The site was originally given to Edward II in 1305 by the Bishop of Durham, Anthony Bek, and used as a royal residence from the 14th to the 16th century. However, with the rebuilding of Greenwich Palace, Eltham Palace became less frequently used.
By the the 1630s, the palace was no longer used by the royal family, and Sir Anthony van Dyck was given the use of a suite of rooms as a country retreat. During the English Civil War, the parks were denuded of trees and deer, and The palace never recovered. Eltham was bestowed by Charles II on John Shaw and—in its ruinous condition, reduced to Edward IV's Great Hall, the former buttery, called "Court House", a bridge across the moat and some walling—remained with Shaw's descendants as late as 1893.
The current house was built in the 1930s by Sir Stephen and Lady Courtauld on the site of the original, and incorporates its Great Hall, and is an art deco teasure. Now part of English Heritage, I have enjoyed many visits to the property and grounds.
I have many photos of the exterior and the grounds. However, one of my favourite images is of the bridge over the moat that visitors enter on. I took it one day in early spring a couple of years ago, when the trees and flowers were just hinting at life.
The bridge represented a link to the past, and to the phases that Eltham Palace had lived through as well as inviting visitors today to enjoy this history. Also, with the green shoots of spring hinting at rebirth and renewal, the bridge also represented a season melting away of the dormant and hibernating winter to the hint of something new with spring.
I took the photo on Fujifilm Velvia to draw out the colours of the hinting spring, and the lushness to come, and to highlight the shadows of winter on the grass that were making way for something new.
It made me think of how the Courtauld’s may have felt when they chose the place to build their opulent art deco home. They had built their home on the ruins of the royal palace, bridging the opulence of the past with the opulence of the 30s.
Cities and architecture often follows the life cycle of birth, maturity, decay, death and rebirth.