A family day out at Eltham Palace, south London

A family day out at Eltham Palace, south London

Eltham Palace and gardens is run by English Heritage. It is in a leafy part of south London, very close to the centre of Greenwich.

Despite the fact that we live close by, we only got round to visiting Eltham Palace recently (there’s so much to do in London!). I wasn’t sure how well my six and three-year olds would take to being dragged round a country house. Although the children enjoyed themselves at Deal Castle – and we’re regulars at Leeds Castle in Kent – the prospect of visiting an art deco residence was a little daunting. But I was amazed at how much they enjoyed discovering the palace. In fact, it was me who had to drag them away, a good hour past our usual lunchtime.

Eltham Palace

Art Deco

Eltham Palace dates back to medieval times, and was adapted for Stephen and Virginia (Ginie) Courtauld in the 1930s by architects Seely and Paget, who built a modern extension onto the original great hall.

Eltham Palace

Stephen and Ginie were modern-day aristocrats from the family that owned the rayon manufacturing business. They were committed socialites; bon viveurs, by all accounts. They filled their home with all the latest gadgets and furnished it in a striking, resplendent art deco style that set a trend for decades to come.

Eltham Palace

Eltham Palace

Stephen and Ginie Courtauld were fond of entertaining, and the rooms in their former home reflected their love of inviting guests to lavish parties.

Eltham Palace

The entrance reception room

Child-friendly

I was impressed by how far English Heritage and the Eltham Palace team had gone towards making the house visitor- and child-friendly. On our way in, we were given an animal explorer’s map; the Courtaulds were big animal lovers, with an array of unusual pets, including Mah Jong, a lemur with its own room and access to a range of tasty nibbles. Young visitors could go round the house, looking for animals and stamping their map when they spotted them.

Eltham Palace

There was also a range of dressing-up opportunities: as a soldier, in the basement which was used as a bomb shelter during the Second World War; as a court jester in the medieval great hall; and as Ginie Courtauld, in the dressing room leading off her chambers.

Eltham Palace

Multi media

Best of all was the family guided tour on the multi media units handed out at the entrance. In each room, William, a nephew of the Courtaulds, gave a short introduction. The children were entranced by this, which made it easy for me to spend time there, discovering it for myself without a youngster tugging on my sleeve.

Eltham Palace

The family tour featured games in most of the rooms. I’d say these were suitable for children up to the age of 11 or 12; my three year old was just about old enough to enjoy most of them, with a little help.

Eltham Palace

And even I enjoyed creating my own Ginie Courtauld-style mirror.

Eltham Palace

We spent so long exploring the house that we didn’t have time to visit the gardens, which had their own family tour. Adult tours of the house were also available on the media units, but I chose to join the children on the family tour, which still had plenty of snippets that would interest adults.

Eltham Palace has a pretty, conservatory-style cafe, where we ate a very late lunch from picnic boxes for the kids, and tasty homemade soup for me.

Eltham Palace

Eltham Palace

The lunch wasn’t mega-cheap – £4.25 for a picnic box with a sandwich, drink and snacks – but that’s typical of this part of town. The best thing about the cafe was that it overlooked the play area, so I was able to relax for a few minutes with a coffee, watching the children while they played.

Eltham Palace

Eltham Palace

Eltham Palace

Eltham Palace

Eltham Palace

I’m told that Eltham Palace is beautiful in the summer, with people having picnics and relaxing on the lawn, Courtauld-style. The little bit we saw of the outdoor space made me keen to go back there soon.

Eltham Palace

Have you been to any country houses with children? Did you enjoy the experience?

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During winter (until 24 March), Eltham Palace is open on Sundays from 10am until 4pm. Entry is free to English Heritage members and the under 5s; £13 for adults and £7.80 for children over 5.

We were given entry to Eltham Palace for the purpose of this post.

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42 Comments

  1. March 3, 2016 / 9:27 am

    I’d never heard of Eltham Palace but I love art deco style so would want to take a look! I enjoyed your bit of history in the post too about the family who lived there.

    • Nell
      Author
      March 7, 2016 / 9:35 am

      It’s a beautiful house-different to anywhere else.

  2. March 3, 2016 / 12:47 pm

    This place looks great! Fab to see its child friendly too!

  3. March 3, 2016 / 8:10 pm

    We had annual passes for English Heritage a few years ago and visited lots of castles, we loved it. I really enjoyed the history of the places. Great review, it really looks like you had a great time! 🙂

    • Nell
      Author
      March 7, 2016 / 9:37 am

      We love visiting castles too. The pass is really worth it if you like history.

  4. March 3, 2016 / 8:12 pm

    I think Art Deco is my favourite period ever so I’d love to visit here.

    Love the way it’s so engaging for kids too.

    • Nell
      Author
      March 7, 2016 / 9:38 am

      You’d love it Liz, I’m sure. A splendid place!

