There are most definitely two sides to Eltham Palace.
In medieval times it was an important royal palace. Anthony Bek, the powerful Bishop of Durham, acquired the manor of Eltham from William de Vescy in 1295 and built a moated manor house, which he presented to the then Prince of Wales (the future King Edward II) in 1305. However, he continued to occupy the house until his death there in March 1311. Edward later granted the manor to his queen, Isabella (the so-called ‘She-Wolf of France) and improvements were made to the building.
During the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and into the sixteenth century, Eltham was an important royal residence. Edward III held tournaments here. Edward IV commissioned the building of a new great hall, where he held a feast for 2,000 people at Christmas 1482. Henry VIII spent much of his youth at Eltham, but he was the last monarch to spend much time here. His daughter Elizabeth visited only occasionally. Eltham’s days as a favourite royal residence were over.
During the 17th century the palace fell into disrepair, and by the eighteenth century it was a picturesque ruin, with Edward IV’s great hall being used as a barn. In the early nineteenth century, efforts were a t last made to preserve what remained.
But Eltham was not destined to remain a romantic ruin. Everything changed in 1933, when Stephen and Virginia Courtauld, who were looking for a semi-rural property within easy reach of London, took a 99 year lease of Eltham from the Crown. They commissioned architects Seely and Paget to design a modern home on the site, whilst retaining as much as possible of the medieval palace remains. The result was a somewhat controversial Art Deco masterpiece, with all mod-cons, where the Courtaulds entertained lavishly. (Guests were warned about their pet lemur, Mah Jongg, who was known to bite). The scale of their entertaining can be seen from the ladies’ and gentlemen’s cloakrooms by the entrance, and the coin-operated telephone in the hall – not usual features of a private house. Modern visitors can watch a newsreel-type film in the Venetian Room which gives an idea of what life was like in its 1930s heyday.
The Courtaulds moved in on 25 March 1936, so did not have very long to enjoy the property before war broke out. They remained at Eltham for most of the war, moving out in 1944. (Visitors can see their air-raid shelter in the basement.) From 1945 to 1992 Eltham was used by various Army education units. The property is now run by English Heritage, which has restored the house to its 1930’s glory.
The gardens are in 1930s style, but the ruins of the medieval palace provide additional interest.
Eltham can easily be reached by train from Charing Cross. It’s about a 10-15 minute well-signposted walk from Eltham Station.
Open Sunday - Thursday 10.00 a.m to 6.00 p.m.
There’s a gift shop and a rather nice café in the Visitor Centre.
- Castles and Palaces
- Historical Travel
A fine and friendly pub.
Readers of my various tips on this and other pages will know that I have recently been walking the Capital Ring long-distance footpath. At one stage this brought me to a road called North Park which is a pleasant residential road although lacking the one basic amenity I was looking for - a pub! I had been walking all morning and was getting rather thirsty so once again my invaluable guidebook came to my rescue by suggesting that a short detour along Passey Place would lead me to Eltham High Street and I was fairly confident I would find a pub there.
In the event I did not even get as far as the High Street when I came upon the Park Tavern which proved to be an excellent hostelry. I was greeted by an extremely friendly lady who quickly served me a pint of well-kept Symonds cider and I took a seat to rest my legs and have a look round. What I saw was a very pleasantly furnished pub with an exclusively middle-aged (+) clientele, many of who were dining. It was fairly quiet with the only sound apart from muted conversation being the piped music which was obviously from a classical radio station. Classical music is generally not my gig but it somehow seemed totally appropriate here. I would suggest that the best word to describe the Park Tavern is genteeel and nothing wrong with that at all.
I mentioned that people were eating and there is only a limited lunch menu available which they freely admit. It is not a "gastropub" as all too many are but in addition to the sandwiches, toasted paninis and the like they offer a choice of three of four hot dishes at the lunch service. The day I visited the choice was chilli con carne, vegetable or chicken curry or home-made fishcakes. Should you fancy a little glass of something with your lunch then there is an extensive wine list.
When I stepped outside for a cigarette I had a chance to fully examine the very attractive garden area I had glimpsed through the patio doors. There is also an al fresco seating area to the front where smoking is not allowed should that be a problem for you. The toilets were spotless and decorated with a number of old monchrome prints, some of them a bit "saucy" in a Victorian / Edwardian fashion. I wonder what is on display in the Ladies! I am not generally in the habit of taking images of the conveniences in pubs but I could not resist this time as you can see.
