Eltham Palace is best known today for its sumptuous art deco interiors created in the 1930s - 1940s when Stephen and Virginia Courthauld resided there. The house however has an amazing history, from medieval manor house and Tudor royal palace to the Courtaulds, which is covered my original blog post.
Last month I made a long overdue return visit to as this year they have opened five more rooms and this blog is going to focus on its art deco interiors, although at the time this style would have been referred to Moderne, as the term art deco wasn't coined until 1960s. If you think the Entrance Hall looks amazing wait till you see the bathroom. Warning there are rather a lot of photos.
The Dining Room is in a striking, Moderne style and decorated with elegant geometrical patterns. The room was designed by Peter Malacrida, who was a personal friend of the Courtauld family. The table and chairs with pink leather upholstery are reproductions based on photographs. In 2000, the original furniture was discovered in Pinewood Studios and have subsequently been purchased by English Heritage and are currently in store.
The central section of the ceiling is covered in aluminium leaf with built in concealed lighting which creates a shimmering effect.
The remarkable black laquer doors features silver animals and birds from London Zoo drawn by Narini.
The fireplace with its original electric fire has a black marble surround decorated with a Greek key pattern.
The Entrance Hall certainly has the wow factor. With its curving sides it gives the feel of being on an ocean liner. It was designed by the Swedish architect Rolf Engstromer. Standing guard at the main entrance are a Roman soldier (left) and a Viking (right). The blackbean veneer marquetry panelling, by Jerk Werkmaster, also depict some of the Courtauld's favourite places in Italy and Scandinavia, reflecting their love of travel. A circular rug with its bold geometric design is a replica of the one designed by Marion Dorn.
The room may appear familar to you as film location in many period dramas, including the Agatha Christie's Poirot's Three Act Tragedy when David Suchet as Poirot descends the staircase into the Entrance Hall and says "This is a spot most beautiful".
The glass domed roof was specially commissioned at Stephen Courthauld's request and enables light to flood into the room.
Virginia's boudoir, with sycamore panelled walls, was also designed by Peter Malacrida. The sofa with its Italian trapunto quilted cushions looks so inviting and wouldn't look out of place in my home (if only). Framed by the book shelves and side tables it's an early example of built in furniture.
A leather map depicts Eltham Palace and its surrounding area. This draws on the tradition in the 1600 - 1700s for landowners to display maps of their estates. At the centre of the map is Eltham Palace. the wavy white lines at the top depict the River Thames at Greenwich. To the right there is a concealed interconnecting door into Stephen's library and above that an electric clock built into the map.
The library also designed by Malacrida was designed to accomodate Stephen's books and artwork. The mahogany panelled walls incorporate shutters which could be pulled across to protect his paintings from light. To the left of the replica walnut desk is a box which hid a telephone, as Stephen disliked using one.
Very poigantly directly opposite Stephen's desk is The Sentry, a smaller copy of Charles Sargeant Jagger's statue in Manchester. Jagger and Stephen had both served in the Artists' Rifles during World War One and both were awarded the Military Cross and must have been a daily reminder of the horror of warfare.
Mah - Jongg's Quarters
Going upstairs don't forget to look out for Mah - Jongg's quarters. Pronounced Jonny, he was Virginia's ring tailed lemur, who was purchased from Harrods pet department. He had his own sleeping quarters which were centrally heated. On the walls were painted a Madagascan forest scene, by Gertrude Whinfield, to make him feel at home!
Mar - Jongg makes a few other apprearances around the house, including the billiards room in the basement. Behind the full sized billards table is a mural of Renaissance Italy and features Mar - Jongg in the panel right of the doorway. I found the basement area fascinating as it also houses a built in vacuum cleaner, dark room and war time bunker.
Virginia's bedroom has gracefully curving maple wood lined walls with sycamore veneer pilasters and marquetry.
A reproduction electric fire and marble mantlepiece are the main focal points of the seating area.
The lavish bathroom was designed by Malacridawas is one of the most impressive rooms of the house. Above the bath is a statue of the goddess Psyche sits within a gold mosaic niche.
I'm going to finish my blog post here, but I've only covered a little bit of what you can see at Eltham Palace as there are many more rooms to explore including the magnificent Great Hall and the delightful gardens which include a moat. So if you like what you've seen then add Eltham Palace to your To Do List and go as it really is one of the hidden gems of London.
If you enjoyed this you might like to read my other blog about Eltham Palace.
Address: Eltham Palace, Court Yard, Eltham, Greenwich, London, SE9 5QE
Nearest Train Station: Mottingham (Train from London Bridge). The station is in Travelcard Zone 4. It is then 10 minute easy walk. Alterntively a 15 minute walk from Eltham Sation.
Opening Hours: Please check website for up to date details before travelling.
Prices: Please check website for details.
Tea room available
The author of this blog is a qualified City of London and City of Westminster Tour Guide who leads guided walks combining world famous landmarks with hidden treasures often missed by the crowds.