  5. March 3, 2016 / 9:45 pm

    It looks like such a great place for a day out with the kids! I will definitely put it on my list for our next visit to London. Great photos by the way, I loved the dressing up one the most 🙂

    • Nell
      Author
      March 7, 2016 / 9:39 am

      Thank you Orli. My daughter was so pleased about her dressing up!

  6. March 4, 2016 / 11:18 am

    Oh, what a stunning place to visit. I love that they have decided to invest in the children so that families can have great visits. I love art deco so I need to visit

    • Nell
      Author
      March 7, 2016 / 9:43 am

      The child-friendliness really did make it an easy, enjoyable trip.

  7. March 4, 2016 / 7:13 pm

    Looks like a great place to visit, with lots to do and what a beautiful house.

  8. March 4, 2016 / 9:19 pm

    This looks like great place especially so close to London yet so green and open.

    • Nell
      Author
      March 7, 2016 / 9:45 am

      I know. It’s surprising how many places in London feel countrified!

  9. March 5, 2016 / 8:18 am

    That looks like a brilliant day out! I miss things like English Heritage and The National Trust, they do such a good job! I had a friend who got married here, and we couldn’t make the wedding so it was nice to see what the rest of the building is like through your photos! 🙂

    • Nell
      Author
      March 7, 2016 / 9:46 am

      Ah yes, I saw that they do weddings there. It would be an incredible place for a party.

  10. March 5, 2016 / 12:40 pm

    I’ve never heard of this place before but it sounds like it would be right up our street!

  11. March 5, 2016 / 4:13 pm

    I have never heard of this place before, it looks gorgeous. Love the shot of you taking a pic in the mirror

    • Nell
      Author
      March 7, 2016 / 9:46 am

      Thank you!

  12. Rachel ¦¦ A Nesting Nomad
    March 6, 2016 / 9:28 pm

    I have family near Eltham Palace and I’ve wanted to visit for ages, but we never seem to be around when they’re open! This has made me more determined to go. Thanks for sharing!

  13. March 15, 2016 / 2:24 pm

    I’ve always been incredibly impressed by the lengths English Heritage go to make their properties family friendly. This looks great: dressing up activities, games and trails. How bizarre that the pet lemur had its own room! My son would love that. Great review. #citytripping

    • Nell
      Author
      March 23, 2016 / 10:16 am

      Yes, I was very pleasantly surprised by it all. Definitely going again soon!

    • Nell
      Author
      March 23, 2016 / 10:17 am

      It really is!

  14. March 15, 2016 / 7:38 pm

    A lemur with its own room – brilliant! The Courtaulds sound like an interesting couple, if only walls could talk 🙂

    • Nell
      Author
      March 23, 2016 / 10:17 am

      Yes – apparently Ginie was a force to be reckoned with!

  15. March 16, 2016 / 6:57 am

    It’s a wonderful place! I can understand why you’re the one who had to drag the kids out of there! :p

    • Nell
      Author
      March 23, 2016 / 10:17 am

      Yes, they would have stayed for hours longer if I hadn’t put my foot down!

  16. March 16, 2016 / 9:38 am

    I’d never realised Eltham Palace would be so good with kids – I adore art deco and love the history so have always wanted to visit but assumed this would be better for older children. The guides sound perfect though. Another one for my ever-growing list! Thanks for joining up with #citytripping

    • Nell
      Author
      March 23, 2016 / 10:18 am

      If you go, I guarantee the guides will let you have a bit of peace and quiet to admire all that art deco!

  17. March 18, 2016 / 12:46 pm

    I love the look of Eltham Palace and a fascinating history behind it too. Brilliant that it is so set up for children – makes visiting a lot easier! Thanks for linking to #citytripping

    • Nell
      Author
      March 23, 2016 / 10:19 am

      It’s a pleasure!

  18. March 18, 2016 / 9:11 pm

    The problem of having National Trust membership was that I didn’t feel we could really justify actually paying up to go to a different big house, although I’d heard good things about Eltham Palace. And now I see that they were all true! How fabulous that we are now free to go there next time we are in country!

    • Nell
      Author
      March 23, 2016 / 10:20 am

      This is English Heritage rather than National Trust, but if you want places like this plus castles, EH membership is perfect.

  19. Honest Mum
    March 23, 2016 / 1:33 pm

    It looks so wonderful, must visit next time we are nearby. Fab photos too!

  20. March 23, 2016 / 4:09 pm

    It looks such great fun, I would like a hour in the dressing up room ha ha x

  21. March 24, 2016 / 4:50 pm

    Those multi-media units are a wonderful idea! We’ve never had those before and makes for a much more interesting day out. Eltham Palace looks like a brilliant outing – we haven’t been as it’s the other side of London for us but I will make an effort now after your fab post. Thanks for linking up with #MondayEscapes

  22. March 29, 2016 / 12:54 pm

    There are so many castles here in the UK that we don’t know anymore which to choose. It gets also quite costly after some visits. We are now in Scotland doing some house sits and it’s so impressive-wonderful-awesome! What a country! #MondayEscapes

    • Nell
      Author
      March 29, 2016 / 8:24 pm

      It really is an incredible island we live on!

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