ANOTHER medieval palace!

You can never get too many medieval palaces in your life, that’s what I say. So after visiting the Tower of London, I felt it was time for another day out so off I went, to the little known Eltham Palace and Gardens.

The estate at Eltham was recorded in the Domesday Book in 1086 and the building was originally a manor house with a moat which Edward II bought in 1305, from which point it was used by royalty up until the 17th century. It was then a farm (I know, right?!) for 200 years until a super rich family bought it and added a distinct funky 1930’s Art Deco flavour to it. It was then an education centre for a while until English Heritage took it over in 1995.

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You approach the entrance over a moat, built in the 14th century during Richard II’s time….

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…and enter with the original medieval Great Hall in front of you and the 1930s addition to your left.

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Through the arches on the left, you enter the main entrance hall, with its highly fashionable decor.

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The marquetry panels on the wall opposite show a Roman centurion on the left and a Viking on the right. It is estimated that this is the first example of Swedish interior design in England.

There are staircases leading off either side of these panels to quite extensive rooms, such as this one, known as Ginie’s boudoir.

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Ginie Courtauld married into the Courtauld family, who made their fortune from rayon (a semi-synthetic material then known as art silk), hence they lived in a medieval palace! And had bathrooms tiled in gold!

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Speaking of medieval, let’s hurry around the rest of the house to the Great Hall.

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I have so far neglected to mention that, amongst other kings, Henry VIII spent much of his childhood here. This great hall, able to hold 2000 people, was the scene of many great feasts. The poet, Geoffrey Chaucer also spent time here when he was the clerk of works to Richard II.

The hammerbeam roof you can see is the third largest in the country, after Westminster Abbey and Hampton Court Palace.

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The gallery area at the back was built in the 1930s and suffered some damage when a bomb was dropped on the roof during WWII. The scorch marks are still visible on the handrail and floor of the gallery.

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After this, I headed outside to look around the huge gardens.

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Everywhere, there are hints at former medieval buildings no longer standing.

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There are also interesting little passageways that made me wonder what they had originally led to.

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I loved the gardens. Had I not been dying to get home because I was knackered from walking around for hours, I would’ve sat in some quiet corner of the garden and read my book until closing time. Actually, I say ‘some quiet corner’ as though it were teaming with visitors. It was a surprisingly uncrowded place. For the rich royal history and the fantastic example of Art Deco interior design, I had expected to be fighting crowds the whole way round.

I think that’s part of the magic of the place. You go down ordinary roads with houses on either side to get to it. You walk over the moat with no-one else around and you ‘discover’ this centuries old palace.

It’s like a voyage of discovery that you know tons of people have already done but you can pretend you’re the first one.

I rounded off the day by buying an Eltham Palace teatowel then falling asleep on the train home.

2 responses to this post.

  1. I need to say “knackered” more.

    Reply

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