Thursday, July 29th, 2010
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.