Eltham Palace
Eltham Palace is a large house in Eltham
Eltham, London
-Parks and open spaces:There is a large variety of open green space in Eltham, in the form of parkland, fields and woodland.*Avery Hill Park is large, open parkland, situated to the east of Eltham. It is most notable for its Winter Garden, a hothouse containing tropical trees and plants from around...

, within the London Borough of Greenwich
London Borough of Greenwich
The London Borough of Greenwich is an Inner London borough in south-east London, England. Taking its name from the historic town of Greenwich, the present borough was formed in 1965 by the amalgamation of the former area of the Metropolitan Borough of Greenwich with part of the Metropolitan...

, South East London
South East (London sub region)
The South East is a sub-region of the London Plan corresponding to the London Boroughs of Bexley, Bromley, Greenwich, Lewisham and Southwark. The sub region was established in 2008. The south east has a population of 1,300,000 and is the location of 500,000 jobs...

, England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

. It is an unoccupied royal residence and owned by the Crown Estate. In 1995 its management was handed over to English Heritage
English Heritage
English Heritage . is an executive non-departmental public body of the British Government sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport...

 which restored the building in 1999 and opened it to the public. It has been said the internally Art Deco
Art Deco
Art deco , or deco, is an eclectic artistic and design style that began in Paris in the 1920s and flourished internationally throughout the 1930s, into the World War II era. The style influenced all areas of design, including architecture and interior design, industrial design, fashion and...

 house is a "masterpiece of modern design".

History (1300-1900)

The original palace was given to Edward II
Edward II of England
Edward II , called Edward of Caernarfon, was King of England from 1307 until he was deposed by his wife Isabella in January 1327. He was the sixth Plantagenet king, in a line that began with the reign of Henry II...

 in 1305 by the Bishop of Durham, Anthony Bek, and used as a royal residence from the 14th to the 16th century. According to one account the incident which inspired Edward III
Edward III of England
Edward III was King of England from 1327 until his death and is noted for his military success. Restoring royal authority after the disastrous reign of his father, Edward II, Edward III went on to transform the Kingdom of England into one of the most formidable military powers in Europe...

's foundation of the Order of the Garter
Order of the Garter
The Most Noble Order of the Garter, founded in 1348, is the highest order of chivalry, or knighthood, existing in England. The order is dedicated to the image and arms of St...

 took place here. As the favourite palace of Henry IV
Henry IV of England
Henry IV was King of England and Lord of Ireland . He was the ninth King of England of the House of Plantagenet and also asserted his grandfather's claim to the title King of France. He was born at Bolingbroke Castle in Lincolnshire, hence his other name, Henry Bolingbroke...

 it played host to Manuel II Palaiologos
Manuel II Palaiologos
Manuel II Palaiologos or Palaeologus was Byzantine Emperor from 1391 to 1425.-Life:...

, the only Byzantine emperor ever to visit England, from December 1400 to January 1401, with a joust
Jousting is a martial game or hastilude between two knights mounted on horses and using lances, often as part of a tournament.Jousting emerged in the High Middle Ages based on the military use of the lance by heavy cavalry. The first camels tournament was staged in 1066, but jousting itself did not...

 being given in his honour. There is still a jousting tilt yard. Edward IV
Edward IV of England
Edward IV was King of England from 4 March 1461 until 3 October 1470, and again from 11 April 1471 until his death. He was the first Yorkist King of England...

 built a Great Hall
Great hall
A great hall is the main room of a royal palace, nobleman's castle or a large manor house in the Middle Ages, and in the country houses of the 16th and early 17th centuries. At that time the word great simply meant big, and had not acquired its modern connotations of excellence...

 in the 1470s, a young Henry VIII back when he was known as Prince Henry
Henry VIII of England
Henry VIII was King of England from 21 April 1509 until his death. He was Lord, and later King, of Ireland, as well as continuing the nominal claim by the English monarchs to the Kingdom of France...

 also grew up here; it was here that he met and impressed the scholar Erasmus in 1499 introduced by Thomas More
Thomas More
Sir Thomas More , also known by Catholics as Saint Thomas More, was an English lawyer, social philosopher, author, statesman and noted Renaissance humanist. He was an important councillor to Henry VIII of England and, for three years toward the end of his life, Lord Chancellor...

