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Knowing the History of the Eltham Palace and Gardens

You can still find many old palaces worldwide that their local governments usually maintain to preserve a piece of their area’s history. One of the many palaces you should know about is the Eltham Palace and Gardens, located at Eltham in Southeast London, England, inside the Royal Borough of Greenwich.

The Beginnings of the Eltham Palace

There is very little information about the settlement on the site until the 1086 Domesday survey, when the Eltham manor was recorded as owned by Odo, Bishop of Bayeux. He was the half-brother of William the Conqueror. The estate kept changing ownership multiple times until 1295, when Anthony Bek, a Bishop of Durham, bought it. He managed to rebuild the manor house and construct a defensive perimeter using brick and stone within the moat’s line.

During an excavation done in the 1970s, discoverers found a cellar, the remnants of Anthony Bek’s great hall with an octagonal stone hearth, and an extensive tiled floor. People can enter the manor house by using a timer drawbridge, located on the present northbridge site.

In 1305, Bek handed over the manor to Edward II, though he stayed there until he died in 1311. Both Edward II and his father had regularly stayed at Eltham. And after a while, Edward gave the manor to Isabella, his queen. During his time of sovereign power, several improvements were made, including constructing a new retaining wall within Bek’s, with buttresses to strengthen and support the masonry.

During the early 14th century, Eltham Palace became one of the biggest and most visited royal residences. Edward III, who was Edward II and Isabella’s child, spent most of his childhood days and even visited it as a king. And in 1364, he welcomed John II of France at the palace in the middle of the “great dancing and caroling” when John returned to voluntary captivity in England.

A wide shot view of Eltham Palace’s exterior facade.

The Present Time

Most historians believe it to be one of the unique palaces, combining a Tudor and medieval palace and a 1930s millionaire’s mansion. In the middle of the 14th and 16th centuries, it was a vital royal palace, where monarchs would usually stay and hunt in the nearby parks. After several centuries of negligence, the palace was leased to Virginia and Stephen Courtauld in 1933. They built a more modern house that assimilated the great hall. The result was an astonishing and amazing 20th-century palace design.

The palace was even famous for being part of several films, including The Gathering Storm, Bright Young Things, The History of Romance, The 200 Year House, and Secret Diary of a Call Girl, to name a few. Guests can even visit the palace and tour the outside of the manor.

The palace is certainly an excellent place to visit when you are in England. But due to the recent pandemic, visitors can only visit the exterior, while the palace’s interior remains closed until further notice.