Type Medallion , Panel , Sculpture , Statue
Stone loggia at the back of the house has four square reliefs by Gilbert Ledward depicting the outdoor interests of Stephen and Virginia Courtauld. From left to right they are, mountaineering, games, gardening and sailing.
Mountaineering: a haversack in the centre surmounted by a brimmed hat. Behind and around it are a coil of rope, ice-picks, a pair of mittens, and studded boots with the soles showing.
Games: a profile portrait of Virginia set in a circle, with quoits and cricket ball and bails showing in the top corners of the square, and badminton racket, shuttlecocks and net across the bottom.
Gardening: three-quarters head of Virginia Courtauld wearing a gardening hat, set in a circle of flowers, with a trowel and spade handle in the top right and left corners respectively and a watering can with a long spout, set at an angle in the bottom right corner, and a small basket of pears in the bottom left.
Sailing: a ship's wheel with a souwester hat on top, surrounded by ropes, an anchor, chain and ship's bell.
The present buildings at Eltham Palace combine a mediaeval hall with a modernist house, built in the 1930s, which is decorated with sculpture on the exterior. The Great Hall was part of the old royal palace which was a dwelling until the time of Henry VIII when the new palace at Greenwich took over. Edward IV spent large sums of money on repairs and probably built the Banqueting Hall around 1480. It suffered under Cromwell, and fell into disrepair over the years until only the hall remained, even being used as a barn at one time. It was threatened with demolition in the nineteenth century and encroached upon by development in the twentieth, but was rescued and restored by Sir Stephen Courtauld who leased the Palace and surrounding lands in 1933 from the Commissioners for Crown Lands.
He built a luxurious new house, Eltham Hall (1933-37), joined at an angle to the Great Hall, employing the architects Seely and Paget on their first important commission. There were objections to the principle of building a modern structure onto an ancient monument and much debate around the propriety of doing so and how to preserve the surrounding ruins. The scheme was also welcomed however, as a means of preventing further encroachment of suburban housing on the site.
The exterior has a classical appearance and is of brick and Clipsham stone. Inside however, leading designers were employed to furnish rooms lavishly in a variety of styles using the most luxurious materials, and to provide a setting for items from Stephen's extensive art collections. The house also boasted the most modern technological innovations including an internal telephone system and a vacuum cleaner system hidden in the walls. It was particularly designed for the comfort of guests as the Courtaulds' loved entertaining and a mixed range of people were invited to stay.
Sir Stephen was an heir of the textile manufacturing firm of Courtauld, and he and Virginia had many interests, both loving sports as well as the arts. He was a mountaineer, interested in exploration and was involved in the development of the British film industry through the Ealing Studios.
The Courtaulds lived in the house during most of the Second World War and the Great Hall was struck by incendiary bombs. They left in 1944. They were willing to surrender the 88 years remaining on the lease if a suitable public use could be found for the building. Stephen wanted this to be an educational use and in April 1945 the Army Education Corps took over the complex, and only the hall was occasionally opened to the public. English Heritage took on the restoration of the Courtauld's house in 1995 and it is now open to the public.
Ledward also did plaster panels in the window reveals of the drawing room. Represent various civilisations throughout the ages and refer to the theories of the philosopher Spengler.
Carved reliefs representing the outdoors interests and activities of the Courtauld family.
PMSA recording information