. Erasmus described the occasion: “I had been carried off by Thomas More, who had come to pay me a visit on an estate of Mountjoy’s (the house of Lord Mountjoy near Greenwich) where I was staying, to take a walk by way of diversion as far as the nearest town (Eltham). For there all the royal children were being educated, Arthur alone excepted, the eldest son. When we came to the hall, all the retinue was assembled; not only that of the palace, but Mountjoy’s as well. In the midst stood Henry, aged nine, already with certain royal demeanour; I mean a dignity of mind combined with a remarkable courtesy…. More with his companion Arnold saluted Henry (the present King of England) and presented to him something in writing. I, who was expecting nothing of the sort, had nothing to offer; but I promised that somehow, at some other time, I would show my duty towards him. At the time I was slightly indignant with More for having given me no warning, especially because the boy, during dinner, sent me a note inviting something from my pen. I went home, and though the Muses, from whom I had lived apart so long, were unwilling, I finished a poem in three days.”

Tudor dynasty
The Tudor dynasty or House of Tudor was a European royal house of Welsh origin that ruled the Kingdom of England and its realms, including the Lordship of Ireland, later the Kingdom of Ireland, from 1485 until 1603. Its first monarch was Henry Tudor, a descendant through his mother of a legitimised...

 courts often used the palace for their Christmas celebrations. With the grand rebuilding of Greenwich Palace, which was more easily reached by river, Eltham was less frequented, save for the hunting in its enclosed parks, easily reached from Greenwich, "as well enjoyed, the Court lying at Greenwiche, as if it were at this house it self". The deer remained plentiful in the Great Park, of 596 acres (2.4 km²), the Little, or Middle Park, of 333 acres (1.3 km²), and the Home Park, or Lee Park, of 336 acres (1.4 km²). In the 1630s, by which time the palace was no longer used by the royal family, Sir Anthony van Dyck
Anthony van Dyck
Sir Anthony van Dyck was a Flemish Baroque artist who became the leading court painter in England. He is most famous for his portraits of Charles I of England and his family and court, painted with a relaxed elegance that was to be the dominant influence on English portrait-painting for the next...

 was given the use of a suite of rooms as a country retreat. During the English Civil War
English Civil War
The English Civil War was a series of armed conflicts and political machinations between Parliamentarians and Royalists...

, the parks were denuded of trees and deer. John Evelyn
John Evelyn
John Evelyn was an English writer, gardener and diarist.Evelyn's diaries or Memoirs are largely contemporaneous with those of the other noted diarist of the time, Samuel Pepys, and cast considerable light on the art, culture and politics of the time John Evelyn (31 October 1620 – 27 February...

 saw it 22 April 1656: "Went to see his Majesty's house at Eltham; both the palace and chapel in miserable ruins, the noble wood and park destroyed by Rich the rebel
Nathaniel Rich (soldier)
Colonel Nathaniel Rich sided with Parliament in the English Civil War. He was a colonel in Oliver Cromwell's New Model Army.-Life:...

". The palace never recovered. Eltham was bestowed by Charles II on John Shaw
Best-Shaw Baronets
The Shaw, later Best-Shaw Baronetcy, of Eltham in the County of Kent, is a title in the Baronetage of England. It was created on 15 April 1665 for Sir John Shaw, Commissioner of the Customs 1660-62 and Member of Parliament for Lyme Regis 1661-79....

 and—in its ruinous condition, reduced to Edward IV's Great Hall, the former buttery
Buttery (shop)
In the Middle Ages, a buttery was a storeroom for liquor, the name being derived from the Latin and French words for bottle or, to put the word into its simpler form, a butt, that is, a cask. A butler, before he became able to take charge of the ewery, pantry, cellar, and the staff, would be in...

, called "Court House", a bridge across the moat and some walling—remained with Shaw's descendants as late as 1893.

The current house was built in the 1930s on the site of the original, and incorporates its Great Hall, which boasts the third-largest hammerbeam roof
Hammerbeam roof
Hammerbeam roof, in architecture, is the name given to an open timber roof, typical of English Gothic architecture, using short beams projecting from the wall.- Design :...

 in England. Fragments of the walls of other buildings remain visible around the gardens, and the 15th century bridge still crosses the moat. A little known fact about Eltham Palace is the reputed existence of at least three escape tunnels, which emerge in various parts of Eltham. One used to exit in the garden of the vicarage, which was adjacent to Eltham Baths (now demolished), and another exits in Avery Hill Park. This can be found by entering the park from the Southend Crescent gate, next to the church, and walking about 40 yards (36.6 m). On your left, you will see the remains of a brick construction. The third tunnel exits in the grounds of a former farm, just up the road from the palace.

