It is highly likely that you will have seen Eltham Palace at some point on a TV show or in other media, as the breath-taking circular entrance hall with panelled walls is a standard in many shows set in the 1930s. And even though I had seen it pop videos and the Poirot TV show, it was even more spectacular in real life – as the photo on the left shows.
This spectacular circular room has a huge dome with around 700 glass circles that light up the room. The furniture and carpets are replicas, based on photos taken by a lifestyle magazine at the time the house was built which featured it.
This amazing house was built by the wealthy Stephen and Virginia Courtauld who wanted a house that felt it was in the countryside, but was close to central London. They had inherited money, but were involved in things like the famous Ealing Studios, and many philanthropy projects and activities.
The site was actually originally linked to royalty, and was where Henry VII and Henry VIII lived, but had been acquired even earlier. The property had become run down, and the only major part that had survived was the Great Hall. This was restored by the Courtaulds, although purists argue the restoration was more inspired by a Hollywood style interpretation that history. But either way it is an impressive huge hall.
The Courtaulds clearly lavished a lot of love (and money) into this house. There is a dramatic moat around the house, and the house was packed full of what was state of the art technology at the time, like internal phone system and a system that played music around the ground floor. Off the impressive circular entrance hall is a huge drawing room and a breath taking art deco dining room. Downstairs is also their respective sitting rooms and studies. Past this you enter the massive Grand Hall.
Upstairs are various bedrooms with different themes. In all rooms the furniture there are replicas based on the magazine photos and the inventory the Courtaulds had kept. You don’t get to see the servant quarters, and it took about 10 or 12 staff to run the house. You do get to see the lemur monkey room, which had free run of the house.
There are various other quirky rooms that give insight into their lifestyle. They had a room for flower arranging which used to store up to 100 or more vases as they in sited on having fresh flowers all over the house. They also had a pay phone, for the weekend guests to use as although they were wealthily the cost of calls at that time was high, and they did not want to cover it.
Unfortunately, you are not allowed to take photos on the house, so need to buy the guide book to have images of the inside.
Outside, you can stroll around the gardens and see the scale of the house.
The Courtaulds left the house towards the end of the Second World War, living for a short time in Scotland before moving to Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) where they had a farm called La Rochelle. Like so many grand houses, it had many uses. For a while for education of the Army, and some of the offices in the grounds were even a target of an IRA bomb.
English Heritage took over the house from 1995, and started to restoration back to how the house was when lived in by the Courtaulds.
There is a tea room (to be honest not that impressive) and a small gift shop. This is a very popular place for visitors, and has some limited openings as also very popular for filming and events.
I loved the place, and highly recommend a visit
Watch the video I made of the house and grounds:
See all the photos I took at Eltham Palace: click here
English Heritage site on Eltham Palace: click here