Eltham Palace Houses
Junction 3 M25, then A20 to Eltham off Court Rd
A showpiece of early 20th-century design with a fascinating history. Discover the only English Art Deco house open to the public, built on a site of great antiquity and joined to a medieval hall. Commissioned by Stephen and Virginia Courtauld and completed in 1936, the house was filled with the latest all-electric gadgets, including audio system, centralised vacuum cleaner and under-floor heating. The exteriors boast fine sculptures by artists little known today (Alfred Hardiman and Gilbert Ledward), but whose works can be seen all over London.
The whole house is a fascinating and eclectic mix of high-style, French-influenced Art Deco, ultra-smart ocean-liner style and cutting-edge Swedish design. The dining room is a tour de force, with pink leather-upholstered chairs, bird's-eye maple-veneered walls in pale fawn and a silver ceiling. It is entered through black-and-silver doors portraying animals and birds drawn from life at London Zoo.
Even more exotic is Virginia Courtauld's vaulted bathroom, lined with onyx and gold mosaic, complete with gold-plated bath taps and a statue of the goddess Psyche. Luxury emanates even from the centrally heated sleeping quarters of the Courtaulds' pet ring-tailed lemur, Mah-Jongg.
Leave the opulent house and you enter the heart of a medieval palace. The Great Hall was built for Edward IV in the 1470s, although the moat is much older. Henry VIII was brought up here as a child. Surrounding the moated and fortified palace are 19 acres of beautiful gardens, with elements from both the 20th century and the medieval period. Features include a rock garden sloping down to the moat, herbaceous borders recreated by modern designer Isabelle Van Groeningen, a formal sunken rose garden, pergola, loggia and 'garden rooms' designed for shade-loving and winter-flowering plants.
AddressJunction 3 M25, then A20 to Eltham off Court Rd, London, Greater London, SE9 5QE
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