Posts Tagged ‘Eltham Palace’

A couple of days ago I was going to visit a friend for the first time this year. As I waited for the bus in Eltham I noticed a seat which hadn’t been there before. It was dedicated to John of Eltham. It wasn’t a new seat so I imagine it had been moved there from another location during the changes that were made to the High Street layout during the pandemic. Anyway I wondered who John of Eltham was as I hadn’t come across him before.

John of Eltham

John of Eltham, Earl of Cornwall was born at Eltham Palace in August 1316, the second son of King Edward II. His childhood was not a happy one as his father and mother (Isabella of France) were at war with each other, Isabella having allied herself with rebels trying to overthrow the King. In 1326 she invaded England from France and King Edward was captured and forced to abdicate in favour of their eldest son, also Edward, who became King Edward III. Despite his young age, John became a highly trusted advisor to his elder brother and occupied a number of important posts including ‘Guardian of the realm’ deputising for the King when he was away at war. Few details are known about John’s life, although records show a number of attempted, but ultimately abortive diplomatic marriages. He was a commander of the army at the battle of Halidon Hill, defeating the Scots and later in south west Scotland, supporting Edward Balliol’s claim to the Scottish throne. In some Scottish histories he is remembered as the man who commanded that Lesmahagow Abbey be burnt down, even though it was full of people. It is unclear whether this was actually true or not. In some versions of this story, John’s brother, King Edward was so enraged at this barbarous act that he killed John himself in fury. In fact John died at Perth in September 1336, aged 20, probably of a fever. He was buried with full honours in Westminster Abbey.

John of Eltham’s tomb in Westminster Abbey

Eltham Palace has a wide range of Art Deco furnishings and artworks.

The Palace shows that it was at the forefront of modern innovation as it has a built-in vacuum cleaning system. There were outlets in every room where the cleaner would plug in a hose and a centralised collection system in the basement.

In the past couple of years, English Heritage has opened some of the rooms in the basement which were used by the Courtaulds as a bomb-shelter during WWII. These include a dark room for developing photographs and a billiard room.

 

Further details of visiting can be found at http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/eltham-palace-and-gardens/

The only surviving part of the Medieval Palace is the Great Hall, built by King Edward IV between 1475 and 1480. By the time the Courtaulds arrived in the 1930s it was being used as a barn and desperately in need of repair

They set about restoring it and used it as a large dining room and ballroom.

Today it is used as a wedding venue when the Palace is not open to the public.

When the Courtaulds came to Eltham they brought their pet Ring-tailed Lemur with them. Called Mah-Jong, he was most often just referred to as ‘Jongy’. It was a time of unusual pets. Unity Mitford had a snake called Enid and was reputed to have brought her pet rat to a debutant ball.

Jongy had accompanied them on a trip on the couple’s boat from Cape Town to Cairo. It was reported that Jongy had his own special deckchair. It is also reported that he bit a dinner guest so bad that it took three months for the man to recover.

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At Eltham Palace, Jongy had his own quarters built on the first floor. It was centrally heated and decorated with scenes from the rainforest. However, he often had the run of the house and there are reports of guests at dinner being nipped on their ankles during the meal.

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Mah-jong died in 1938 at Eltham. Images of him can be found within the decoration within the house.

Eltham Palace (10): Bedrooms

Posted: May 11, 2018 in History, London, UK
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Each of the Bedrooms at Eltham Palace is individually designed and decorated.

The Pear Bedroom, so called because all the furnishings are made from Pearwood.

The Venetian Suite

Virginia Courtauld’s suite themed on a classical temple

My personal favourite bedroom in the house. I love the wall prints and the wooden furnishings plus that hidden door.

Eltham Palace (9): Dining Room

Posted: April 27, 2018 in History, London, UK
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On the opposite side of the entrance hall from the drawing room is the Dining Room. It is the most strikingly art deco room in the whole house.

 

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The Italian themed drawing room is entered directly from the entrance hall.

It is a lovely spacious room and was probably a guests first impression of the house when they arrived.

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As you enter from the gardens through the entrance hall you are immediately struck by the beauty of the amazing reception room that lies beyond. With corridors and stairways leading off of it this room acts as a central focal point for the whole house.

 

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This is perhaps my favourite room in the house with its wonderful simplicity and amazing woodwork

 

Eltham Palace is approached from the town centre across a bridge which spans the moat and leads you into the inner garden which runs alongside the northern wing into the area which would have formed the courtyard of the Medieval Palace.

 

The gardens which incorporate the remains of the medieval palace along with the house are a great place to walk in the summer and are a great place for butterflies and dragonflies. They also give some great views of the House.

At one point in the garden, there is a great vista looking north towards central London.

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The Courtaulds moved into their new house in 1933 and stayed there until  May 1944 when they finally decided to move away from London because of the bombing. The house was leased to the Royal Army Educational Corps as a base from which it ran army schools overseas and administered examinations. The RAEC remained at Eltham until 1992.

RAEC at Eltham in the 1960s

The house passed to the Ministry of Works. A programme of repairs was carried out and it was opened to the public with the focus on the medieval remains on the site. English Heritage acquired responsibility for the Great Hall in 1984 and for the whole site in 1995 and set about a major refurbishment plan for the 20th century part of the property, the first stage of which took 5 years. A further set of rooms were opened to the public in 2013 following refurbishment.

Restoring the house to the 1930s look during the 1995-9 restoration