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Eltham Palace: once Medieval and now Art Deco – part three of my ‘Jolly.’

May 9, 2016
Eltham Palace (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Eltham Palace (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Welcome to part three of my recent ‘Jollies’.

In addition to our fab visits to Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral

we visited the amazing

Eltham Palace

set in 19 acres of stunning gardens in Eltham, Greenwich, London.

Eltham Palace Great Hall (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Eltham Palace Great Hall (c) Jane Risdon 2016

The palace was once an important royal palace, hosting Kings, Queens, and international statesmen.

It’s one of the few medieval palaces to survive with substantial remains intact, and was one of only six royal residences large enough to accommodate and feed the entire Tudor court of 800 plus people.

The court continued to host famous visitors there until well into the 16th century. These included John II of France defeated at the Battle of Poitiers, visiting on his way back to France and who was accompanied by Jean Froissart, who chronicled the event later. Froissart later returned to Eltham in 1395 to present Richard ll with a collection of his poems.

Eltham Palace (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Eltham Palace (c) Jane Risdon 2016

In 1385 Leo V the exiled King of Armenia came to seek support in regaining his throne from the Turks.

Eltham Palace (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Eltham Palace (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Richard’s clerk of works, the poet Geoffrey Chauncer, was mugged twice – in 1390 – on his way to the palace and lost £40 of official funds as well as his horse.

Henry IV received Manual Palaeologus, the Byzantine Emperor, at Eltham at Christmas 1400, where entertainment included a mime performed by 12 London aldermen and a parade with a jousting tournament on the outer court on New Year’s Day.

Eltham Palace (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Eltham Palace (c) Jane Risdon 2016

In 1416 Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor, discussed Church affairs there with Henry V (r.1413-22) and forged an alliance with him.

Eltham Palace (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Eltham Palace (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Prince Henry (later Henry VIII) spent much of his childhood at Eltham and in 1499 as a 9-year-old met the Dutch philosopher Erasmus, who he embarrassed by challenging him to write a poem. Within three days Erasmus produced a verse in praise of England, Henry VII and the princes Arthur and Henry.

Christmas Eve 1515 Cardinal Wolsey took the oath of office of Lord Chancellor in the chapel at Eltham.

Venetian suite Eltham Palace (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Venetian suite Eltham Palace (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Queen Elizabeth I (r.1558-1603) visited Eltham occasionally.

Eltham Palace (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Eltham Palace (c) Jane Risdon 2016

James I (r.1603-25) found the palace ‘farre in decay’ and subsequent repairs were undertaken.

Charles l (r.1625-49) was the last King to visit the palace.

Anglo-Saxon pottery has been found at Eltham, although little is known about any settlement until mentioned in the Doomsday Survey of 1086 when the manor of Eltham is recorded as being in the possession of Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, the half-brother of William the Conqueror (r.1066-87).

It changed hands several times until Bishop Anthony Bek acquired it from William de Vescy.

Venetian Suite (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Venetian Suite (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Initially a moated manor house, it was given to Edward II (r.1307-27) by Bishop Bek in 1305. Under Edward IV (r.1461-83) significant changes were made, especially additions to the great hall in the 1470s, which still stands today.  

The Great Hall (c) Jane Risdon 2016

The Great Hall (c) Jane Risdon 2016

It is very impressive inside the hall, which has wonderful wooden beams and I had visions of Tudor kings eating great banquets there.

Great Hall (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Great Hall (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Eltham Palace (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Eltham Palace (c) Jane Risdon 2016

At its peak the palace occupied some 1,000ft by 500ft at its widest point, far exceeding that of Hampton Court.

Great Hall (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Great Hall (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Eltham palace was eclipsed by Greenwich and Hampton Court palaces in the 16th century and declined in the early 17th century.

Amazingly for 200 years after the Civil Wars it was used as  farm.

Eltham Palace (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Eltham Palace (c) Jane Risdon 2016

The walk up to the palace took us from a cafe area where we paid our entry fees – the car park is close by which is convenient –  along a lovely open garden area on one side and a more laid out garden on the other.

