A Truly Palatial Home

Denise Silvester-Carr explores Eltham Palace and its connections with the Courtauld family.

English Heritage has just received a temporary licence to occupy a fascinating architectural but curiously little known complex in a south-east London suburb. It consists of two buildings reached by a medieval bridge over a deep moat. One is the fifteenth-century Great Hall of Eltham Palace; the other an impressive twentieth century house in an English Renaissance style. A Chinese Coromandal screen inside the butterfly-shaped house slides back to reveal the interior of the medieval hall.

The Great Hall, where Edward IV entertained 2,000 people at Christmas 1482, has been open for many years, enabling a comparatively few visitors to see the third largest hammerbeam roof in England. The modern house, which has an extraordinary interior, has been out of bounds until recently. Occupied by army education units since 1945, it was handed over by the Ministry of Defence in 1995 to English Heritage and is now open to the public.

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