Eltham (ell-tum) was once a palace on the level of importance with Hampton Court or Greenwich—Henry VIII was a boy here. Time was not kind to the grounds, though, and by the 1920s, Stephen and Virginia Courtauld, a wealthy childless couple, bought the Tudor ruin to rebuild into an ocean linerinspired mansion for entertaining their movie-industry friends. The guided tour provides a delightful peek into the eccentricity and insularity of the wealthy—while it worships their entertaining skills, the evidence uncomfortably suggests they were awful people. Stephen was prone to sulking, and their obnoxious pet lemur, Mah-Jongg, liked to bite guests— it bit one Arctic explorer so badly an artery was severed, which postponed his exploration by three months. (Note Jongy’s likeness carved into various architectural details.) Most country houses drive home stiff Georgian elegance, but Eltham (strangely, closed Sat) is about the excesses of Art Deco living and a capsule of Britain between the wars. After tearing down sections that might have had Tudor origin, the Courtaulds lived here only 11 years. The surrounding moat and 19 acres of greenery and gardens, however, still feel like they must have 400 years ago.
Eltham Palace and Gardens
Court Yard, Eltham, Greenwich, SE9, SE9 5QE
Our Rating Hours Apr–Sept Sun–Fri 10am–6pm; other periods daily noon–5pm (hours shift seasonally, see website for more information) Transportation National Rail: Eltham from Charing Cross Phone 020/8294-2548 Prices Admission £15 adults, £13.50 seniors and students, £9 kids 5–17; posted prices are higher and include “gift aid Web site Eltham Palace and Gardens
MapCourt Yard, Eltham, Greenwich, SE9 SE9 5QE London
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.