The attached pub website claims that "It is run in an old fashioned ‘proper’ way around the Landlord / lady principle with an emphasis on sociable behaviour & attitudes that promote a comfortable, relaxing and informal atmosphere". It does that to perfection and I do thoroughly recommend this place. Although the path was calling I could not resist a second pint so comfortable had I quickly become and I shall certainly make a point of seeking it out the next time I am in this locality.
- Food and Dining
- Wine Tasting
- Beer Tasting
What exactly is it?
Readers of my various tips on this and other pages will know that I have recently been walking the Capital Ring long-distance footpath. At one stage this brought me to the Northern extremity of a large open area between Eltham and Blackfen that boasts no less than eight sports grounds including the training ground of Charlton Athletic football (soccer) team, an academic institution, a Student Union and a public park not to mention the site of an old mansion which used to own all the land.
The Ring does not remain in the open area for long and you soon emerge onto Southend Crescent but just before you do you will see the rather odd-looking structure in the image here. I was armed with my guidebook and so I knew what it was but I suspect the average visitor would not have a clue as to it's function were it not for the very useful information board provided. If I tell you that it is called Conduit Head then it might give you a clue as it is indeed part of a system constructed to ensure a supply of fresh water to the nearby Eltham Palace (see separate tip on this page) which was once home to King Henry VIII amongst others. Originally the purpose was to keep the moat filled but it was later adapted to provide water for domestic use which was quite a status symbol in those days.
The details are unclear as to the exact route of the conduit which provided the water but it is believed to have originated in Footscray and also drew from a number of local streams before coming to this place which was a fairly early precursor of a modern water filtration plant.
Through a series of wells and weirs the water was fairly crudely filtered which was all well and good when it filled the moat but the health benefits of the filtration were negated a bit when it began supplying the Palace itself as it was channelled through lead pipes. Perhaps this may go some way to explaining Good King Hal's subsequent behaviour. Do you think that would be a good enough premise for an academic paper? OK, probably not so I shall content myself by telling you that this rather unprepossessing structure, which is now missing part of the roof, is in fact a listed building. Despite this it is unprotected and has suffered from vandalism in the past.
An interesting little building for sure and well worth the couple of minutes it will take you to see it.
- Historical Travel
- Budget Travel
If you go go down to the woods today.............
To be so close to central London, Eltham is very well-endowed with woodland which not only provides excellent recreational facilities but are also of considerable scientific interest. %L[Oxleas Wood,][https://www.royalgreenwich.gov.uk/directory_record/3779/oxleas_woods_castle_wood_and_jack_wood] Jack Wood and Shepherdleas Woods are a Site of Special Scientific Interest extending to 72 hectares and called Oxleas Woodlands. If you add the adjacent open Commons of Castle Wood, Oxleas Meadows, Falconwood Field, Eltham Common and Eltham Park North you have what is generically known as Oxleas / Shooters Hill Woodland and which is a Local Nature Reserve.
It is scarcely surprising Oxleas Wood in particular has all these fancy titles as parts of this woodland date back 8,000 years which is just after the last Ice Age retreated and that is pretty impressive stuff if you ask me. I am absolutely terrible at botany (if that is what it is) and know nothing about trees. Apart from oak and silver beech which I can just about recognise, there are apparently hornbeam, coppice hazel and the Wild Service Tree which I had never heard of prior to researching this tip. Also known as the chequer tree it's official title is Sorbus torminalis if you want to look it up. As I say, every day is a schoolday with VT!
If my botany is deficient then my ornithology is certainly no better but in my defence I should say that I was brought up in the city. When I saw the magnificent bird in the main image I had a vague idea it was a heron and inernet research still leads me to believe it is a grey heron but if any "twitchers" reading this care to either confirm this or correct me I shall more than happily update this tip with appropriate credit given.
Whilst it is always pleasing to have your tips factually correct I am not really too bothered what this creature is called, I just thought it was beautiful and it had the good grace to stand still whilst I took a large number of images at the extreme range of my compact camera trying to get it centred. I know I shall never get a job on a David Attenborough wildlife TV programme, that's for sure, but this image when I finally got it did really please me and still does.
I had considered creating separate tips for all these places but I think they sit so much better together in one tip as apart from the noisy intrusion of a few roads, particularly the horrendously busy A2 Rochester Way Relief Road, these sites are all effectively one continuous entity. It is quite possible to pass from part one to another and not know you had done it unless you are consulting a guidebook. The reason I was using such a publication was that I discovered all these wonderful places whilst engaged walking the excellent London Capital Ring long-distance footpath.
