Words by Jessica Peace
Ahhh, this place is sublime, divine and all of those words!
BIT OF HISTORY
After falling in love in the Alps, Virginia or ‘Ginnie’ and Stephen Courtauld moved into this medieval ruin. Bringing along their great dane ‘Caesar’ and their pet lemur ‘Jongy’ (bought from Harrods, natch) they turned their wreck into their 1930’s Art Deco heaven - you should see the bathtub. And the gardens built by this couple of ‘bright middle-aged things’ are truly magical.
They divided the gardens into ‘rooms’ - very 30’s darling, introducing shrubs and wildflowers between the palace ruins and moat which date back to the 1300’s - there’s great pics of the Courtauld’s swimming in their moat too.
Ginnie was especially hooked on plants; she collected orchids, hung out with John Gilmour, director of Kew at the time, and even had a rose named after her which they had in the grounds. Livin’ the dream mate.
Get yourself there now to breathe in the magnolia blossom, mahonia, hyacinths and narcissi; all strewn amongst bright swathes of hellebores, anemones, primroses, and pulmonaria. Ummm.
CHECKIN’ OUT THE SCENERY
WELL IT’S GOT A MOAT
THE SUNKEN GARDEN
This was all the rage in the 30’s, set below the palace and designed with simple, structured planting, the sunken garden with it’s pond reflecting the clouds and rising conifer pillars makes a serene sanctuary, echoing past worlds.
THE SOUTHERN RIDGE
Squint your eyes from certain points and you can see the smog and The Shard - BUT step through the tunnelled ruins and boom you’ve hit the countryside.
Stomping out through grass paths into a shimmering meadow, rich with wildflowers and narcissi and overlooking the horses in the paddock.
THE POSH LAWN
What we love about Eltham is they let you feel like one of Courtaulds, they’ve laid out wicker chairs for us commoners to sprawl out on. Cheers guys.
ELTHAM GOINGS ON
SEE 40,000 TULIPS!
40,000 tulips were planted in the grounds last year and from the 23rd of April they’ll be putting on their ‘Tulip Festival’.
EASTER ADVENTURE QUEST
Something to do with little people.
[Sun 7th, Fri 12th, Sun 14th - Mon 22nd of April]
ART DECO FAIR
Art Deco laid out in the perfect setting.
[11th - 12th May]
Look out for their ‘Lazy Jazz Sundays’ over the summer…
GET ME TO THE PALACE!
It’s a bit of a slog but worth it. There’s parking or you can jump on a train to Eltham or Mottingham, or get the 124,126, 160 or 161 bus. If you’ve the energy the palace is part of The National Cycle Network and Green Chain walking route.
It’s around 15 quid but free for English Heritage members and there’s concessions available.