Eltham Palace is a large house in Eltham, within the Royal Borough of Greenwich, in south-east London, England. It is an unoccupied royal residence and owned by the Crown Estate. In 1995 its management was handed over to English Heritage which restored the building in 1999 and opened it to the public. It has been said the internally Art Deco house is a “masterpiece of modern design”.
In 1933, Stephen Courtauld 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 Rolf Engströmer. Light floods in from a spectacular glazed dome, highlighting blackbean veneer and figurative marquetry. Keen gardeners, the Courtaulds also substantially modified and improved the grounds and gardens.
Stephen was a younger brother of Samuel Courtauld, an industrialist, art collector and founder of the Courtauld Institute of Art. His study in the new house features a statuette version of The Sentry, copied from a Manchester war memorial, by Charles Sargeant Jagger, who was – like Stephen – a member of the Artists’ Rifles during the First World War.
The Courtaulds’ pet lemur, Mah-Jongg, 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 the earlier part of the war, Stephen Courtauld was a member of the local Civil Defence service. In September 1940 he was on duty on the Great Hall roof as a fire watcher when it was badly damaged by German incendiary bombs. In 1944, the Courtauld family moved to Scotland then to Southern Rhodesia, giving the palace to the Royal Army Educational Corps in March 1945; the corps remained there until 1992.
In 1995, English Heritage assumed management of the palace, and in 1999, completed major repairs and restorations of the interiors and gardens.
Eltham Palace Gardens
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