The Royal Borough of Greenwich is best known for its naval connections and of being the home of Greenwich Mean Time. But less than two miles to the east is a little-known gem: Charlton House, one of the finest surviving Jacobean manor houses in England. It sits on a hill, and when construction began in 1607, the estate stretched right down to the river. The diarist, John Evelyn, described the view as ‘one of the most noble in the world, for city, river, ships, meadows, hills, woods and all other amenities’. Today it's surrounded by urban sprawl. The house, however, retains many of its original features. It was built for Sir Adam Newton, tutor to James I’s son Henry, older brother of Charles 1. He sadly died at the age of 18 but the royal connection features in several places, including the Prince of Wales feathers above the east door to the Minstrel Hall, where you enter.
Leading off this is the Grand Staircase, where the decoration becomes more ornate as you ascend. It was believed evil spirits grew more dangerous the higher you were, so carved into the banisters are grotesque faces whose mouths grow bigger as you ascend – all the better to devour them.
On the first floor the Long Gallery, designed to provide space for exercise in bad weather, is unusual in that it stretches from front to back, rather than sideways.
Next to it is the Grand Salon, recently used as a set for a film about the Getty family.
Entrance to the house and grounds is free.