John Seely, 2nd Baron Mottistone

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Henry John Alexander Seely, 2nd Baron Mottistone (1 May 1899 – 18 January 1963) was an architect whose work, in partnership with Paul Edward Paget, included the interior of Eltham Palace in the Art Deco style, and the post-World War II restoration of a number of bomb-damaged buildings, such as houses in the Little Cloister (Westminster Abbey), the London Charterhouse and the church of St John Clerkenwell.


Henry John Alexander Seely was born on 1 May 1899, the son of John Seely, 1st Baron Mottistone, a British Army general and politician, and Emily Florence, daughter of Colonel Honourable Sir Henry George Louis Crichton.[1]

He attended West Downs School, Winchester, an independent preparatory school, and then went to Harrow School and Trinity College, Cambridge where he read Architecture and met his future business partner, and life partner,[2] Paul Edward Paget, the son of the Bishop of Chester.[3] Together in 1922 they founded the architect firm of Seely & Paget. According to Paget, "it was just the marriage of two minds... we became virtually one person". They were inseparable in business and life, and referred to each other as "the partner". They lived and worked at 41 Cloth Fair, London, where the firm remained until 1986.[1][4]

He served during World War I, when one of his brothers, 2Lt Frank Reginald Seely of the Royal Hampshire Regiment, was killed in action at the Battle of Arras.[1]

Mottistone Manor and Garden, Isle of Wight

In the 1920s Seely & Paget remodelled Mottistone Manor, a National Trust property in the village of Mottistone on the Isle of Wight.[5] The great-great granddaughter of General J. E. B. Seely, 1st Baron Mottistone, the theatre and opera director Sophie Hunter, held her wedding reception here with Benedict Cumberbatch on 14 February 2015.[6][7]

The Shack is a tiny house designed by Seely & Paget as their country office and retreat at Mottistone Manor Garden.[3] Other domestic works of Seely & Paget at this time were for actress and theatre manager Gladys Cooper and playwright J.B. Priestley.[4]

Eltham Palace exterior

In 1936 Seely & Paget transformed Eltham Palace, a medieval palace, into an Art Deco mansion for Stephen Courtauld and Virginia Courtauld, who took a 99-year lease on the palace from the Crown.[4]

John Seely served in the Auxiliary Air Force and at the Ministry of Works during World War II. He succeeded to the Mottistone barony in 1947.[1] After WWII Seely & Paget designed St Andrew and St George Stevenage, the largest parish church built in England since 1945.[4] Other new churches they designed is St Faith Lee-on-the-Solent.[3] and St Michael and St George, White City, London.

In 1947 John Seely was Surveyor of the Fabric of St Paul's Cathedral and designed the Chapel of the Order of the British Empire, at the eastern end of the crypt.[8] He designed the St George's chapel, Windsor Castle and was Lay Canon and architect at Portsmouth Cathedral. [1]

All Saints Church

In 1959-60 he restored All Saints Church at Cottesbrooke. Among other buildings he restored with Paget after the war damage are Lambeth Palace, Eton College, Fulham Palace, London Charterhouse, St Mary Islington St John Clerkenwell, and many other London churches.[1][9] He was awarded OBE in the 1961 New Year Honours.[10]

He died on 18 January 1963 and was succeeded by his brother, Arthur Patrick William Seely, 3rd Baron Mottistone. He is buried in St Catherine’s chapel garden at Westminster Abbey.[1] In a niche in the wall of one of the houses in the Little Cloister, which Lord Mottistone restored, there is a statue of St Catherine by Edwin Russell that is a memorial to him. The inscription reads "John Mottistone. This is a sign of love and sadness. P.E.P. 1966 A.C.D." P.E.P stands for Paul Edward Paget, Lord Mottistone's partner. A.C.D. is Alan Campbell Don, the Dean of Westminster at the time of Lord Mottistone's death.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "John Seely, Lord Mottistone". Westminster Abbey. Retrieved 11 January 2018.
  2. ^ ‘The Partners: Seely and Paget’, English Heritage. Web resource accessed 8 July 2019
  3. ^ a b c "The Shack, a country retreat". National Trust. Retrieved 11 January 2018.
  4. ^ a b c d "Seely and Paget at Eltham Palace". English Heritage. Retrieved 11 January 2018.
  5. ^ "The Seely Family and their Island Homes". Wight Life. Retrieved 11 January 2018.
  6. ^ "Sophie Hunter is Bringin an Unusual Show in Northern Ireland". The Journal.
  7. ^ Nightingale, Benedict. "What Sophie Hunter Did Last Week". The Times.
  8. ^ Harris, Brian L. (1988), Harris's Guide to Churches and Cathedrals, Ebury Press, ISBN 0091912512, pp=214–15
  9. ^ "John Seely – Lord Mottistone". Furzedown. Retrieved 11 January 2018.
  10. ^ "No. 42231". The London Gazette (Supplement). 27 December 1960. p. 8901.