An Afternoon of Art and Decadence at Eltham Palace

Eltham Palace

Since arriving in England in 2007, I have never lived more than 9 miles away from Eltham Palace and in fact, I lived within walking distance of it for a year. You might be surprised then, given my love of all things Art Deco, to learn that I had never visited this fabulous location before this year.

Eltham Palace dates back to medieval times when the Bishop of Durham gave the palace to Edward II in 1305. Edward II was son of Edward I who built the castles at Beaumaris and Caernarfon that we visited in Wales.

In the 1930s, millionaires Stephen and Virginia Courtauld acquired the lease on the site. They restored the Great Hall of Eltham Palace and built an adjoining Art Deco mansion.

There is so much to see at Eltham Palace that I’m already planning to go back there in the near future. These were my favourite parts.

The Ground Floor

Eltham Palace - The Dining Room

The Dining Room with Greek key motif, a common feature of Art Deco design.

Eltham Palace - The Italian Drawing Room

The Italian Drawing Room where Stephen’s collection of Italian Renaissance paintings and ceramics was kept.

Eltham Palace - The Boudoir

The Boudoir designed for Ginie (as Virginia Courtauld was affectionately called) featured an early example of built-in furniture. This was my favourite room in the house.

Eltham Palace - Classic Magazines

On the table above you can see these classic publications dating back to the 1930s and 1950s. (No publications were touched in the taking of this photo!)

Eltham Palace - The Library

The Library which was Stephen’s private working space. In my home, it is me who needs a private study!

The First Floor

The bedrooms were located on the first floor with a corridor leading to the balcony of the Great Hall.

Eltham Palace - Virginia's Bedroom

Virginia’s bedroom was said to be inspired by a round, classical temple with her bed in the middle.

Eltham Palace - Virginia's Bathroom

Virginia’s bathroom was absolutely stunning. I loved the golden tiles, marble bath and statue of Psyche.

Eltham Palace - Stephen's Bedroom

Stephen’s bedroom was certainly more masculine, with wood panelling and sensible decor.

Eltham Palace - Stephen's Bathroom

Stephen’s bathroom was another of my favourite rooms in the house. I loved the blue tiles and fixtures and fittings. I often find bathrooms to be the most interesting rooms in the house – other rooms receive frequent redecoration but bathrooms often give us a real glimpse into the style of a bygone era.

The Great Hall

Eltham Palace - The Great Hall

The Great Hall was built by Edward IV in the late 15th century and is said to feature the third-largest hammerbeam roof in England.

The Wartime Bunker

Eltham Palace - Entrance to Wartime Bunker

The area of the house that most captured my imagination was the wartime bunker. Eltham suffered badly during the Blitz and more than 450 bombs fell on the area between 7 September 1940 and 21 May 1941.

Eltham Palace - Corridor in Wartime Bunker

Naturally, the family took to the basement to seek safety and good that they did. Four bombs landed on the Great Hall, damaging the east end of the roof and bombs damaged the glasshouses too.

Eltham Palace - War time bunker

As one might imagine, this was a somewhat luxurious bomb shelter compared to what most Londoners had access too.

Eltham Palace - Sleeping Quarters in Wartime Bunker

There was even a billiards room and bar for entertainment.

Eltham Palace - Billiards Room in Wartime bunker

The gardens of Eltham Palace were so exquisite that they warrant their own post. Expect moats and bridges, stone walls and a rock garden!

Eltham Palace and Gardens
Court Yard

Nearest station: Mottingham

Open: Sunday to Thursday 10am to 5pm

At £13, I consider Eltham Palace to be quite expensive to visit and so I finally decided to join English Heritage to try get a little bit more value for money. We took advantage of a 20% off special offer and spent £59 for an adult and senior membership for my mum and I. Over the next year, I’ll be giving you a running total of how much money I have saved or lost.

Annual Membership £59
Eltham Palace £13
Remaining £46

Open Garden Squares Weekend – An Adventure

Fountain Detail - Lincoln's Inn Fields

Each year in June, London hosts the Open Garden Squares Weekend. For one weekend, the gates open to the city’s secret and hidden gardens and members of the public can wander their green spaces. This year my friend Yannick gave me a ticket for the event and so with a minimum of preparation, I decided to stroll around and see what I could find.