Apart from the Ring which is a fairly major path there are numerous shorter walks which all seem to be well signed and I must offer a word of praise here for the Royal Borough of Greenwich who seem to keep the entire area in very good condition notwithstanding the current financial constraints. The visitor will have little problem finding these amenities as they extend for a huge area to the South of Shooters Hill as far as the A2 mentioned above. Whilst it is a large area now it is only a portion of the original area of the manor of Eltham which was first designated in 1311 so there is a good amount of history here as well as the wonderful flora and fauna.
I really do recommend a walk here if you are in the area.
- Budget Travel
- Hiking and Walking
Great cafe, stunning view
I suppose technically I should have put the tip on this establishment in the restaurant section but I don't think that a coffee and a slice of cake really qualifies me to review it as such. I speak of the Oxleas Wood Cafe which is in fact in Oxleas Meadows but it is close enough. I came upon this place whilst undertaking the Capital Ring long-distance footpath and after a fairly stiff morning of walking it was a very welcome sight.
My guide book described it as sitting "atop the hill like an Alpine mountain hut" and the panorama from here would certainly grace any Swiss canton. Another website notes that it claims to be "the best-kept secret" although the numbers of people in here mid-morning on a fairly chilly weekday in March somewhat detracts from that argument.
Following a refurbishment a couple of years ago the interior is clean and bright and features a most eclectic range of posters and prints by way of decoration. The blackboard above the serving area does duty as the menu and features every conceivable type of breakfast, pastes, pies and general "greasy spoon" type food. If you are looking for haute cuisine you are in the wrong place as there is no nouvelle cuisine and you can forget fusion food. This is plain and simple and all the dishes I saw served looked tasty enough.
This establishment serves exactly the kind of food you need if you have been for a good brisk walk or are involved in manual labour and I did see a few labourers in there which I always take to be a good sign. Anywhere you have cab drivers, lorry drivers, police officers or builders you can guarantee is good as they seem to know all the best places. I wasn't quite ready to eat yet but the coffee and cake were excellent and just what was required.
The star attraction here, however, is the view as mentioned and which was attractive enough that day but it must be glorious to sit at one of the outside tables and drink it all in on a warm summer day.
- Food and Dining
Strange name, even stranger building.
Severndroog Castle. It sounds like something form a J.R.R. Tolkein novel or perhaps a location in the "Game of Thrones" fantasy TV series doesn't it? Well, it is not, it is very much real and standing in a woodland in Southeast London in all it's triangular and hexagonal turretted glory as it has done since 1784. So who builds a triangular castle with no apparent defences bar an excellent commanding position on high gorund and what on Earth is that name all about?
Severndroog is not a castle at all but what we in UK call a folly and was built by his widow to commemorate the life of Sir William James (c.1721 – 16 December 1783) who was a classic rags to riches story and a remarkable one at that. Born into a poor Welsh family he ran away to sea at about age 11 and by the time he was 17 or 18 he was commanding his own vessel in the West Indies. He then joined the East India Company and at the tender age of about 26 was commanding their Bombay Marine naval forces.
It was during this time that his most famous action happened when he attacked and destroyed the fortress of Tulaji Angre which is between Mumbai and Goa and was called Suvarnadurg meaning Golden Fort. This has subsequently been transliterated into English as Severndroog hence the name.
Retiring from active service the Commodore returned to England and settled in Eltham whilst in post as the chairman of directors of the East India Company and was created Baronet in 1778. He died of a stroke at his daughter's wedding which is a little sad and his wife commissioned the folly which was built to the design of Richard Jupp, the EIC architect.
I mentioned the commanding position here and this has led to a couple of interesting episodes. In 1797, General William Roy had a a 36-inch theodolite lugged up to the roof to assist with a trigonometric survey and the Royal Engineers used it for a similar purpose in 1848. It is said that on a clear day you can make out landmarks in no less than seven different counties from here which is pretty impressive.
Lady James joined her late husband in 1798 and the Castle was then held by a succession of private landowners until 1922 when the then London County Council (LCC) bought it and used the ground floor as a tearoom. The LCC was abolished in 1986 and the newly formed London Borough of Greenwich took over but they only managed to run it for two years and then boarded it up in 1988 citing lack of funds. It lay this way for many years until charitable money to the tune of over half a million pounds of the £840,000 required was found and the Castle was restored and re-opened to the public on 20th July 2014.
Since re-opening the Castle has been used as a wedding and function venue and also has a Learning Centre.
The following details are taken from the attached website.
Spring (5 March - October 2015)
Thursday, Friday and Sunday 12:30-4:30pm
Winter (6 Nov - 4 Mar)
Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays, 11:00am-3:00pm
Please note that the building will be closed from the 23rd of December and reopen on the 30th of January
Severndroog may also be closed on certain days for private events.
