About Eltham Palace
Eltham Palace is a spectacular Art Deco palace built in the 1930s alongside a medieval hall that was once a the centre of royal life in England. Today it is a fascinating site run by English Heritage that provides a glimpse into both the medieval and Art Deco periods of Britain’s history.
Eltham Palace history
A manor on the site of Eltham Palace is known to have existed from 1086 when it belonged to Odo, half-brother of William the Conqueror, and over the centuries was transformed into a vast and luxurious palace. By the 14th century it was the most frequented royal residence in the country, with successive monarchs enjoying lavish parties and building programs there.
Eltham Palace was a particular favourite of the Yorkist King Edward IV, who built the Great Hall there in the 1470s, and his grandson Henry VIII spent much of his childhood walking its opulent halls. Whilst king, he and Anne Boleyn also visited Eltham many times, including in 1532 as they prepared to journey to Calais to receive Francis I’s support of their marriage and Henry VIII’s break with Rome. The Great Hall is now the only part of medieval Eltham Palace that still exists, after its eventual decline in the 17th century.
In contrast, the ‘new build’ at Eltham Palace dates from the 1930s and is a wonderful example of Art Deco design. When millionaires Stephen and Virginia Courtauld built their mansion beside the Great Hall of the medieval Eltham Palace, the red brick exterior of the house was designed to mirror the older building without seeming out of place.
Unlike its medieval counterpart however, the new Eltham was equipped with all the latest modern conveniences, including underfloor heating, a centralised vacuum cleaning system, and built-in audio. One thing never changed however – the spirit of celebration that echoed its many rooms, as the Courtaulds often entertained esteemed guests from actors to politicians to royalty!
Eltham Palace today
Today Eltham Palace is managed by English Heritage and can be visited in all its contrasting glory. The medieval palace and its Great Hall may be explored as guests walk in the footsteps of some of Britain’s most famous rulers, with its magnificent oak hammer-beam roof dating back to the 15th century.
The interior of the new Eltham Palace showcases the cutting-edge design of the Art Deco period and the flair of the couple who built it. Upstairs is a display devoted to the Courtaulds, including original furniture, family photographs, and a restored original 10-minute Courtauld home movie, giving a glimpse into their family life.
Eltham Palace’s 19 acres of beautiful gardens also reflect both the medieval and 20th-century garden design, including a rock garden, a moat, a medieval bridge, herbaceous borders, a rose garden and plenty of picnic areas. Always interesting and colourful, garden highlights at Eltham Palace include the Spring bulbs display and the wisteria cascading over the classical pergola in Summer.
Getting to Eltham Palace
Eltham Palace is located in southeast London, and can be reached by taking Junction 3 off the M25 and following the A20 to Eltham. Parking is signposted off Court Road and is free for English Heritage members. The nearest train station is a 10-minute walk away at Mottington, while TfL bus services 124, 126, 160 and 161 all stop in the nearby area.
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