Last Updated 08.07.2019 12:20 v1
Updated 03rd May 2019
Emsworth Horticultural Society
Tudors, Tulips and Courtauld Glitz. EHS trip to Eltham Palace Organised by Sue Talbot Tuesday 30th April 2019
We were a full coach load and enjoyed a trouble-free journey in both directions and Sue’s timings worked out beautifully. Sue provided us with plenty of information before we set off and the following is her summary of what we were going to see: “The original moated manor house was given to the future Edward 11 in 1305. The Great Hall, built in the 1470s for Edward IV, is the only surviving intact building and has been much restored, but when viewed alongside the moat bridge, buttresses and remnant walls it is easy to imagine Eltham’s former size and importance. The Palace was used by the Tudors but eventually fell into disrepair in the 17th century. In the 1930s Steven and Virginia Courtauld bought the site to provide a home where they could entertain outside central London, which can still be seen clearly from the front entrance. A new ultra modern house was built onto the Hall. It was filled with fashionable art deco furniture and their collections, not forgetting Mah-Jongg their pet lemur. The Courtaulds were keen horticulturalists and the grounds were redesigned, part of the moat being re- excavated and refilled with water. A mixture of formal “rooms” on the west side contrast with informal shrubberies elsewhere, and a rock garden was built into the east side of the moat. They were great patrons of the Arts and Stephen financed the Ealing Film Studios for many years. They entertained lavishly, sheltering from the war in modified basement rooms. They moved to Zimbabwe in 1944 and Army education units moved in. English Heritage took over the Palace in 1995 and carried out extensive repairs and restoration to return it to its 1930s glory. “ There were still plenty of tulips around despite the very mild dry weather we had over the previous six weeks and we were treated to an extremely vivid display of red, purple and orange as we made our way towards the house. These tulips had been planted in amongst small rose bushes which looked ready to take over when the tulips died down. Another beautiful sight, as we crossed what was purported to be the ‘oldest bridge in London’ was the long sweep of a rocky slope dropping down to the lake. This achieved an almost Japanese feel with dwarf conifers and Acers along with huge peonies, and a wide variety of Alpine plants. The lake contained lily pads and a number of enormous golden carp that looked as if they’d eaten all the other fish and were now getting bored! The House itself, empty of its original occupants felt somewhat austere but its history was brought to life by the excellent interactive audio guides that had us wandering in and out of bathrooms, boudoirs, bedrooms and huge drawing rooms. The large baronial hall has been preserved and we were invited to imagine what it would have been like when the Courtaulds held lively parties and banquets there. Outside we saw remnants of the old buildings which provided a wonderful backdrop for the herbaceous borders, with views over the surrounding informal grounds. In the distance, between the trees we could glimpse, not far away, London’s skyline with the Shard and Canary Wharf easily spotted. There was no queuing for lunch in the well stocked café and it was warm and sunny enough to sit outside. As seems to be the norm for EHS outings, we had tea and cake before setting off home! Chris Shaw