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NEWS

Review Visit to Eltham Palace

22nd February 2024




It was a cold and damp day for our outing but luckily the coach was warm and dry and there were hot drinks waiting for us as soon as we arrived.

 

Our party was divided into two groups and each had an engaging and informative guide.

 











We started in the great hall, which is part of the old half of the palace. Even though this has ancient history we were soon in the “company” of Stephen and Virginia Courtauld for whom this hall became a ballroom in the years of their occupancy.

 







Eltham Palace is dominated by the story of the Courtaulds who extended a medieval and Tudor palace to become a luxury Art Deco party home. Despite the fact that it has since been occupied by the Army, the house is in almost pristine condition and still feels like a setting for a Hollywood movie. 

 




Money was no object, funded as they were from the Courtauld family business. The best designers of the day, using the most expensive materials, created sumptuous rooms. Each room had its own story to tell, aided by motifs and scenes of high quality.

 







As we toured the many rooms on show (few being roped off) we got a feel of life at Eltham Palace and the couple who lived there. Stephen and Virginia did not have children but a wedding present of a lemur called Mah-Jongg, had the run of the house and its  own luxury quarters.  Mah-Jongg must have been an irritant to the socialite guests as he was bad tempered and likely to nip.

 




The hosts of the house were devoted to each other despite being polar opposites; Virginia was the party animal and Stephen an introvert. They were to enjoy Eltham Palace for just seven years as they were driven out during the war. The house is close to Greenwich and therefore was vulnerable to stray bombs which fell often and nearby.

 





It's breath-taking to think that the house was abandoned so soon after it’s lavish creation. However, an atmosphere of a family in residence can still be sensed as British Heritage has artfully furnished and recreated the rooms as they might have been. 

 






It was a shame that we weren’t able to enjoy the gardens due to the rain but the tour was unhurried and absorbing – and inside. There was also a café for a good lunch and the usual temptations of a gift shop.

 

For anyone wanting a full history of Eltham Palace the website is here:

 

For me, the main event was the glamour and the intriguing story of the lives of the Courtaulds which held my attention and lingered long after. Cocktail anyone?

 

 

 

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