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.