South London can get a bit neglected on the tourist trail but there are actually a wide range of beautiful historic houses in south London with delightful grounds that make wonderful spots for days out with kids and for meeting up with friends outdoors.
South London can offer everything from palaces by the Thames and the grandest 1930s Art Deco mansion in the country to pretty country estates by the river Wandle and the river Cray plus hill top Palladian villas and even London’s most haunted historic house!
Many of these historic houses in south London are on the Green Chain Walk that connects up some of London’s most beautiful outdoor spaces. You can easily combine days out to these historic houses with walks in some of London’s best woods including Oxleas, Petts and Sydenham.
So to plan a great day out in south London that combines beautiful buildings, sumptuous interiors, history and art with fun time outdoors do read this guide to south London’s best historic houses:
Morden Hall is a National Trust property by the river Wandle in Mitcham. The lovely riverside grounds include an adventure playground and old mill.
Although the National Trust can’t afford to keep the house permanently open, they do have lots of activities going on in the park and it’s a lovely place for days out with younger kids. Entrance to the park and hall is free.
It’s very worth taking bikes – or scooters – so you can follow the river Wandle up to Dene City Farm.
To find out more – and get transport details – read about our day out at Morden Hall.
Hall Place is one of south London’s secret gems. It’s a lovely Tudor country house with beautiful gardens by the River Cray in Bexley.
There’s a very small but pretty good hands on museum for kids about the Tudors and local life during World War 2 in the house and there is a small butterfly house and owl centre in the gardens.
The gardens are free to visit and there are often additional activities in the grounds. Entrance to the gardens is free but it is over £30 for a family ticket for the house, although there discounts with National Trust and National Art Pass cards.
The house is less than a mile from Bexley station with trains from Charing Cross, London Bridge & Cannon St and there’s a bus that runs from the station to the house.
Hall Place is on the London Loop walk with connections to both the wonderfully wild Crayford Marshes and Dartford Creek on the Thames and in the other direction historic Joydens Woods and pretty Petts Wood owned by the National Trust.
Hall Place is also just a short drive or bus ride from Stanhill Pick Your Own Farm which has pick your own strawberries & a pumpkin patch.
Eltham Palace was Henry VIII’s childhood home in south London. Much of the Tudor palace was lost but the impressive remains including the great hall were restored in the early 20th century and built into a superbly glamorous 1930s mansion.
Eltham Palace is run by English Heritage who put on a wide range of activities covering the full history of the house from the Tudors to World War Two.
Eltham station is 15 minutes walk with direct trains from Victoria, Charing Cross & London Bridge and there are buses from the station.
Down House was Charles Darwin’s historic home in south London. It’s set in beautiful countryside in the north Downs and it is hard to believe you’re still inside the M25 when visiting.
You can find out all about Darwin’s life and work inside the house – there are typically lots of child friendly activities going on – and then explore the gardens and surrounding countryside.
Down House is an English Heritage site so not cheap for a family visit but is free with English Heritage membership card. So if you’re keen, worth considering membership.
It’s not very easy to get to Down House on public transport but it is just off section 3 of the London loop walk between Petts Wood and Hayes where there are train stations.
The lovely Hewitts Pick Your Own farm is less than 10 minutes drive from Down House if you want to combine history with outdoor fun.
Beckhenham Place is an attractive hill top Georgian mansion in south London that has been recently restored and is open to the public.
There is no collection or exhibition at the house currently – although this may come when other restoration is completed – but the attractive interiors have been used for a cafe and community arts spaces.
The key draw of the house is its setting in a large wooded south London park which includes ancient parts of the great north wood and includes a large lake you can swim in.
Beckenham Place is on the Green Chain Walk and the swimming lake is a great place to finish a walk from Petts Wood, Sydenham Wood or Eltham Palace.
Danson House & Park
Danson House is a very beautiful Palladian Villa in Bexley in south London. The historic house is set in the popular Danson Park which has a lake, children’s playground and splash park.
The grand state rooms and Victorian kitchens are unfortunately only open to the public on Sundays but much of the pleasure of the house is it’s beautiful architecture.
The park is a mile from Bexleyheath station, with direct trains from Victoria & London Bridge.
The National Trust’s Red House is just 5 minutes walk away so you could very easily combine the two.
The Red House was William Morris’s south London historic home and the house itself comes closer to the ideals of the arts and craft movement than the William Morris Gallery in east London.
The house is run by the National Trust and you can get free access with a National Trust card. The National Trust run lots of family activities at weekends and on the holidays.
There is a pretty though not large garden but the house is almost right next door to Danson House & Park.
The Red House is about 15 minutes walk from Bexleyheath station.
Little known Charlton House is actually one of London’s finest historic houses from the early Stuart period. It doesn’t have fancy collections or exhibitions but is almost locked in time with bucketloads of atmosphere.
It is also reputedly one of the most haunted houses in London!
The house is on the edge of Charlton Park which has walled and sensory gardens plus plenty of space for picnics.
It is also on the green chain walk from the Thames Barrier to lovely Oxleas Wood or alternatively Oxleas Wood is a short bus ride (468) away.
The house is 10 minutes walk from Charlton station with direct trains from Charing Cross, London Bridge & Canon St.
It does get hired out so it is worth ringing ahead to check opening times.
Any list of south London historic houses has to include the Queen’s House at Greenwich but it does often gets missed with everyone tending to pile into the Maritime Museum.
The Queen’s House is however a beautiful house with lots of fine art and it’s free. It’s also obviously a great spot to combine culture and outdoor space as once you’ve done the art you’ve got the whole of Greenwich Park to enjoy.
Take the DLR or overground to Maze Hill (closer than Greenwich) or our summer fave, the boat!
Southside House is a small historic house on the edge of Wimbledon Common. The 17th century house was a private family home and still contains over 300 years of the family’s furniture, belongings and art.
The house provides a wonderful historic snapshot of country life in the villages surrounding London in the 18th and 19th century and has very lovely grounds that include both formal gardens and wilderness.
Visits are by guided tour so its perhaps more appealing to adults than children but it’s not a long tour and the house is right next to Wimbledon Common for picnics and outdoor fun.
Southside House is about a 25 minute walk from Wimbledon and Raynes Park stations but there are regular buses – 200 and 93 – taking you most of the way.
Whitehall House is a small historic house in Sutton in south London next to Nonsuch Park that has been a local labour of love to restore and protect.
The house is over 500 years old and there are traces of family life from century since still to be seen in the house and exhibitions.
The house is situated right next to Nonsuch Park which was the location of the long lost great Tudor palace of Nonsuch and there is a small exhibition about the palace in Whitehall House.
Whitehall House may not have the size or grandeur of some of London’s great palaces or stately homes but it is a little hidden gem in south London that by the efforts of the local community has lovingly preserved some south London history.
Whitehall House is just a 10 minute walk from Cheam station.
And there you go, a guide to beautiful and historic houses all over south London that make wonderful days out with kids and places to meet up outdoors on south London walks with friends.
For even more historic houses across the whole of London do check out these guides …
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