Eltham Palace today (1930s-present)

In 1933, Stephen Courtauld
Stephen Courtauld
Sir Stephen Lewis Courtauld, MC was a member of the wealthy English Courtauld textile family...

 and his wife Virginia Courtauld (née Peirano) acquired the lease of the palace site and restored the Great Hall (adding a minstrels' gallery to it) while building an elaborate home, internally in the Art Deco style. The dramatic Entrance Hall was created by the Swedish designer
Scandinavian Design
Scandinavian design emerged in the 1950s in the three Scandinavian countries , as well as Finland. It is a design movement characterized by simple designs, minimalism, functionality, and low-cost mass production....

 Rolf Engströmer. Light floods in from a spectacular glazed dome, highlighting blackbean veneer and figurative marquetry.

Stephen was the younger brother of industrialist and art collector Samuel Courtauld
Samuel Courtauld (art collector)
Samuel Courtauld son of Sydney Courtauld and Sarah Lucy Sharpe was an English industrialist who is best remembered as an art collector...

, founder of the Courtauld Institute of Art
Courtauld Institute of Art
The Courtauld Institute of Art is a self-governing college of the University of London specialising in the study of the history of art. The Courtauld is one of the premier centres for the teaching of art history in the world; it was the only History of Art department in the UK to be awarded a top...

 (his study in the new house features a statuette version of The Sentry, from a Manchester war memorial, by Charles Sargeant Jagger
Charles Sargeant Jagger
Charles Sargeant Jagger MC was a British sculptor who, following active service in the First World War, sculpted many works on the theme of war...

, who was - like Stephen - a member of the Artists' Rifles
Artists' Rifles
The Artists Rifles is a volunteer regiment of the British Army. Raised in London in 1859 as a volunteer light infantry unit, the regiment saw active service during the Boer Wars and World War I, earning a number of battle honours; however, it did not serve outside of Britain during World War II, as...


The Courtaulds' pet lemur
Lemurs are a clade of strepsirrhine primates endemic to the island of Madagascar. They are named after the lemures of Roman mythology due to the ghostly vocalizations, reflective eyes, and the nocturnal habits of some species...

 had a special room on the upper floor of the house which had a hatch to the downstairs flower room; he had the run of the house. The Courtaulds remained at Eltham until 1944 (during which time Stephen firewatched from the Great Hall roof, with the palace near the docks at Woolwich
Woolwich is a district in south London, England, located in the London Borough of Greenwich. The area is identified in the London Plan as one of 35 major centres in Greater London.Woolwich formed part of Kent until 1889 when the County of London was created...

, a prime bombing target - in September 1940, the roof of the Great Hall was badly damaged by a bomb). In 1944 they moved to Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

 then to Southern Rhodesia
Zimbabwe is a landlocked country located in the southern part of the African continent, between the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers. It is bordered by South Africa to the south, Botswana to the southwest, Zambia and a tip of Namibia to the northwest and Mozambique to the east. Zimbabwe has three...

, giving the palace to the Royal Army Educational Corps
Royal Army Educational Corps
The Royal Army Educational Corps was a corps of the British Army tasked with educating and instructing personnel in a diverse range of skills...

 in March 1945; the corps remained there until 1992.

In 1995 English Heritage
English Heritage
English Heritage . is an executive non-departmental public body of the British Government sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport...

 assumed management of the palace, and in 1999 completed major repairs and restorations of the interiors and gardens.

The palace and its garden are open to the public and can be hired for weddings and other functions. Public transport is available at the nearby Mottingham railway station
Mottingham railway station
Mottingham railway station is a suburban railway station situated on Court Road between Eltham and Mottingham, in the London Borough of Greenwich, south-east London. The station is located in Travelcard Zone 4, between Lee and New Eltham. The station, and all trains serving it, is operated by...

 or Eltham railway station
Eltham railway station
Eltham railway station is a railway station in Eltham, in the London Borough of Greenwich and on the Bexleyheath Line. The station and all trains serving it, are operated by Southeastern...

, both a short walk from the palace, and there is free parking on site. There are also a café and gift shop.


Many films and television programmes have been filmed at Eltham Palace, including:
  • Bright Young Things
    Bright Young Things
    Bright Young Things is a 2003 British drama film written and directed by Stephen Fry. The screenplay, based on the 1930 novel Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh, provides satirical social commentary about the Bright Young People: young and carefree London aristocrats and bohemians, as well as society in...

