Spaces to Palaces
The full-size file (click fig. B1) is 22.75MB in size. The PDF version is almost as large but will be reduced to comply with the OCA’s submission restrictions.
This Assignment is entitled Spaces to Places and that concept is considered early in Part 3 with a quotation from Liz Wells (2011)
Photographs slice space into place; land is framed as landscape. Representation envelops reality; it becomes an act of colonisation. Photography contributes to characterising sites as particular types of places within the order of things.”Wells, 2011, p.59
The course material states, “[t]hrough the medium of landscape, spaces are turned into places” (Alexander et al. 2019, p.97) and reinforces the notion that landscaping, both physically and representationally tames and colonises its subject.
My own view is that a space becomes a place when it is given a name and that is a process that happens in degrees of granularity, such as The Lake District; Grasmere; Dove Cottage, Grasmere.
Photography, to paraphrase Sontag (1973), slices out a moment and freezes it, operating as importantly on time as on location.
Eltham as a geographical locus was first recorded in the year 1280 (the Domesday Book referred to “Alteham”). Eltham Manor became a palace through the gradual process of increasing royal occupation in the early 14th century.
The progression from pasture to Palace to playground of the middle classes (the site is now an English Heritage tourist attraction) was made possible because the Courtauld family built an art deco retreat there in the 1930s and lived there for most of World War 2. I fixed on the site as a subject for this Assignment fairly early in the course as it is nearby and easily accessible: I only thought of my corruption of the title Spaces to Palaces towards the end of the project.
adapted from Roy Brook (1960)
The land on which Eltham Palace stands, then part of “Alteham”, was described in the Domesday Book in agricultural terms: “one sulung and a half †. There is arable land of twelve teams”. The area was then owned by Alwold under Edward the Confessor.
William the Conqueror gave the land to Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, who became Earl of Kent and it passed through a series of owners as a result of deaths, marriages and treachery: Haimo, Shire Reeve of Kent; his niece, Maud who married Robert, Earl of Gloucester; his brother William who died without a male heir; thus next to Gilbert de Clare in 1216 who in turn gave it to John de Vesci in 1278.
It can be argued that a space becomes a place when it acquires a name, and in 1280 the Manor of Eltham was confirmed as a possession of de Vesci when he “performed homage” to Edward I, passing to his brother William on his death. When De Vesci died in 1296, Antony Bek, Bishop of Durham (a colleague on several diplomatic missions) held Eltham in trust for De Vesci ‘s illegitimate son, another William. Bek built a “large and splendid mansion” in Eltham (Hasted’s 1778-89 History of Kent, quoted by Brook, p.14). William was killed at Bannockburn and Bek died at Eltham in 1311, having bequeathed this possession to Edward, Prince of Wales who became Edward II.
Some stability of ownership then followed, the land and property remaining in a series of royal hands and used for formal meetings, jousting tournaments and as a residence for young princes from Edward III to Henry VIII (as they would later become), reigns from 1327 to 1547. Although Henry VIII made improvements to the palace, after he left his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, he turned his attention to Hampton Court. Over the next 100 years, a succession of managers was appointed and there were only occasional royal visits. In 1629, Charles I gave the palace to his queen, Henrietta Maria, with the Earls of Holland and Dorset as trustees. The last resident of the old palace was Robert Devereaux, third Earl of Essex, who gradually lost faith in Charles I and fought against him in the Civil War (1642–51).
A survey following the Civil War described the site as “out of repair and untenantable” (p.48) and when Nathaniel Rich bought it in 1651, the diarist John Evelyn wrote of, “both Chapel and Palace in miserable ruins”. The land reverted to the Crown with Charles II but little remained. Peter Stent’s 1650 engraving of the palace (fig. W1) is the only known graphic of the site before its destruction.
† Brook adds that, “A sulung was as much land as a team of eight oxen could plough in a year, together with the pasture land required for the feeding of the oxen”.
Henrietta, who regained ownership with the Restoration, leased the area, including the Palace site, to Sir John Shaw in 1663. He built Eltham Lodge, near the Palace, where the family lived until 1820 and used the Great Hall as a barn for Court Farm (fig. H1, though Brook notes that the variation in the depictions of the Great Hall suggest that artists “painted as their fancy dictated” p.55). The land reverted to the Crown and the Lodge is now home to the Royal Blackheath Golf Club.
In 1818, Richard Mills built Moat House (figs. B2 and E3) on the remains of the moat gatehouse and it remained a private residence until 1921 when it became a hotel.
