Tucked away in leafy Greenwich, Eltham Palace is one of London’s little-known treasures; an intriguing place where medieval gothic seamlessly merges with the splendour of Art-Deco design.
- Learn about the lives of the Courtaulds, the intrepid 1930s millionaires who rescued Eltham Palace from decline and turned it into an Art-Deco masterpiece.
- Admire the medieval Great Hall, complete with a minstrels’ gallery and the original hammer-beam roof that was built for Edward IV in the 1470s.
- Explore the nineteen acres of beautifully landscaped gardens in spring in early summer to see them at their best, filled with all kinds of flowers, including 60,000 tulips.
What to see and do
English Heritage tickets to Eltham Palace include access to the following areas, and there is no shortage of things to see and do:
The Art-Deco reception room
Entrance to Eltham Palace is over a cobbled bridge over the moat – what could be more suitable for a castle! – and then via a courtyard with a small door in the far corner.
This modest door leads to the room that made the Eltham Palace famous in the 20th-century – an enormous art-deco reception room; a curved space with beautiful murals and authentic 1930s furniture. It looks like a film-set, and, in fact, Eltham Palace has appeared in the film ‘The Crown’.
Virginia’s bathroom in the Art Deco House
The Courtaulds spared no expense in building their Art Deco masterpiece Eltham Palace. Childless (apart from their adorable pet lemur, Mah-jong) and indulgent; the couple revelled in lavishing their taste for ostentatious elegance at every turn.
Clad ceiling to floor in onyx, black marble and gold mosaic tiles, Virginia’s bathroom is an oasis of luxury and was fitted with underfloor heating, very rare at the time. Gold plated taps complete the decadent decor.
The dining room
The Courtauld’s opulent dining room was ideally suited to showcase their extensive art collection, which included several Old Masters in addition to contemporary works. The spacious room was used to entertain their rich and famous friends; with a guest list that included Queen Mary, Stravinsky, Malcolm Sargent and Gracie Fields.
Watch a film about the family
A room has been set aside for an informative and interesting film about the Courtaulds.
Take a tour of the gardens
Keen gardeners, the Courtaulds designed many garden features, such as a rock garden, traditional rose gardens and a selection of garden ‘rooms’, which are typical examples of the Arts and Crafts aesthetic of the Edwardian era. Look out for green parrakeets which can be spotted around the gardens.
There are two cafes at Eltham Palace. One is a lovely glass café, like a greenhouse. The outside tables are surrounded by lavender, and it’s a charming place to enjoy a cup of tea. Choose from a good variety of hot and cold food. There is also another smaller cafe.
Did you know: (3 interesting facts!)
1. Eltham Palace was once an important royal palace and was the childhood home of Henry VIII. Monarchs used it as a hunting lodge from the 14th to the 16th centuries.
2. The architecture of the house was designed by Seeley and Paget who were commissioned by the Courtaulds to incorporate the Great Hall into the building.
3. Many films have used Eltham Palace as a location, including ‘I Capture the Castle’, ‘Brideshead Revisited’ and ‘Revolver’.
- 1086 – The manor of Eltham is first recorded as belonging to Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, and the half-brother of William the Conqueror.
- 1295 – Anthony Bek, the Bishop of Durham, bought Eltham Manor. He is believed to have rebuilt the manor house and a defensive outside wall of stone and brick around the parameters of the moat.
- 1305 – Bek gave the manor to the future Edward II.
- 1311 – Eltham became one of Edward II’s royal palaces after Bek’s death.
- 1400 – Henry IV entertains Emperor Manuel II Palaeologus over Christmas.
- 1475–80 – Edward IV built the surviving Great Hall.
- The 1490s – The young Henry VIII spent his childhood at Eltham.
- 1518–28 – A new chapel was built for Henry VIII.
- 1648 – Cromwell’s troops ransacked Eltham palace and the royal park.
- 1828 – Sir Robert Smirke repaired the Great Hall.
- 1933 – Stephen and Virginia Courtauld leased the palace site.
- 1936 – The Courtaulds moved into their completed new home.
- 1940 – The Great Hall suffered damage during the Blitz in the Second World War.
- 1945 – Eltham is used as a base for the Royal Army Educational Corps.
- 1975 – The Royal Parks Training School used Eltham to train apprentice gardeners.
- 1995 – English Heritage took over the management of the house.
Facilities and accessibility
Parking is free to members of English Heritage. Charges apply to non-members, but there is a large car park available for visitors.
Assistance dogs are welcome.
There are many exhibitions and special events throughout the year. Audio tours with multi-media guides are available, and there is a child-friendly option.
Eltham Palace has cloakrooms where visitors can leave their bags in the lockers and hang up coats so they can enjoy their visit in comfort.
Eltham Palace is exceptionally family-friendly. Pushchairs are allowed inside the building, and the cafe has highchairs and child-sized portions. There is an adventure playground, and Eltham Palace itself features child-friendly exhibits and fun activities. There is also an interactive dressing-up box featuring clothes from different eras.
Eltham Palace is wheelchair accessible, and there are toilets with disabled access and a baby-changing facility.