In the summer I had a very enjoyable visit to Eltham Palace in South London. The house is best known today for being the former home of Stephen and Virginia Courtauld and for its art deco style. However the Courtaulds only lived there briefly from 1935 to 1944.
Originally there was a moated manor house which was acquired by the future Edward II in 1305 who passed it on to his wife Queen Isabella. The Great Hall was added by Edward IV in the 1470s and today as been incorporated into the 1930s building. Although Henry VIII spent some of his childhood there later on monarchs preferred to live at other residences.
In the 1930s the Courtaulds moved into Eltham Palace. Stephen was the youngest of six children and came from a wealthy family who had a successful business producing rayon (artificial silk). As his older brother ran the business Stephen was able to spend his time in pursuing cultural and philanthropic interests. Just after World War I he met Virginia and although they appeared an unlikely couple, as Stephen was reserved and cautious and in contrast Virginia was a vivacious divorcee and considered somewhat racy for the time as she had a snake tattoo on her leg, they were devoted to each other.
Stephen and Virginia restored the Great Hall and built and adjoining modern property in an art deco style which included a dramatic entrance hall, which resembled an ocean liner. The gardens were also beautifully laid out incorporating the moat and medieval bridge. The couple enjoyed entertaining in their home which they shared with an enormous number of pets which included Mah-Jongg, a lemur. Stephen and Virginia moved to Scotland during World War II and never returned to the house. Today the house and gardens are managed by English Heritage.
If you enjoyed this you may want to read my other blog about the interior of Eltham Palace.
Address: Eltham Palace, Court Yard, Eltham, Greenwich, London, SE9 5QE
Nearest Train Station: Mottingham (Train from London Bridge). The station is in Travelcard Zone 4. It is then 10 minute easy walk. Alterntively a 15 minute walk from Eltham Sation.
Opening Hours: Please check website for up to date details before travelling.
Prices: Please check website for details.
Tea room available
The author of this blog is a qualified City of London and City of Westminster Tour Guide who leads guided walks combining world famous landmarks with hidden treasures often missed by the crowds.