Eltham Palace is a rather crazy place to visit. Hidden away in Southeast London, it is a blend of 1930’s Art Deco, Medieval and Tudor architecture.
It was first recorded in the Domesday survey of 1086 as the manor of Eltham and it grew in size as many royals frequented it up until the days of Henry the eighth. It went out of fashion and over the following centuries it sadly fell to ruin. The only surviving building seems to have been a great medieval banqueting hall.
Until millionaires Stephen and Virginia Courtauld found it and decided it would be the perfect spot for a country pile – not directly in town but close enough to easily reach London. A new mansion was designed, which was connected to the banqueting hall (or rather, the music room). Its exterior was cleverly made to look much older, while the interior was drawn up as one of the most fabulous art deco homes in the UK!
The final product was the height of fashion, modernity and elegance. Legendary house parties were held there with royalty, film producers and musicians like Stravinsky staying over. The house had central heating, a loudspeaker system, internal private telephones, and a centralised vacuum cleaner (very cool). Virginia’s pet Lemur even had it’s own heated quarters and enjoyed biting guests at random.
The rooms and bathrooms were luxurious like no others – meant to mirror the Cunard style of ocean liners of the time, everything was plush, smooth and streamlined. The entrance hall became so famous that it’s been used in many films and TV shows (Poirot fans, please note photo below).
The gardens are dreamy and expansive, evocative of the past with a moat and ancient bridges spanning across ancient outer walls. It’s perfect for a summer picnic.
Although an odd jumble of eras, this place is haunting (if not thoroughly haunted already) and well worth a visit in the sunshine when the gardens are at their best. And the house, well, it’s always at it’s best.