Manin Entrance Hall (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Main Entrance Hall (c) Jane Risdon 2016

As we walked the palace suddenly came into view on our left hand side.

Palace (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Palace (c) Jane Risdon 2016

It is gorgeous, very impressive and magical.  

Right ahead of us we saw lovely brown and black beamed cottages.

Drive (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Drive (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Turning left we crossed Edward IV’s 15th century moat bridge with weeping willow in the foreground.  

The bridge once had a drawbridge at the rear end which was only discovered during repairs in 1912.

The Bridge Eltham Palace (c) Jane Risdon 2016

The Bridge Eltham Palace (c) Jane Risdon 2016

We saw Queen Isabella’s stone south moat wall (1315-16) in front of part of the great hall and what became the Courtauld wing.

Eltham Palace (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Eltham Palace (c) Jane Risdon 2016

 In the

1930s Stephen and Virginia (Ginie)

Courtauld were looking for a semi-rural property within easy reach of central London.

Eltham met their requirements – mine too, but sadly my bank account doesn’t  – and the  engaged architects Seely and Paget to build a house for them, adjoining the great hall, boasting an ultra-modern design, using the latest technology.

Electric Fires (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Electric Fires (c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

(c) Jane Risdon 2016

Leading designers and craftsmen  were employed to create a range of lavish interiors and outstanding gardens (imagine the wealth), providing the setting for their extensive collection of art and furniture with ample space for entertaining which they went in for on a fantastic scale from what I gather.

Piano Entertainment (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Piano Entertainment (c) Jane Risdon 2016

The moat Eltham Palace (c) Jane Risdon 2016

The Moat Eltham Palace (c) Jane Risdon 2016

The Courtaulds left Eltham in 1944 and the site was occupied by the Army educational unit until 1992. English Heritage took over in 1995, repairing and restoring the 1930s house and gardens.  

In 2015 the rooms of Ginie’s nephews, Peter and Paul Peirano, her walk-in wardrobe, and the basement rooms were opened to the public.

The wardrobe displayed some of her evening dresses and some furs.

The Furs (c) Jane Risdon 2016

The Furs (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Mrs Courtauld's Wardrobe (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Mrs Courtauld’s Wardrobe (c) Jane Risdon 2016

The basement was fascinating in that modern technology of the day was evident; all mod-cons as we say.

The home was full of labour-saving devices such as  one of the most advanced system of electricity in the world.

Concealed lighting (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Concealed lighting (c) Jane Risdon 2016

The Courtaulds varied lighting effects to enhance their new home, with down-lighters, spotlight  and concealed lighting.

Most rooms had electricity powered fires, servants’ bell pushes and synchronous clocks which were regulated by the incoming mains supply.

Wartime entertainment (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Wartime entertainment (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Basement Entertainment in the War (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Basement Entertainment in the War (c) Jane Risdon 2016

They had an innovative loudspeaker system which could broadcast records to rooms on the ground floor.

Marquetry (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Marquetry (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Basement (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Basement (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Telephone system (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Telephone system (c) Jane Risdon 2016

There was an internal automatic telephone exchange and a GPO payphone for the guests to use.

In the basement there was a centralised vacuum cleaner – the dust came down tubes from each room into a main cylinder in the basement and the kitchen contained two Jackson’s electric cookers and an electric Kelvinator refrigerator. – all rarely in use at the time.

Vacuum Cleaner system in basement (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Vacuum Cleaner system in basement (c) Jane Risdon 2016

They used electricity to heat the showers serving the squash courts changing room and a fire alarm system which could automatically call the fire brigade.

Gas powered the hot water central heating which fed pipes embedded in the ceilings.

In the entrance hall and great hall and bathrooms the heating was under the floor.

Marbled bathrooms (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Marbled bathrooms (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Bathroom bling (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Bathroom bling (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Entrance Hall (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Entrance Hall (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Eltham’s standard of design and services is unique for a British domestic building, and is comparable to that of a luxury hotel or ocean liner such as Cunard’s Queen Mary.

Bedrooms with phones (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Bedrooms with phones (c) Jane Risdon 2016

I think generally we all found the Palace a little disappointing.

