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Eltham Palace, south east London | by Whipper_snapper
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Eltham Palace, south east London

Eltham Palace in south east London is the place where high medieval architecture and the art deco styling of the 1930s collide. for the full set.


The site had belonged to Bishop Odo, half brother of William the Conqueror in 1086. Anthony Bek, Bishop of Durham, certainly built a defensive wall around the site in the 1290s. Edward I, Edward II and Edward III all visited or lived here, Bek having given the site to young Edward II. Edward III spent most of his youth here.


The Order of the Garter, Europe's oldest surviving order of chivalry may have been founded here by Edward III in 1348. Later kings added to the site but it was Edward IV who built the magnificent Great Hall in 1470s which can still be seen. It has the third largest hammer beam ceiling in England.


Tudor kings Henry VII and Henry VIII favoured the site for many years as it was one of only six palaces which could house the entire royal court of 800 people. However Eltham was largely replaced by the now lost Greenwich Palace which was nearer the river but still had access to the good hunting around Eltham.


It later became a farm and the Great Hall narrowly avoided demolition in the 19th century.


In the 1930s the lease was acquired by the wealthy Courtauld family who proposed a radical rebuild of the site, which was still owned by the Crown. After some controversy architects John Seely and Paul Paget got the go-ahead in 1933 and work started.


The interior is furnished in the art-deco style and modern features of the new house included a centralised vacuum cleaner system in the basement with outlets in every room, heated towel rails and radios in the staff bedrooms.


The Courtaulds lived in the house from 1936 until 1944. Conservative minister Rab Butler lived at Eltham with the Courtaulds and much of the 1944 Education Act is thought to have been written here.


Although the family still had 88 years left on the lease the Second World War prompted the Courtaulds to leave and the building became the headquarters for the Army Educational Corps from 1945 until 1992. English Heritage had already cared for the Great Hall but took over the whole site in 1995 and began a restoration of the main house which, fortunately, had retained many of its art deco features and interiors.


More fittings and furniture have since been returned to the house - including a table and chairs which were found in the board room and the props department of Pinewood film studios. Stephen Courtauld had been on the board of Ealing Film Studios for 20 years.

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Taken on August 8, 2006