I've tried to go and see Eltham Palace before, unfortunately it didn't quite work... This Sunday was the first open day after the winter closure so I got my skates on and got down there. In brief it was really rather good!
The palace has a long history, apparently it was one of only six palaces which were big enough to accommodate and feed the entire royal court of some 800 people.
William the Conquerer gave the manor to Odo the Bishop of Bayeax, his half brother. In 1295 it was acquired by Anthony Bek, Bishop of Durham, who seems to have begun the building of the palace. It entered Royal hands in 1305 when it was given to the Prince of Wales, the future Edward II.
From then on the palace seemed to grow. The great hall, which still stands, was added by Edward IV between 1475 and 1485. At it's largest, in 1603, it was bigger than Hampton Court.
After Henry VII the palace seemed to gradually loose favour, Greenwich was closer to Westminster and easily reached by boat along the Thames. By the mid 1600s parts of it had collapsed, troops were stationed there to quell a revolt in Kent and as Parliamentry troops were want to do they apparently ransacked it. A report in 1649 sadly stated that the palace was "much out of repaire, and soe not tenantable."
The grand great hall was reduced to being a barn for livestock for some years.
Finally in the late 18th and early 19th century things began to change. The hall underwent progressively more serious repair work. In the 1930s the Courtauld family came into possession of the site. They built an amazingl high tech art-deco house around the great hall. The Courtauld's left the house in 1944 and it passed back into the hands of the state, it was an educational establishment for the army until 1992. English Heritage assumed responsibility for the hall in 1985 and after the army left they took over the rest of the palace and house. Work was done to restore the house to it's 1930s peak with furniture reproduced and where possible identical furnishings sought from a variety of sources.
So what can you see today?
Well there's the Courtauld's house, which is actually rather impressive and I speak as one who's not overly interested in such things. The great hall is impressive, though the Courtaulds did some "restoration" to it which turned it into somewhat of what they though a medieval great hall should look like as influenced by the films of the times. However the woodwork of the roof looks pretty much as illustrations show it used to be and it is really rather impressive.
Outside you can stroll around the grounds, seeing some of the ruins of the palace, the moat, the medieval bridges over the moat, the walls and gardens.
All told it took me just over 2 hours to see it all and I really enjoyed it.
There's a whole lot of information about the palace on the internet, here's some places to start:
I did take a few photos inside before Ms. Charlton-Above-Average pointed out to me that you're not meant to. Suffice to say I did feel rather guilty. Anyway I'll share some of those that I took at the end of this post.
I can really recommend a visit and it's so nice to write something, and to feel something, positive about the area after weeks of moaning about bad things.
The view you'll get of the house and the medieval moat and walls as you cross the north bridge to enter.
The entrance hall of the house
The Great Hall, looking towards the end where the King and Queen would sit. The roof is amazing!
The outside of the Great Hall.
Walking around the moat, some of it is still flooded.
Looking towards the north bridge over the moat.
Looking towards the house. This quite clearly shows the medieval walls around the moat and the modern house within, a very interesting place!