  • I Capture the Castle
    I Capture the Castle
    I Capture the Castle is Dodie Smith's first novel, written in the 1940s during a sojourn in America. Smith was already an established playwright and later became famous for authoring the children's classic The Hundred and One Dalmatians....

  • High Heels and Low Lifes
    High Heels and Low Lifes
    High Heels and Low Lifes is a 2001 action comedy-drama film starring Minnie Driver, Mary McCormack, Kevin McNally, Mark Williams, Danny Dyer and Michael Gambon. It was directed by Mel Smith and written by Kim Fuller and Georgia Pritchett...

  • The Gathering Storm
    The Gathering Storm (2002 film)
    The Gathering Storm is a BBC–HBO co-produced television biographical film about Winston Churchill in the years just prior to World War II...

  • Home Front
    Homefront (TV series)
    Homefront was an interior design "makeover" TV show airing on the BBC, on par with American television's This Old House and Martha Stewart...

  • Any Questions
  • The History of Romantic Love
  • This Morning
    This Morning (TV series)
    This Morning is a British daytime television programme broadcast on ITV. As of September 2011, its main presenters are Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby, and Ruth Langsford and Eamonn Holmes, with various other presenters standing in for illness or contributing to sections of the programme.The...

  • Antiques Roadshow
    Antiques Roadshow
    Antiques Roadshow is a British television show in which antiques appraisers travel to various regions of the United Kingdom to appraise antiques brought in by local people. It has been running since 1979...

  • The Truth
    The Truth (2006 film)
    The Truth is a darkly comic murder-mystery satirising new age therapy. It was directed by George Milton, co-written by Milton and Mark Tilton and produced by Julie-anne Edwards...

  • The 200 Year House
  • Brideshead Revisited
    Brideshead Revisited (film)
    Brideshead Revisited is a 2008 British drama film directed by Julian Jarrold. The screenplay by Jeremy Brock and Andrew Davies is based on the 1945 novel of the same name by Evelyn Waugh, which previously had been adapted in 1981 as an eleven-episode television serial.-Plot:Although he aspires to...

  • Hustle
    Hustle (TV series)
    Hustle is a British television drama series made by Kudos Film and Television for BBC One in the United Kingdom. Created by Tony Jordan and first broadcast in 2004, the series follows a group of con artists who specialise in "long cons" – extended deceptions which require greater commitment, but...

  • Gucci by Gucci
    The House of Gucci, better known simply as Gucci , is an Italian fashion and leather goods label, part of the Gucci Group, which is owned by French company PPR...

    perfume commercial featuring James Franco
    James Franco
    James Edward Franco is an American actor, film director, producer, screenwriter, author, painter, performance artist and instructor at New York University. He left college in order to pursue acting and started off his career by making guest appearances on television series in the 1990s...

  • Parachute
    Parachute (song)
    "Parachute" is a song by American recording artist Ingrid Michaelson. It was co-written with Marshall Altman & Cheryl Cole and was later recorded by British artist Cheryl Cole on Cole's debut studio album 3 Words . The song was released on 11 March 2010 as the album's third and final single...

    , 2010 music video by Cheryl Cole
    Cheryl Cole
    Cheryl Ann Cole is an English pop and R&B recording artist, songwriter, dancer, actress and model. She rose to fame in late 2002 when she auditioned for the reality television show Popstars: The Rivals on ITV. The programme announced that Cole had won a place as a member of the girl group, Girls...

  • Fry and Laurie: Reunited
  • Revolver
  • Shake It Out
    Shake It Out
    "Shake It Out" is a song by English indie rock band Florence and the Machine released as the first official single from their second studio album Ceremonials . It was written by Florence Welch and Paul Epworth, while production was handled by Epworth. The song was digitally released in Australia on...

    , 2011 music video by Florence and the Machine
    Florence and the Machine
    Florence and the Machine is the recording name of English musician Florence Welch and a collaboration of other artists who provide music for her voice. Florence and the Machine's sound has been described as a combination of various genres, including rock and soul...


Eltham Palace is listed on English Heritage
English Heritage
English Heritage . is an executive non-departmental public body of the British Government sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport...

's list of "most haunted
Haunted house
A haunted house is a house or other building often perceived as being inhabited by disembodied spirits of the deceased who may have been former residents or were familiar with the property...

places." The ghost of a former staff member is said to have given tours of the palace when the palace should have been empty.

External links

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