To the Palace
Eltham Palace, that is.
It was a dreary, rainy kind of morning so first things first, a bowl of porridge was needed. Not just any old porridge though…this was delicious!
We had heard a great deal about Eltham Palace but the location on the “wrong” side of London from our usual routes meant that we’d never really considered paying a visit. But here we were with a whole day ahead of us and nothing spoiling at home; the perfect opportunity. It’s an English Heritage property too, so it wasn’t even going to cost us to get in.
The friendly guides had plenty of advice for us regarding how to get the most from our visit, though my eyes (and my camera) were firmly on the footwear worn by the woman in front of us. Looks like Hunter have broadened their range a bit?
The entrance to the Palace is through the beautiful circular hall. The website has far better photographs than I could take, so I’ll focus on a couple of things that made us smile.
Firstly, the people. I find it fascinating to learn about the life of such a house, particularly one which was so focused on entertaining, as Eltham Palace was. The Courtaulds were a wealthy, sociable couple and for many reasons I imagine an invitation to join them at their home for dinner or a weekend would be one to treasure.
They had a pet Lemur. Mah Jongg was likely to be playing under the table whilst dinner was served and “nips” on the legs were one of the drawbacks of dining with the Courtaulds.
Though it was a perfectly lovely dining room and the Courtaulds were lavish hosts with a team of cooks and staff to serve, there was another drawback.
Ginie Courtauld might have been a generous hostess but her carelessness when it came to creating a good mix of dinner guests sounds as though it might be a little perilous.
I can imagine an evening in the company of people I didn’t get along with with a lemur under the table doing who knows what would prove to be a somewhat trying experience. I wonder how many return guests they had?
Their parties did sound fun, though. On one occasion, fun enough to prompt a letter of complaint being sent. Hmmm.
When war broke out, the games room down in the cellar was used as a shelter and friends were invited to stay, sleeping on camp beds down there.
The spare beds included one for the four legged friend too.
Before we left we did a quick check around the doors in the hall, just to make sure we had seen everything. One small alcove was in a hidden corner: it was the new fangled telephone the Courtaulds had installed for the convenience of their guests.
There, adjacent to the flower room, it was in a small, private cubby. We stepped inside the flower room too, imagining the lifestyle that allowed for such spaces.
As we left, I noted one last cubby, the mirror image of the phone alcove and there, Ginie Courtauld had the last laugh.
I had discovered Mah Jongg’s private staircase!
Thankfully, by the time we left, the weather had cleared and there was the most spectacular view of the city, including a reminder of where we’d started with Renzo Piano’s Shard there on the skyline.
What a fun weekend!