After our day of housework on Sunday we decided to have a day out. Ed was keen to get some culture and after looking up a couple of exhibitions – Ed was keen to see Bedlam at the Wellcome collection, however it seemed a bit depressing for a sunny Sunday afternoon. So we settled on Eltham Palace.
Originally constructed in 1296, Eltham has an intriguing history. It was a favoured royal palace throughout the medieval period and Henry VIII and his siblings spent much of their childhood there. However Elizabeth I and subsequent royals preferred Greenwich Palace and Eltham Palace soon fell into decline.It was further damaged during the English Civil War and by 18th Century the Great Hall was being used as a barn.
In 1828 the Great Hall was repaired and reinstated by Sir Robert Smirke and in 1933 Stephen and Virginia Courtauld took the lease of Eltham Palace – and that’s when things really got exciting.
The Courtauld’s employed John Seely and Paul Paget to completely re-imagine the house. The architects went to town and despite fierce opposition, a new Art Deco palace was constructed – now all that remains of the original palace is the Great Hall and three medieval gables. The house was not only the height of fashion with interiors by notable Mayfair designers including, Peter Malacrida but also the pinnacle of technology, with numerous bathrooms, electric fires, Vitrolite glass panels, a built in music system and heating throughout; in some areas underfloor heating was even used.
I haven’t photographed to much of the interiors, as you really should go an visit…
My two favourite rooms were probably two of the smallest rooms in the house. One of these was the Map room, where Stephen and Virginia would plan their expeditions and holidays and the other was the flower arranging room; just off the entrance hall, the housekeeper would craft numerous arrangements for their elaborate parties. I think everyone needs a room for arranging flowers!
ANother great feature of the house was the garden’s which, despite the Courtauld’s leaving Eltham in 1951, remain much as they did in the 1930’s.
I loved the juxtaposition of the old and the new and the interiors were right up might street. I would certainly love some hand painted wallpaper, similar to that in Stephen’s bedroom, although I think it may be a little out of our budget!
To finish off our lovely afternoon, we headed over to Blackheath for a stroll and some gorgeous cake from Gail’s bakery.