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Eltham Palace, the social hub

Eltham Palace is a very cool house that first came onto the radar in 1086 as a manor house, went onto become one of the largest and most frequented royal residences from the 1300s to the late 1500s fell into disrepair and was subsequently redeveloped in the 1930s by Stephen and Genie Courtauld as their cutting edge semi-rural retreat from the hustle and bustle of London.

During the 10 or so years until they left in 1944, Eltham played host to some of the most interesting, influential characters of the day with some of the most fabulous parties in the ultra-modern surroundings built in the art deco style.

The principal remaining part of the original palace is the Great Hall which was built for Edward IV in 1470s and this was incorporated into the new house by the architects Seely & Paget. Amazing to think of Henry VIII and various famous visitors such as the Dutch philosopher Erasmus visiting there as you walk around it today; he most certainly would have recognised it even if Stephen and Genie did make some alterations along the way.

Among the very striking features is the entrance hall with its concrete and glass domed roof, the Venetian Suite including fragments of panelling from the area dating to 1720s and a rather curious small caged area where their much-loved pet, a ring-tailed lemur called Mah Jong or Jonggy used to sleep.

The Courtaulds made full use of one of the most advanced electricity supply systems in the world with varying light effects using downlighters, spotlights and concealed lighting. There was an innovative loudspeaker system that could broadcast records to rooms on the ground floor, electric cookers, fridges and a centralised vacuum cleaner in the basement. The list goes on.

The gardens too are wonderful, incorporating elements of the medieval palace, a moat bridge, sunken rose gardens, rock gardens and a diverse range of trees and planting.

It’ll take you about an hour from central London and I would be super happy to organise a trip out there for you. Drop me a line and let's do it!

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