We lived in New Cross for years, and travelled through Eltham many times, but never went to Eltham Palace. Shaun has English Heritage membership for the family via his work, so we got to visit today – and what a glorious day!
Eltham Palace sounds very out of place. Eltham isn’t the kind of place you’d imagine a palace (sorry Eltham residents, I can only go on the few times I’ve been there) but it’s hidden away and has an interesting quirkiness to it. The house has been restored back to the 1930’s, when the Courthald’s lived there- Stephen and Ginny. You can wander around several rooms and get a feel of the place – and indeed, one room, the map room has recently restored maps which would have been used by them to plot their travels.
Eltham Palace has a much longer older history which is touched upon, but most of what’s on offer dates back to the 1930s, and two parts which H loved the most. Both involve dressing up – of course.
The main hall has the more regal costumes (and the court jester hat) – H enjoyed trying them on, though some people laughed at how cute she looked which made her feel a bit conscious of herself. Although on saying that, once she wore her princess gear she happily paraded around!
In the basement there’s much more dedicated to the war – as this was the area the family would shelter, as Eltham suffered badly when London was bombed. Down there are many uniforms and hats to try, as well as the original billiards table you could probably have a go on – it’s all set up!
H finds information about the war interesting, and indeed has decided history is her favourite subject at school so this appealed a lot. We probably spent the longest in the basement, though a lot could be to do with dressing up!
Eltham Palace has a little map for over 3’s, where you spot things in each room (usually an animal) and get a stamp, with a letter on each stamp, to work out a clue. H cracked the code pretty easily and got two chocolate gold coins and a sticker which pleased her a lot! It’s free, and definitely worth doing to keep your child interested.
The gardens are good for a wander around and sit down too – on a Sunday at the moment there’s jazz on until 4pm too – so it was quite busy as we got there, but glorious weather.
As well as Eltham Palace and Gardens, the area you park your car, where the shops and cafe are, also has a fabulous play area. H spent a lot of time there trying to master the climbing rails there – and coming out with blisters. Whoops! The nice lady in the restaurant gave us a couple of plasters as she was quite upset. But she had a brilliant time – I think she was so fixated on being able to do it she worked through the pain until it blistered! At least it shows she’s determined!
What I liked the best about Eltham Palace, is that it stays open until 6pm on a Sunday. Proper non-Sunday-like opening hours – and on a day like today it was just right – wandering around and having a fun time. I’d highly recommend a visit to Eltham Palace if you’re in the area anyway.
The English Heritage site is here. Eltham Palace reopened in April 2015 with five new rooms to explore. We had a brilliant time!