Eltham Palace

Exclusively British - - CRAFTSMANSHIP -

Restora­tion work usu­ally throws up some un­ex­pected dis­cov­er­ies, many not so wel­come but at Eltham Palace, English Her­itage had a sur­prise when they came to redo the walls of a small study. Eltham Palace's hey­day was as a palace for the Plan­ta­genet and Tu­dor kings - Henry VIII grew up here - but by the 1650s it was al­ready a ruin. The palace had a re­mark­able re­nais­sance as home to 20th cen­tury so­cialites Stephen and Vir­ginia Cour­tauld in the 1930s and the Art Deco in­te­rior they cre­ated is a mas­ter­piece of mod­ern de­sign. A small room off Vir­ginia Cour­tauld's bed­room, known as the Map Room, had been used by English Her­itage as a store. Restora­tion had re­vealed 11 maps pasted to the wall but the real dis­cov­ery was that th­ese maps were part of a pre­vi­ously un­known hand painted dec­o­ra­tive scheme cov­er­ing the whole room. Rather than close the room to the public, English Her­itage took the de­ci­sion to present it to vis­i­tors as a 'con­ser­va­tion in ac­tion' project. This proved re­ally en­gag­ing, helped boost do­na­tions for the restora­tion project and added to the team's body of knowl­edge about the Cour­taulds' life.

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