Cliefden House

Cliefden House

It’s a fact that you can pass a place or building frequently and not really see it. No, it’s not magic it’s just that places become familiar and we rarely look above the first storey. Take Cliefden House on Eltham High Street. Locals may shout “where’s that?” Well, it’s Costa Coffee on one side and a pawnbrokers on the other. Move to the other side of the street, take another look and you can see the shape of a large, early 18th Century house. To add insult, to this house of architectural significance, are the unsightly down pipes and other fixtures that have been added.

Rear view of Cliefden House

Rear view of Cliefden House

Now take a look at the back of the house. To do this you take the pathway at the side of the HSBC bank, work your way through the detritus of the retail trade and you will find a 17th Century stable block. It’s in a really sad state of repair; unloved and surrounded by rubbish. From here there is a view of the rear of Clieffden House, hemmed in and its full elevation totally obliterated from view.

18th C stables at rear of Cliefden House

18th C stables at rear of Cliefden House

Stables at rear of Cliefden House

Continue on this path and encounter The Orangery, a Baroque garden building, 1717-25. Originally it belonged to Eltham House which was demolished in the 1920s. Whilst giving its name to the lane in which it’s situated, it’s now an inconsequential part of it. It was repaired in 2003 and now work is in progress to add an extension. From this perspective it looks out of balance and the new wing dominates. From the Orangery Lane perspective it doesn’t look as bad as the extension is on an incline and slopes backwards. The Orangery is hemmed in by car parks and hard surfaces. Previous planning decisions leaving a nightmare of a scheme for future generations. Architects’ drawings show a small green space in front as a nod to its past life, in reality, it’s of postage stamp proportions. The development will be studio offices.

The Orangery Eltham

The Orangery Eltham

Within a walking distance of 200 metres you have three 18th Century buildings that are buried in the town’s modern topography. They are all listed by English Heritage. Two buildings, The Orangery and Clieffden House, are in the elite 8% of all listed buildings of outstanding interest and have a Grade ll*. The joy of buried treasure is that it can be found. Let’s hope so.

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