchill’s teeth must have been particularly terrifying.

      The question of whether Churchill was anti-semitic has been raised by various historians, usually on very shaky grounds. Here’s an example from a few years ago that was promptly debunked.

  7. Yes, I have heard all of the most popular postulations. All of it is circumstantial evidence….at best. And I am being generous.

    There is just simply no ground to stand on with such claims.

    It is a possibility that he WAS an anti-semite. But that’s about as likely a possibility as President Kennedy being racist against blacks.

  8. For a soul agitated by the horrors of hatred and war, the road back to peace is challenging. Souls that faced this challenge included Churchill, Stalin and millions of Greeks. The bravery that is so easily displayed in crisis becomes so much harder to display when the challenge is to abandon one’s fears in search of forgiveness, integration and understanding.

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