Last month I wrote about the Winter Gardens, Colonel North’s stables and heating system. Colonel North loved extravagance and impressing everyone who visited his mansion! Starting at the west entrance gate and lodge; visitors to the mansion, arriving at the front door cannot have failed to be impressed by the building Col. North commissioned from his architect Thomas William Cutler in 1888. In September 1889 the Express newspaper commented ”Colonel North is amusing himself building an enormous residence, half barracks, half Crystal Palace, at Eltham.” Quote from The Nitrate King by William Edmundson. North thought Cutler had seriously overspent and took him to court. In 1891 the court found in favour of Cutler and North had to pay costs!
The mansion continues to impress to this day; there’s room to alight at the front door from your carriage without getting rained on! You won’t even need a brolly! The impressive mahogany front doors are embellished with Lion’s heads. The University run regular conducted tours; so seek one out and experience the delights once enjoyed by North’s rich guests!
The rich and famous would have once be able to cross the threshold onto the mosaic floor installed by Italian workmen. Turning to your right you would have been able to make your tour through what is at present the Uni. library. Once North’s sculpture gallery, it is lined with red marble. Moving into the main library area; look out for the portraits of the North family and the minstrel’s gallery. This gallery is made of a rare Mexican onyx.
I wonder if these two lovely rooms will be preserved intact by the future owners? We’ll have to wait and see!
At the west end of the Uni. library look out for the bricked up archways; these used to lead into the Winter Gardens. The rich and famous would once have progressed through here to the tropical house, now rather derelict, into the temperate house where you can see the largest indoor example (60 foot at the crown) of a Canary Island Palm. Next into the cold house with the statue of Galatea; re-entering the main house via the drawing room.
Many of the rich and famous took this tour, including the Prince of Wales. For his visit he arrived by train; alighting at Eltham Park station. The platform was graced with a glass roof for the occasion! Alas the station no longer exists but the entrance can still be seen adjacent to the motorway bridge in Westmount Road. Those were the days!
All parks have a great history, created as public open, green spaces by visionary men and women for the people to enjoy.