Eltham Palace

Attractions , Historic buildings and sites Eltham
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 (© Jonathan Bailey)
© Jonathan Bailey

Two palaces for the price of one. The remains of the Tudor palace (a favourite with the royal family until Henry VIII decided he preferred Greenwich) include a bridge over the moat, as well as the impressive Great Hall. The biggest draw now, though, is the art deco property (one of London's architectural treasures) erected adjoining the Great Hall in 1936 by textiles heir Stephen Courtauld. Like his more famous brother Samuel (who founded the Courtauld Institute of Art in 1932), he was a collector of the arts. Stephen and his wife Virginia created a masterpiece, and the house was the scene of many a lavish party before World War II broke out and the building was commandeered by the War Office.

The furniture and fittings look like a film set – check out the pink leather chairs, ornate black and silver doors and moulded maple veneer in the dining room, or the onyx and gold-plated taps in Virginia's glamorous vaulted bathroom. The house was way ahead of its time when it came to mod cons, including underfloor heating, ensuite bathrooms and a quirky vacuum-cleaning system. Upstairs there's a chance to look at the Courtauld family's photos and artefacts, and enjoy a home movie of Stephen and Virginia with their pet lemur, Mahjong (who had his own, specially designed quarters). The quaint tearoom and shop have a distinctly 1930s flavour.

In Spring 2015 five rooms in the art deco building were opened to the public for the first time following a £1 million renovation. A rare 1930s 'map room' has been carefully unveiled by a team of English Heritage conservators, and a luxury wartime bunker, basement billiards room, two new bedrooms and a walk-in wardrobe are open for exploring. A new visitor centre, shop and café are open in the former glasshouses, too.

Venue name: Eltham Palace
Address: Off Court Rd
Opening hours: Check website
Transport: Rail: Eltham
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  • Wednesday December 7 2016
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