English Heritage: Eltham Palace And Gardens

My family and I are lovers of historical sites such as castles and buildings. We have membership to the English Heritage which gives us free (or discounted) access to hundred of historicals sites around the UK. We particularly like castles, my favourite being Carlisle Castle which we visited a couple of years ago.

Making use of our English Heritage pass, we took a trip to Eltham Palace and Gardens in (the obviously mentioned) Eltham which is a district of southeast London.

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It was used as a royal residence from the 14th century to the 16th century. It fell into disrepair after being damaged in the English Civil War.

It was used as a farm for two centuries after the English Civil War … until Stephen and Virginia Courtauld bought the property and rebuilt it into an ultra-modern grand estate complete with modern technology of the time and extravagant interiors and even an outdoor swimming pool.

The Courtaulds left Eltham in the 1940’s and the property was then used by the Army for educational purposes. The English Heritage took over the site in 1995 and restored the property to much of the 1930’s style which is what we see today.

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The grounds itself are beautifully maintained, with copious amounts of shrubbery and flowers. Summer is definitely in the air as the grounds were delicately touched by a wonderous blanket of beautiful tulips of different colours.

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Since we took the kids for the day out during the Easter break … we were just in time to take part in the Easter Adventure Quest. This was so much fun and the kids had a great time exploring the grounds, looking for clues and getting their stamp in their Easter trail map. The kids had to crack the clues and follow the trail around the gardens as they hunt for the dragon eggs. A chocolate reward was given to all the kids who completed the quest. My kids are very inquisitive so they enjoy these types of quests, searching and exploring whilst engaging their brains in a little knowledge.

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From the outset Eltham palace looks like just that … a palace. Medieval in some sorts, but ancient none the less. The manor was originally built with stone and brick within the confines of a moat … accessed via a bridge.

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The manor exchanged hands several times over the centuries, with each century a new construction and some improvements were added.

What is really fascinating as you approach the manor is the grandness of it. Well maintained and immediately you are transported back in time … centuries in time.

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However, on entering the manor … you will find something you least expect.

Art Deco.

Now, I will be the first to admit that I know nothing about art … and too be honest, I have no clue what Art Deco is. But it sure is not medieval.

When you enter the main doors … you are greeted with this huge and well lit entrance hall …

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See what I mean about it not being medieval.

Stephen and Virginia Courtauld moved into the manor in the 1930’s and completely transformed the place into this modern and stylish home. The decor looked like something you would find in the pages of an early 20th century interior design magazine. This is art deco at its finest.

The bedrooms were large and stylish, huge windows which overlook the grounds … giving way to alot of light.

Some of the old fixtures and fittings are still in place … it just shows us how much of a long way we have come in terms of technology. There is no smart phones and wifi here.

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The majority of the house was decorated in the art deco style, giving way to geometric lines, clean shapes and simple characteristics. Art deco is associated with the wealthy.

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The Courtaulds had a pet lemur and it had its own little room within the manor. The lemur (named Mah-Jong) had it’s own little hatch here in its sleeping quarters which allowed it to access the flower room.

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This particular corridor (which we had no access to) we passed on the way to the basement. It had the feel of an abandoned hospital (which by the way had nothing to do with a hospital). The empty derelict feel to it was quite eerie. My daughter was a little spooked.

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To get to the basement we had to walk down this corridor. It was really warm down here due to the overhead pipes. You can tell the decorators gave this particular part of the house a miss. There was no sign of any art deco down here.

The basement was used as a wartime bunker throughout the war for the Courtaulds, their staff and guests. They even had a billiards table down in the basement to pass the time.

 

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The Great Hall was built in the medieval times during the 15th century. It was a high roofed space with ample windows and access to the courtyard. Great banquets were held here during the medieval times. The Courtaulds used it as a music room and even had central heating and underfloor heating installed.

I was actually thinking what it would be like to hold one of my big parties here. Such a great space for a giant bouncy castle, a big dance floor and lots of space for food and drinks. That’s just me though … a big dreamer.

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The modern exterior sitting side by side with what is left of the medieval buildings.

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Out in the garden there is this big space. I wasn’t sure what it was suppose to be. The worlds easiest maze? The remains of some relic? In actual fact, there use to be an outdoor swimming pool here. The Courtaulds use to have pool parties down here during the warmer months. The pool was filled and covered over when the Army took over the grounds. If you look closely you can see the daisies growing which show the outline of where the swimming pool use to be.

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All in all we spent a great afternoon here exploring the grounds. The kids were free to run around and explore which is what I encourage most in my children.

In a very unusual location, you wouldn’t think you would find such a gem of history amongst the high street of Eltham.

My advice to you if you love historical sites such as these, then it pays to buy an annual membership to the English Heritage. There are so many different sites around the UK to visit and learn. Put those smartphones and tablets away and transport yourself back in time. Your brain will thank you for it.

Leave a comment and let me know what historical sites you have been to lately. I’m always up for new adventures.

Until next time …

~ The Cake Lady xx

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