The Friends' summer outing to Eltham Palace
On Thursday 7th June 2018 after we met in the morning in the Marmaris Café, Chris Sumner, a landscape historian, took us on a guided tour of the Well Hall Pleasaunce opposite the café. Well Hall Pleasaunce was opened as a public garden jn 1933 and contains a rectangular moated island, the site of the long-demolished Well Hall, home in the 1520s of William Roper and his wife Margaret, daughter of Sir Thomas More. The red-brick Tudor Barn, now a restaurant, dates from Roper's time, as do extensive garden walls enclosing attractive formal gardens. Later owners included the writer and founder of the Fabian Society Hubert Bland and his wife Edith Nesbit, author of 'The Railway Children'.
Chris then led us up to Eltham Palace, where one of the staff gave us an excellent tour of the interiors. Eltham Palace, now in the care of English Heritage, was a major royal palace in Tudor times and home for much of his boyhood of Prince Henry, later King Henry VIII, and where as a nine-year-old he met the Dutch philosopher Erasmus. The Great Hall with its fine hammer-beam timber roof was built for Edward IV in the 1470s, and having declined by the eighteenth century to the lowly status of a barn and threatened with demolition, was leased with the remains of the palace in 1933 by the wealthy socialites Stephen and Virginia Courtauld, who commissioned a lavish new house on the site to incorporate the restored Great Hall.
After lunch, some of us wandered at will in the palace gardens, before Chris led us to Eltham Lodge, and gave us a guided tour there too.The house was built in 1664 in the chaste classical style of the Mauritshuis in the Hague (1632) and is in marked contrast to Kew Palace ('the Dutch House') of 1613, which has prominent shaped gables. Eltham Lodge is arguably the finest house of its type and period in London, with good original and later interiors including a very fine staircase, and is remarkably little-known. It is now the club house of the Royal Blackheath Golf Club. After tea, Chris Sumner was duly thanked by the Chairman of The Friends, Peter Jamieson. It was a most enjoyable and instructive day.
Images, clockwise from top left: Eltham Palace ©Mark Pearce; Well Hall Pleasaunce ©Tudor Barn; Eltham Lodge ©Royal Blackheath Golf Club; interior, Eltham Palace ©English Heritage