In 1820 R.J. Saunders took over the tenancy of Court Farm. Richard Bloxham leased the farm in 1859, built a house adjoining the Great Hall, known as Eltham Court (fig. E4) and converted the Hall into a tennis court (fig. H2). Bloxham paid for remedial work to the Hall in the 1890s and in 1911, the Office of Works began a major restoration project with a budget of £6,000, including steel reinforcement of the Hammerbeam Roof (fig. H3).
The tenancies expired in 1933 and the Sir Stephen Courtauld leased Moat House, Eltham Court and 50 acres of land from the Crown. They agreed to preserve and repair the Hall, three Tudor gables that had formed part of Bloxham’s Eltham Court ‡ and the moat bridge, demolish everything else and to build a new home, Eltham House. Architects John Seeley and Paul Paget were employed to design an art deco retreat that incorporated the three original features and the Courtaulds moved in on 25th March 1936. The details of the new building will be the subject of a subsequent project. Their residence lasted until 1944 and included bomb damage to the Hall roof in 1940 (figs. R2 and R3) which was repaired by the Ministry of Works in 1951. The Courtaulds relinquished their lease and subsequently lived in Scotland, Canada and Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia).
When the Courtaulds left, the site was taken over by the Royal Army Education Corps who used it for officer training until 1992 (fig. H5). English Heritage took responsibility for the Great Hall in 1984 and for the whole site in 1995, opening to visitors in 1999: it is now a tourist attraction. It has featured in several films (notably Stephen Fry’s Bright Young Things (2003) and also scenes in Netflix’s The Crown series). It was (before Covid) available for hire as a wedding venue (fig. H6).
‡ The fifteenth century gables are visible above the entrance to Eltham House in fig. A1.
The realisation that a project’s form and format of presentation is very nearly as important its content is an essential stage in practice development. This is thwarted somewhat by the course’s limitation of online submission.
As this project seeks to depict several centuries of local history, it is inevitable that it is heavily reliant on third-party images, initially prints and paintings and later published documentary photographs and postcards. Given those sources, I soon conceived the notion of a sweep of images showing changes over time and the intention that they should all be visible to the viewer simultaneously. Broadcasters often express the notion of speaking to a single viewer or listener as a means of focussing their delivery and the same approach can be useful in preparing a display of photographs. I perceive my selection of images in a time-sequenced matrix in the corner of a room so that my single viewer can see them all at once and follow the various lines of development, as instinct and predisposition leads.
If we were still submitting assignments physically, the main element would be a single scroll of images (with an indication of where the fold would be on a wall), backed up by larger versions of my own component photographs. Judy Fiskin (2011) at 2¼ inches square and Paul O’Kane (2014) at 7cm by 5cm have both proved the effectiveness of small images and so the scroll could successfully convey the concept, though the the final, live display would use images of around postcard size and, where possible, original, used postcards with the messages sent on the reverse available to the viewer separately (fig. C1).
Given the online submission file size limitations, the 27MB scroll will be made available as a download.
The nature of the material requires some textual explanations: those are not a problem with the full size version, but are a challenge as they must be condensed on the scroll.
There are five new Learning Outcomes for LPE:
L01 visual and conceptual strategies – assembling and curating images covering 350 years of changes in aspects of a single location is an interesting and effective challenge.
L02 social, cultural and ethical considerations – the project describes the gradual transition of a site from rural backwater to busy suburb and notes some of the social changes that have effected the several transformations.
L03 exploring a range of ideas – While the subject remained static, the means of presentation developed steadily over the life of the project. The progress is described in detail in the online blog (Blackburn, 2022).
L04 research, managing time and resources – this was probably the most time-consuming Assignment project I have yet undertaken and some lines of enquiry are still in progress.
L05 autonomy, voice, and communication – in addition to the continuing activities described in previous assignments, I have begun work as a volunteer documenting and photographing the Conway Library archive at the Courtauld Institute.
Improvements and Continuation
Not all areas of the site are currently accessible because it is in the process of reopening the grounds after winter closure. Further visits later in the year would produce photographs closer to the original images. I am awaiting a reply from the senior conservator at the site regarding better copies of the photographs on show to the public.
LPE Assignment 3 References
Alexander, J, Conroy, A, Hughes, A, & Lundy, G (2019) Landscape, Place and Environment [LPE]. Barnsley: Open College of the Arts.
Blackburn, N. (2022) LP&E : Assignment 3, Development [online]. lpe.baphot.co.uk. Available from http://lpe.baphot.co.uk/assignments/assignment-3/asg3-blog/ [Accessed 10 May 2022].
