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!