Eltham Palace was a complete surprise. When I heard that Henry VIII grew up there, I expected gothic arches and rolling heads. But I walked through the door and got smacked in the head by Art Deco.
The childhood home of the un-lucky in love Henry was bought by the Courtauld family (as in the Courtauld Gallery) who built an astonishing extension. The first room you walk into (pictured above) is straight out of an Agatha Christie. Curved walls, inlaid wooden panels depicting yachts and Roman soldiers, a domed glass studded ceiling and perfectly white furniture. Sigh.
The house just gets better from there. As a curious mix of institution-esque corridors, exquisite art deco details and fat chunks of Henry’s childhood. Who dosen’t want to have a bathroom with a curved gold tiled wall, a dining room with pink leather chairs and then be able to walk down to the medieval banqueting hall.
But as always when it comes to British history, there is something so bizarre that it eclipses all else. In the case of Eltham Palace that would be the family ring-tailed Lemur. They bought the Lemur (named Mah-Jongg, or Jonggy for short) from Harrods – you know, as you do. It roamed free throughout the house and even had a special bamboo ladder built between the floors so that Jonggy could make a quick exit. Only downside was the ‘charming’ habit that Jonggy had of biting people – an act which once delayed an adventurers journey to the South Pole after the bite got infected.
Oh the English.
Eltham Palace is only a 20 minute train ride from London Bridge station, and if you have an Art Fund card entry is totally free!
I have confessed my love for trains time and time again. Add design and art to the train mix and I am in heaven. Thankfully 150 of the best London Underground posters are currently on display at the London Transport Museum to celebrate the Tube’s 150th birthday.
The posters are set over three levels in the museum, in a rabbit warren of an exhibition space. But the colours, the type and the clear messages just leap off the walls. When such famous artists lend their creative juices to a flat piece of paper the only thing to do is wander round in awe.
The best part is that when you buy a normal ticket to the London Transport Museum it lasts for a year – which means that this exhibition is FREE if you have been recently!
Here are some of my favorites:
Winter Sales (1921) Edward McKnight Kauffer – I like that although shopping/sales are associated with bright eye catching colour, this poster focusses on the grey winter weather and uses the orange as an almost afterthought.
Or Take the Tube (1987) by Nick Hardcastle – the ultimate passive aggressive poster
London Transport – Keeps London Going (1938) by Man Ray – I could like these posters because they are now worth over £100,000, but mostly I like them because they were created when Saturn had just been discovered and they have the audacity to compare Saturn to the roundel (the red circle with blue line through it) showing that the Underground is new and exciting.
London After Dark (1968) by Fred Millett – Such a snapshot of a time period
The Swiftest Way to Pleasure (1913) by Charles Sharland – Do you think Sharland was innocently using the phrase ‘the swiftest way to pleasure’ ?
It is cooler below (1926) and It is warmer below (1927) by Frederick Charles Herrick – Something for every occasion.