Eltham has existed as a settlement since Saxon times and the Romans were here before them. Today it is part of the Royal Borough of Greenwich although it retains its own identity. It is still home to the Royal palace where Henry VIII spent his childhood. The remains of Eltham Palace were turned into a luxurious Art Deco home by the Courtold family in the 1930s and are well worth a visit.
This website is home to a fully indexed scanned copy of 'the' book on the history of Eltham. Many very good books have been published in the century since this one was produced, but this was the one that started it all, and which gives us a window into Edwardian Eltham as well as into the history that it presents to us.
Published in 1909 by R.R.C. Gregory, the headmaster of the local school which still exists in Roper Street, "The Story of Royal Eltham" has more than 350 pages and over 160 illustrations. Mr Gregory died in 1921 and the work was never republished, so is now out of copyright. It was a labour of love and scholarship - as Mr Gregory put it, in his edwardian style,
"To the Young Folks of Eltham, with many of whom he has held frequent converse on the topics herein discussed, the writer dedicates this book in the fervent hope that, even in those distant days, when the Young Folks shall have become the Old Folks, its perusal may help them to preserve the memories, and to carry on the traditions associated with the romantic history of Royal Eltham"
-- November 1909.
The Young Folks for whom he wrote were the Old Folks two generations ago and we are their descendants!
In preparing the book for this website, which in itself has been no small feat, I have come to admire Mr Gregory's work and his feeling for what in his day was still a village. When he wrote the horrors of the first and second world wars, the Depression and the explosive growth of the 20th century were all in an unimaginable future and the world has changed almost unrecognisably from his day. Indeed Yet there is continuity and many of the places he describes can still be found - and people are still people.
I feel sure that Mr Gregory would have welcomed the internet and its ability to bring information to everyone and would have wanted his work to be published on the web, although of course in his day even the telephone was a new and rare thing.
In bringing "The Story of Royal Eltham" to the web I would like to dedicate it to the memory of Mr Gregory and to open a window on the Eltham of so long ago for those who have not seen his book.
November 2003 - March 2011
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