Lincoln’s Inn Fields

Fountain - Lincoln's Inn Fields

My first quest was to try find Lincoln’s Inn Gardens at the south east corner of Lincoln’s Inn Fields. What I love most about these adventures is that I find myself really looking at my surroundings as opposed to simply walking through them. I’ve also learned that adventures don’t always end up as planned but that is also okay.

I loved this fountain – the inscription reads “Fear of the Lord is a Fountain of Life”. Lincoln’s Inn Fields is an enclosed square garden and was designed by Inigo Jones in the 17th century.

Margaret McDonald Memorial

I went to what I was sure was the south east corner of Lincoln’s Inn Fields and didn’t find any hidden gardens and so I approached the guard at Lincoln’s Inn to enquire where they might be. Lincoln’s Inn is one of the four Inns of Court in London where barristers have their offices and is definitely not usually open to the public. The guard informed me that the gardens were situated inside Lincoln’s Inn but that I had arrived on the wrong day!

I decided not to argue the point of Open Garden Squares Weekend with the guard seeing that I had actually visited once before on A Secret Visit to Lincoln's Inn, Holborn.

Lincoln's Inn Area

I decided to walk through Holborn towards the Royal Courts of Justice to see if I could access Temple. This is one of my favourite areas of London and I just love all the Gothic Revival buildings.

The Seven Stars

Royal Courts of Justice

Below are the Royal Courts of Justice which houses the High Court and Court of Appeal of England and Wales. I think they look like a fairy tale castle and I’m simply unable to walk past them without taking tons of photos.

Royal Courts of Justice

After taking this photo, I turned around and walked down Essex Street and down the steps to Victoria Embankment. I was hoping to sneak into Temple but the side gate looked as foreboding as ever. Like Lincoln’s Inn, Temple is notoriously closed off to the public. I did once walk through Temple, I was dressed very smart and walked quickly and with purpose and none of the guards paid any notice to me. They would have done so if I’d tried to take photos though!

Taxi - J Seward Johnson Junior

Slightly frustrated at the state of my adventure, I walked along Victoria Embankment toward Cannon Street Station. I took a moment to chat with J Seward Johnson’s 1963 bronze statue “Taxi” and I saw the World Naked Bike Ride speed past and then I was on my way.

Cleary Gardens

Cleary Gardens - City of London

My next stop was Cleary Gardens and it was an absolute treat. Cleary Gardens is open to the public all year round but I can’t tell you how many times I have walked right by the site in the past without realising that there is a garden here.

Cleary Gardens

Cleary Gardens is named after Fred Cleary who was instrumental in planting trees and creating green spaces in the City of London during the 1970s.

Cleary Gardens - The City

The garden is spread out over three tiers with ample space to sit, read a book and relax.

Cleary Gardens - The City of London

Cleary Gardens stands in a site that is rich in culture and history. The lawns cover the site of a Roman bathhouse and the vines on the terrace mark importance of this area in the City’s wine trade during medieval times.

The Rooftop Garden at Nomura International

My final destination for the day was the rooftop garden at Nomura International. The first thing you will notice when you enter the roof terrace is that it offers incredible views over London.

The Shard

In this photo you can see the Shard and Southwark Cathedral to the right.

Nomura Gardens

The gardens were created by staff at Nomura International. Each day, before work and during their lunch hours, they work in the gardens and have created the most beautiful, tranquil place.

Slugbell - Nomura Gardens

I chatted to one lady from Nomura and she took me through some of the features of the vegetable gardens. There are slug bells to chase away the slugs and plastic CDs that catch the light and chase away birds. All rather ingenious if you ask me.

Carrots - Nomura Gardens

Most importantly, the gardens provide relaxation for those tending them and a quiet place for the rest of the Nomura staff.

Falcon - Nomura Gardens

There was a falconry exhibition on the roof too that day. I waited a long time for one of the birds to remain still in order for me to take a photo!

Cannon Street From Nomura Gardens

Then again, the gardens were so beautiful that I was quite happy to while away the time on a sunny afternoon.

Shard from Nomura Gardens

I may have taken a few too many photos of the Shard that day…

Tower Bridge from Nomura Gardens

… and of Tower Bridge too.

All told, I’d say that my adventure was a success. I saw places that I wouldn’t normally see and I spent a glorious summer day strolling through London.

Open Garden Squares Weekend will return on 18-19 June 2016. Tickets cost £10 before the event and give you access to all participating gardens on both Saturday and Sunday.