There wasn’t as much Art Deco on show as we expected.

However, what was there was very interesting and worth seeing.

The Palace was very busy with visitors and so taking photos without including a complete stranger in them proved difficult.

Liner Luxury (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Liner Luxury (c) Jane Risdon 2016

The wooden marquetry on the doors and panels especially caught my attention. It was superb.

Dining Table and Chairs rediscovered (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Dining Table and Chairs rediscovered (c) Jane Risdon 2016

The dining table and chairs – designed by Malacrida – had been sold off years ago and were discovered  by a property store manager of Pinewood Studio while waiting to see the doctor.

He picked up a copy of a 1999 World of Interiors to pass the time and it featured an article on Eltham’s restoration.

He realised that the photo looked familiar and tore the page out and returned to Pinewood where he found the furniture in the store.

It had been modified over the years. He contacted English Heritage who subsequently purchased the furniture for Eltham.

Art Collection (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Art Collection (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Stephen Courtauld intended the house to provide a setting for his art collection.

In 1919 he endowed a scholarship in engraving at the British School of Rome, serving on its council from 1921 to 1947.

Art Deco (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Art Deco (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Main Entrance Lighting (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Main Entrance Hall Lighting (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Royalty and celebrities continued to grace the Courtauld’s home and they held large dinner parties, annual summer fetes with dance bands and fireworks, and during the war fitted the basement out as a dormitory  where they and their guests retreated during air raids.

Over 100 incendiary bombs fell on the estate during the Battle of Britain.

Gardens (c) Jane Risdon 2016

Gardens (c) Jane Risdon 2016

We enjoyed our visit to the Palace, but we didn’t get into the grounds due to lack of time.

It is a fascinating place, mainly because of the history and the technological innovations in use in the 1930s as far as we were concerned. 

If you have enjoyed learning  little about Eltham Palace and its history you  can discover more from English Heritage.

http://www.english-heritage.org.uk

Eltham Palace, Court Yard, Eltham, Greenwich, London SE9 5QE

Tel: +44 (0)20 8294 2548 

English Heritage is the custodian of over 400 historic monuments, buildings and sites with over 10 million visitors per year.

 

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28 Comments
  1. have definitely put this on my list of must visit places, thanks for a fascinating post

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am glad you enjoyed this and do feel free to look around at the other posts I have here. Various gardens, arboretums, villages, churches and cathedrals are featured. So have a wander about and if you do, let me know what you think. 🙂

      Like

  2. Definitely now on my list of places to one day visit. Thanks for an fascinating post

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am so glad you are moved to visit some day. Worth it. I love seeing such places and taking photos and for years kept them to myself, then when I began my author blog, I thought I could add the visits in now and again for a little light relief from going on about writing. 🙂

      Like

  3. Tina Jaray permalink

    Loved this – thanks Jane.
    Wonderful photos – I loved the beams in the Great Hall and I had an acquaintance once who had a similar vacuuming system with pipes leading out of her rooms into a main cylinder.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is a fab place. I wish I could have looked round with my brother and his partner on our own…every time I clicked someone got in the photo. It is an amazing place. Huge. Yes I am sure the vacuum cleaner system is nothing new these days. Glad you enjoyed it. Thanks so much. xx

      Like

  4. Reblogged this on Val Poore and commented:
    Jane Risdon tales us on a fascinating tour of Eltham Palace and grounds.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What a tour, Jane! You know so much about these places, it puts me to complete shame! I had no idea Eltham was in Greenwich at all! A fascinating place. Thank you so much for the guided tour!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I gen up on it all…I really am not an oracle! I am so glad you enjoyed this,do try and go if you can. Yes Greenwich! I had no idea either. 🙂

      Like

  6. jfredlee permalink

    Thanks for the tour, Jane. Loved it! I really enjoy these little outings you take us on. You really ought to speak with someone at the BBC or the Discovery Channel. I think thousands of people would find a documentary series built around your tours fascinating. I know I would. Tanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah you are such a darling. Thanks for your kind words. I do rein myself in a lot as I take many more photos than I show and lots of info is left out. I would love to do a series. On my travels with Janie Risdon lol…Chump Change is almost there….just in case you’d given up hope. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • jfredlee permalink

        No worries, Jane. I hadn’t given up hope at all on Chump Change at all. I know how busy you are, so, please, don’t stress over it. Besides, I’ve been working hard on its sequel — am about 110 pages (55,000 words) into the first draft and having a wonderful time with it. My PA has been reading it as I go along and she keeps telling mer that it’s my best work ever. (Then again, she has a vested interest in loving it…) Tickled that you’re enjpying Chump Change.

