Now managed by English Heritage, the Tudor-Art Deco palace was the childhood home of Henry VIII, and was transformed in the 1930s by art collectors and philanthropists Stephen and Virginia Courtauld.
The rooms being opened for the first time are:
- The Courtauld's luxury wartime bunker and 1930's dark room underneath the house.
- A basement billiards room featuring a mural by artist Mary Adshead (who also has work on displays at The Tate, Imperial War Museum and London Transport Museum).
- Virginia Courtauld’s walk-in wardrobe with vintage designs based on items Virginia would have worn. Visitors will be able to try on replica items.
- Bedrooms occupied by Virginia’s nephews, with a bathroom featuring the only shower in the house — and one of the first in the country to be installed in a residential bathroom.
- A 1930’s map room where the family’s holidays to Africa, Asia, South America and across Europe were planned. The maps were only discovered last summer, and work will continue on the room throughout 2015 to uncover more maps and paintings which have been hidden under decades of wallpapering. More funding is needed to continue this work — you can donate here.
For outdoorsy visitors, the Rock Garden and cascade have been replanted based on contemporary photographs of the Courtauld's time and the Quadrant Rose Garden has been designed in the style of a 1930's rose garden.
As well as the previously unseen rooms, a new visitor centre and cafe will be opened, and digital handsets will provide insights into the history of the house with cinefilm and original photography of the family.
Younger visitors are also catered for — the new children’s guide tells the story of the exotic animals at Eltham Palace, including the tales of Mah–Jongg, the lemur who had his own centrally-heated living quarters, and there's a new travel themed playground.
The new rooms will be unveiled on 3 April. Until then, Eltham Palace is only open to the public on Sundays, 10am-4pm.