Did you attend Open Garden Squares Weekend this year? Where did you explore?

Afternoon Tea in the Secret Garden, Kent

The Dining Room at the Secret Garden Kent

When my friend Sarah suggested we go for afternoon tea at the Secret Garden in Kent, I did not hesitate for a moment before saying yes. I thought that it sounded like such a magical, whimsical place and I’m glad to say that this secret Kentish location is as lovely as it sounds.

We met up on a sunny autumn Sunday afternoon and took a table in the cosy dining room. As we looked around, our mouths watered at the sight of families enjoying Sunday roasts and friends chatting over soup and homemade bread. We immediately knew that this is a place we will return to.

For a place that exudes secrecy and exclusivity, the staff at the Secret Garden are incredibly lovely and friendly. No matter how busy they got that afternoon, they were endlessly cheery and patient with us all.

The Afternoon Tea

Mismatching china at the Secret Garden Kent

On our visit, we chose the Traditional Afternoon Tea with extra Bubbles for £23.95. The first thing that caught our eye was the gorgeous mismatched china. Now I like fancy tea sets as much as the next girl but there is something so quirky and authentic about mismatched sets and it suits this location perfectly.

The sweets at the Secret Garden Kent

When the cake stand arrived, our mouths were watering. All this food was for four people and I can tell you that it was a lot of food!

The afternoon tea stand at the Secret Garden Kent

The sandwiches at the Secret Garden Kent

The Delicious ham sandwich at the Secret Garden Kent

The choice was sandwiches was traditional afternoon tea fare but they were absolutely delicious. I really loved the home cooked ham and coarse grain mustard sandwich and liked the cucumber and cream cheese sandwich so much that I had two of them.

The scones at the Secret Garden Kent

The scones were lovely – moist in the inside but with a slightly crumbly texture. I liked that they were served with strawberries – this was a great addition and a lovely palate cleanser too.

Carrot cake and lemon cake at the Secret Garden Kent

The deserts were lovely but I could only manage to eat four of them in the end. Always disappointing but I am definitely more of a savoury person than a sweet person. I loved the panna cotta in a shot glass and really enjoyed the super chocolaty profiterole.  My favourite were the carrot cake with an exceptionally subtle icing and the lemon drizzle cake.

Love at the Secret Garden Kent

The Gardens

The Gardens at the Secret Garden Kent (2)

Following our long afternoon tea, we took a much needed walk in the Secret Garden itself. I just loved all of the signs posted about the place and the feeling of love that flows through the gardens. I can just imagine why this venue is so popular as a wedding venue.

The Gardens at the Secret Garden Kent (3)

The Gardens at the Secret Garden Kent (4)

We could hardly believe how beautiful the weather was on the day we visited. This is definitely unusual weather for October and there was a definite chill to the air despite the bright sunshine.

The Gardens at the Secret Garden Kent (5)

The Gardens at the Secret Garden Kent (6)

The Gardens at the Secret Garden Kent (7)

The Gardens at the Secret Garden Kent (8)

There was a giant pumpkin patch to remind us that Halloween is around the corner. I should have taken a photo with a person in – these pumpkins were as tall as my knees.

The Gardens at the Secret Garden Kent (9)

The Gardens at the Secret Garden Kent (10)

There were lots of chairs and table overgrowing with moss. I just love this and can imagine fairies and sprites playing here.

The Gardens at the Secret Garden Kent (11)

There is also a gift shop at the Secret Garden and several businesses share the site too.

The Gardens at the Secret Garden Kent

In addition to Sunday lunches and afternoon teas, The Secret Garden hosts pudding nights and Kentish evening tea events.

The Secret Garden Kent
Mersham-le-Hatch Business Village
Hythe Road
TN25 6NH

Notes on visiting: The Secret Garden Kent is located really close to Ashford International train station. You can catch a train from London, spend the morning shopping at the Ashford Designer Outlet and then catch a taxi or bus to The Secret Garden.

If you’re wondering where to visit next, why not visit my friend Liz who also wrote about our afternoon in her Photo Sunday: Secret Garden post or you can visit Sarah’s blog Inspired Travels and read about the postcard project she is doing for her mum.

Finally, I’m making a concerted effort to catch up on my blogging. I have a couple of posts lined up and I’m also slowly catching up on my blog reading. Feel free to leave me a comment below and tell me that I’m long overdue for a visit!