Tuesday, 16 August 2016

The story of Eltham Palace

Cover of the book
“Two generations ago Eltham was a quiet Kentish village where time had almost stood still.  

The narrow High street wound its way up the hill from the parish church, past the Congregational Church, and Sherrard House on the left, which faced the Grey Hound Inn, and then passed the old smithy, the old ‘Cage’ or ‘Lock Up,’ Love Lane and Dobson’s Pond on its way on towards Maidstone.

Gone were the stagecoaches, but a sign on the corner of Court Yard pointed in the direction of Mottingham, and indicated that the sounds of Eltham station were a mile away, and would not normally be heard.

The Dover Road lay to the north, almost parallel with the Kentish Road running through our village, and for centuries the tranquillity of the countryside had been disturbed only by travellers journeying to and from the Continent.

It was along these roads that Wellington’s men had marched to meet the French at Waterloo and Cromwell’s men to meet the men of Kent in an earlier period.

It was the Dover Road along which the Romans invaded England before they crossed the Thames at London and which was later familiar to Chaucer and Charles Dickens alike. It crossed what was to become Shooter’s Hill, and still serves as a boundary of the manor and parish of Eltham.

The Banqueting Hall, 1909
The slumbers of the ancient ruined place were disturbed only by its immediate occupants, and a few learned antiquarians, who took a sentimental interest in it.”*


Now as the start of a history of Eltham I don’t think the opening paragraphs of The Story of Eltham Palace can be beaten.

It was written by Captain Roy Brooks while he was stationed at the Palace with the Royal Army Education Corps in 1959 and was a full half century after that other book on Eltham’s history was published by R.R.C. Gregory in 1909.

Neither is now in print but it is possible to still get copies of The Story of Eltham Palace.

When the hall was a stable, circa 1840
The chapters suggest a straight chronological romp through the Palace’s history but in the middle of the book there is a section which “tries to reconstruct a picture of the palace as it was in its heyday.”

Added to there are maps diagrams, and photographs and a short history of the Royal Army Education Corps.

So whether you try to get a copy from the local library or like me track one down on the internet it is well worth the effort.

All of which just leaves me to puzzle over the story of the man.

And with the help of Huddersfield Local History Group** I tracked him down.

I knew he had been born in Huddersfield but that was about it, so from the back of his book on "The Story of Huddersfield" by Roy Brook, published in 1968, comes this.

"Roy Brook was born in Huddersfield in 1928. His parents are Huddersfield folk, as were his forebears. 

He was educated at Huddersfield College, and the town was his home until 1946. He gained his B.A. in History at University College, Bangor, in 1949, and was made M.A. (Wales) in 1964. 

He qualified as a teacher at the University of Leeds in 1953. 

He is also as Associate of Woolwich Polytechnic in mechanical engineering, and is a lecturer in Further Education for the London Borough of Bromley. 

He joined the Royal Army Educational Corps in 1949, and is still a serving officer with the rank of Major, responsible for the training of Teachers in Further Education for the Army. 

He has written "The Story of Eltham Palace", published in 1960 for the R.A.E.C.


Major Brook is married, with three children. He is a versatile amateur musician and has travelled widely in the Far East and Australia in the course of his career. 

He now lives in South East London."

So a story that began in Eltham and wended its way north to Huddersfield has returned to the south east.
That said I recommend the Huddersfield Local History Group which has a lot to offer anyone interested in local history.


*The story of Eltham Palace, Roy Brook, 1960

**Huddersfield Local History Group http://huddersfieldhistory.wordpress.com/huddersfields-history/

Pictures; cover of the book, the Banqueting Hall in 1909, the banqueting Hall when it was used as stable circa 1840 from The story of Royal Eltham, R.R.C. Gregory, 1909 and published on The story of Royal Eltham, by Roy Ayers, http://www.gregory.elthamhistory.org.uk/bookpages/i001.htm and the Palace in 2013 from the collection of Jean Gammons, and cover from The Story of Huddersfield, by Roy Brook,  1968

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