Book Review of ELTHAM LODGE: Where Perfection meets Convenience by John H. Bunney

I was intrigued by the title of this publication as it sums up the idea of country house building. Their design is an attempt at mastery of perfection, to present certain ideals and support the culture of the country house rituals. However, the functionality of day-to-day living opens another avenue of research and presentation.

Eltham Lodge today is the Club House of the Royal Blackheath Gold Club. James VI of Scotland and I of England had brought with him to England the game of golf that had developed in Scotland, and Blackheath was a good spot for the game.

The Lodge is a delightful, symmetrical, beautiful-proportioned red-brick building with sash windows, a high-pitched slate room with dormers, and clusters of stacks. The main entrance is 4 pilasters, upon which the cornice rests and above is positioned a pediment. Inside the ornamentation includes decorative plasterwork, feature fireplaces, and ornamental stairs. The puzzle always with country houses is how much is original and what are the different phases of building, renovation, changes in ornament and layout. The building itself holds the key to the history. Hopefully there is supporting documentation but quite often that is not the case. Always a challenge for the researcher.

John Bunney’s book brings together many of the strands that make up the building and culture of Eltham Lodge. It explores a variety of sources along with form and functionality, to reveal the social history. I feel as if I am engaged on a tour with a stimulating conversation which brings Eltham Lodge and the story of its inhabitants into sharp focus.

I enjoyed the well-researched elements as well as the anecdotes which bring colour and life to the historical inhabitants. The book well represents the building and its surroundings in terms of its social history and describes aspects of its architectural history and context. It stands as a comprehensive reference book, providing a testimony to the Lodge’s history since it began life in 1663. The text is supported clearly with maps, plans, drawings, photographs, and paintings. It is a very engaging read for anyone who is interested in the history of Eltham Lodge.

In addition to the history, I enjoyed the concept of aspects of perfection found within the building alongside the functionality of making the house operate for the inhabitants.

Eltham Lodge: Where Perfection meets Convenience by John H. Bunney is available from Impress Publishing.