Brook, R. (1960) The story of Eltham Palace. London: Harrap & Co.
english-heritage.org.uk (n.d.) The Army at Eltham Palace [online]. english-heritage.org.uk. Available from https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/eltham-palace-and-gardens/history/the-army-at-eltham/ [Accessed 30 April 2020].
fineartamerica.com (n.d.) J.M.W. Turner, Interior of St. John’s Palace, Eltham [online]. fineartamerica.com. Available from https://fineartamerica.com/featured/interior-of-st-johns-palace-eltham-joseph-mallord-turner.html [Accessed 29 April 2022].
Fiskin, J. (2011) Some Aesthetic Decisions. Los Angeles: Getty Publications.
Hamilton, N. (1969) Royal Greenwich. London: The Greenwich Bookshop.
lovemydress (2012) Shades of Antique Gold and Cherry Blossom Pink for a Sophisticated and Elegant Wedding at Eltham Palace [online]. lovemydress.net. Available from https://www.lovemydress.net/ [Accessed 29 April 2022].
O’Kane, P. (2014) Where is that light now?. London: eeodo.
Sontag, S. (1973) On photography. NY: Farrar, Strauss & Giroux.
Wells, L (2011), Land Matters: Landscape Photography, Culture and Identity. London: Taylor and Francis. Available from: ProQuest Ebook Central. [Accessed 23 October 2021].
Eltham Palace, image credits
Moat Bridge entrance
B1 Joseph Nash, Eltham Bridge and Moat House, 1827 from Brook, 1960, Plate X
B2 Moat House, Eltham, c.1910, Postcard, photographer uncredited, from eBay
B3, B4 Moat Bridge, Eltham, 2022 taken by the author
N1 Samuel and Nathaniel Beck, Eltham Palace, 1735, on display at Eltham Palace
N2 J.M.W. Turner, The Great Hall from the North, 1791, from Brook, 1960, Plate VII
N3 King John Palace, Eltham, 1910, Postcard, photographer uncredited, from eBay
N4 Eltham Palace, North View, 2022 taken by the author
S1 Great Hall of Eltham [South view], undated, unattributed magazine page, from eBay
S2 Eltham Palace [South view], undated, photographer uncredited, from Hamilton, 1969
S3 The ruined Great Hall, c. 1900, photographer uncredited, on display at Eltham Palace
S4 The Great Hall from the South, 1908, photographer uncredited, from Brook, 1960, Plate XI
S5 Eltham Palace, South View, 2022 taken by the author
E1 Paul Sandby, Eltham Palace, 1787, from Brook, 1960, Plate VI
E2 John Hassell, The Entrance to King John’s Palace, Eltham, Kent, c.1812, from Google Arts & Culture
E3 The Moat & Bridge, Eltham 1909, Postcard, photographer uncredited, from eBay
E4 Eltham Court, pre 1930, clipping from The Times, 6 August 1936, Eltham Reference Library
E5, E6 Eltham Palace, East and South-East Views, 2022 taken by the author
W1 Peter Stent, Eltham Palace, 1650, from Brook, 1960, Plate IV
W2 Paul Sandby, Eltham Palace, 1782, from Brook, 1960, Plate VI
W3 Eltham Palace in 1790 [West View], unattributed image from Eltham Reference Library
W4 J. Lambert, Remains of Eltham Palace, Kent, 1811 from Eltham Reference Library
W5 Eltham Palace, West View, 2022 taken by the author
R1 J.M.W. Turner, Interior of St. John’s Palace, Eltham, 1791 from fineartamerica.com
R2, R3 Roof of the Great Hall showing bomb damage September 1940 photographer(s) uncredited, on display at Eltham Palace
R4 Hammerbeam Roof, 2022 taken by the author
The Great Hall
H1 The Great Hall as a Barn, 1845, from Brook, 1960, Plate X
H2 The Great Hall as a Tennis Court, 1908, photographer uncredited, from Brook, 1960, Plate X
H3 Restoration works, 1911 to 1914, photographer uncredited, on display at Eltham Palace
H4 Guests relaxing in the Great Hall, 1940, photographer uncredited, on display at Eltham Palace
H5 RAEC Association dinner in the great hall at Eltham in 1961, photographer uncredited, from english-heritage.org.uk
H6 Shades of Antique Gold and Cherry Blossom Pink for a Sophisticated and Elegant Wedding at Eltham Palace, 2012, photographer uncredited, from lovemydress.net