* A Family ticket is for 2 adults and 2 children, or 1 adult and 3 children.
"Please note there is a spiral staircase and 86 steps to the top. We are a listed building so Wheel chair access is limited to the ground floor (the tearoom) via a stair climber. If you wish to use the stair climber please notify us of your visit in advance here. or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org" There is an accessible toilet on the ground floor.
There is wi-fi throughout.
- Historical Travel
Situated off a quiet leafy road in the suburbs of Eltham in SE London, is the exquisite Eltham Palace - once home to the phenomenally wealthy Courthalds - textile millionaires of the early 20th century.
Before the Courthalds transformed the palace into a glamorous art deco showhome of the 1930s, it was the boyhood home of Henry VIII and later his daughter Elizabeth I also lived there.
It now belongs to English Heritage, and costs £8.20 for adults to visit. And it is well worth it with the fabulous interiors, stunning gardens, extensive audio tour and home movies of the Courthalds.
End your tour with a cream tea in the former servant's kitchen for around £10 for two.
Check the website for full details of opening times etc.
- Castles and Palaces
- Historical Travel
If you love Art deco, come here.
Tucked away, almost incongruously, in the residential streets of Southeast London, is the magnificent Eltham Palace. It has a rich history, going back to the time of the Norman Invasion. The first major builder was the Bishop of Durham who presented the manor house to Edward, Prince of Wales (later Edward II), and he in turn extended the place. Later Richard II would make further improvement, the work being supervised by the famous author Geoffrey Chaucer.
Subsequent monarchs used to spend time here, and Henry VIII spent much of his youth at Eltham, although his successor Elizabeth I rarely visited, and the geat old palace fell into decline, with the Great Hall eventually suffering the indignity of being a barn.
In disrepair for many years, Eltham was rescued early in the 20th century when it was leased by Stephen Courtauld and was refurbished between 1931 and 1937. As well as the refurbishment of the medieaval building, Courtauld commissioned Seeley and Paget, the architects, to build a new house adjoining and it is this that provides the main draw today. It is one of the finest example of Art Deco style in the world.
Today it is retained as it was and it is a fascinating place. From Courtauld's study with it's fine statue of a First World War sentry to the centrally heated dwelling for his pet ring-tailed lemur (yes, that's right - a wedding present to his wife) and much, much more besides, it really is a must-see.
There are also magnificent gardens on display.
- Historical Travel
- Castles and Palaces
The rich can die poor...
In the churchyard at Eltham is buried Thomas Doggett...in his time he was quite wealthy, managing two well known theatres, and he founded the Doggetts Coat & Badge race up the Thames, which is still held annually (theres a pub on the south embankment called DCB...after him). He lost his fortune in later life, and was buried in a paupers grave.
Although there has been a church on the site since the 12th century the current one is relatively recent...and is not that wonderful.
In the churchyard can be found the gravestone of one of the first two Aboriginals who left Australia in modern times. Obviously this was not their choice...but a sad 'gift' sent back to the then King. It seems he died of alcohol poisoning...which I guess was new to him.
Oldest Golf Club in the world...
The Royal Blackheath Golf Club is recognised as the oldest of its kind...established 1608. Oldest 'golf club' that is... NOT oldest course. Originally it was on Blackheath as its name suggests. But relocated to Eltham in the 1920's as the golfers were causing havoc with the new fangled cars then crossing the heath. The photo is of the Clubhouse which was built in 1664.
Not worth visiting as such but its close to the Palace...just a local theatre, but when Bob Hope, who was born in Eltham, found out that it was in financial difficulties he made sure its future was safe by a sizeable donation!
In the 1930's Stephen & Virgina Courtauld, of the textile family, restored the Great Hall, and built next to it a house 'of its day'. It is the best example of art deco in England, with lavish centralised systems controlling vacuuming, music etc...way ahead of its time!
The Great Hall
This is a view from the Minstrels Gallery...its kinda dark even though I used a flash! Built in 1472, its said that over 2000 were invited to a feast by Edward IV at Christmas 1482. Hard to see but its hammerbeam roof is one of the finest in England. The artist Van Dyck spent many of his summers here and used the Hall for backdrops in many of his paintings.
Eltham Palace, just two miles from Royal Greenwich, has a royal history dating back 800 years. From 1311, when Edward II began spending his Christmas here, hunting red deer in the grounds, which stretched down to Greenwich, and East to Woolwich. It was a beloved royal home for the next 300 years. Henry VIII spent much of his boyhood here before moving in adulthood to his palace at Greenwich. It then fell into disrepair, and only the great hall with its vaulted ceiling is left.