        Liked by 1 person

        • jfredlee permalink

          As usual, my apologies for the horrendous typing.

          Liked by 1 person

        • LOL yep I can see she wants to keep her job but if it is your best yet, then we are in for a treat. I know, I am getting tied up with all sorts and not able to concentrate on reading at night at the moment. I usually read every night but it is not working out. I am really enjoying it when I dip in and I MUST finish it. I love the characters and the situations they find themselves in. I recall ‘visiting’ the offices of a business in Northridge which was next to a porn film company and if we hadn’t been in a rush, just after the 1994 quake, I am sure we would’ve found an excuse to pop in ‘accidentally’ to see what they were up to. All part of life’s rich tapestry and no doubt educational too. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          • jfredlee permalink

            ROFLMAO!!! Yup been there, done that. At one point during the 80’s and 90’s the whole damn San Fernando Valley was one big porn shoot. I had a similar thing happen to me. I was producing a kids’ commercial for one of Sega’s video games, and we rented a suburban house in Northridge for the shoot. We didn’t know it, but a house either next door or across the street was “hosting” a porn shooot at the same time. Made for some interesting cross pollination, what with equipment & deliveries that went to the wrong locations. Interesting times.

            Liked by 1 person

            • jfredlee permalink

              Ironically, our SEGA videogame shoot was also in 1994 — just before the quake.

              Liked by 1 person

              • LOL we may have been shops that passed in the night. We saw out the riots, fires, floods, mud-slides and the earthquake back then…oh and tornadoes on tour across the mid West. Deep joy – just needed the plague of locusts….

                Like

            • LOL I can imagine the wrong delivery being signed for…er what’s this for? Where does the battery go? Once had a giggle in Amsterdam in a certain type of store a friend – who was tour managing a famous rock band at the time – wanted to buy them gifts and was in search of black and white cows (ornaments). We were nattering and not looking where we were going and followed her into a store with cows in the window. After a good look round she asked my husband to explain the black rubber diver’s suit with appendages and various other items. We almost got thrown out we were laughing so hard at all the ‘exhibits’ on display. Needless to say hubby hadn’t a clue what the suit was for….and I don’t swim! Yeah we lived in Burbank during the 80/90s – not far from Warner bros. And you are right about The Valley!!

              Like

  7. Gorgeous photos Jane and a really interesting blog piece – thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jo so glad you enjoyed this. I love wandering and finding out about places and I know you do too…happy days 🙂

      Like

  8. It looks a wonderful place, Jane, and your photos bring it to life! Thanks for sharing :-). I’ve added Eltham Palace to my list of places to visit (though I’ll need to live a very long life to see them all!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Janice, so pleased you enjoyed this. Yep, we all need longer lives. So glad you have added it to your list. If you go, do tell me about the grounds as we didn’t get to visit them, it was cold wet and everywhere was still a bit bleak (end of Autumn). Appreciate your visit and comments 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Mickmerrick permalink

    Jane,
    Thank you I enjoyed all the photos and your comments, I look forward to your future travels.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So happy you enjoyed this Mick. I love visiting places like this, so much history and so much architecture and beauty too. Do pop in whenever you wish. Most welcome. Thanks.

      Like

  10. So beautiful, Jane! And what a history, too! I can just imagine the royalty, the visitors, and so on. Fabulous! Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So pleased you enjoyed this Margot. It is an amazing place though there isn’t too much by way of artifacts from either era and we were a tad disappointed by that. Though of course, the history makes up for it in truck loads. Thanks for dropping in. Always welcome and appreciated. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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