Seely and Paget ran one of the most noteworthy architectural firms of the inter-war years, completing their masterpiece, Eltham Palace, in 1936. Their names live on together like Batman and Robin or Lennon and McCartney, but their relationship went much deeper than that of professional partners.
Meeting as students
The two met as teenagers at Trinity College, Cambridge, where John Seely, son of Lord Mottistone was studying Architecture. Paul Paget, the son of a Bishop, was an extrovert and entertainer. In Paget's words "it was just the marriage of two minds…we became virtually one person". Each referred to the other simply as 'the partner'.
It was in 1922, after Paget had moved back to London to take up what he considered a dull profession in banking, that Seely turned up and announced that they were starting an architectural firm together. What Paget lacked in architectural expertise, he made up for in charm. He was the letter writer, the phone answerer, and the face of the company. Seely was the designer.
Both came from rich families and were well connected. In Paget's words "You were just introduced to the right people, behaved in the right way, and so commission followed commission".
Their first undertaking outside of their families was for the actress Gladys Cooper. She was the pin up girl of the First World War. Following Cooper, their next commission came from the playwright, author and screenwriter JB Priestley, who lived next door to Cooper in North London - overlooking Highgate Woods.
Churches and institutions
Paget's Bishop father arranged some introductions and in 1933 they built the Church of St Faith at Lee-on-the-Solent. Seely and Paget went on to oversee the restoration of over a dozen London churches after the war.
Among many other buildings, they were also responsible for restoring the Charterhouse, part of the Westminster Abbey precinct, and Eton College. In addition they built a number of new churches, including St Andrew and St George in Stevenage - the largest parish church to have been built in England since the Second World War.
In their later years Seely and Paget went on to become the Surveyors to the Fabric of St Paul's Cathedral.
They lived and worked together at 41 Cloth Fair, in the City, in a house that pre-dated the Fire of London. Their business became so successful that they were able to buy the majority of the buildings on the street.
They installed two separate baths in the bathroom, where they would soak together.
They blocked up the window in the house opposite that overlooked their kitchen and commissioned the church artist Brian Thomas to paint over it. The mural of a sailor returning home was "a delightful thing to look at" according to Paget. This may have resonated strongly with the partners, both having lost older brothers in the First World War.
Their friend John Betjeman, later to become the Poet Laureate, moved in to this house as their neighbour in the 1950s.
On weekends they would get away from the pace of London life at 'The Shack' which they built together in the grounds of Mottistone Manor on the Isle of Wight. They entertained guests at Mottistone often, but with only two bunk beds there was nowhere for guests to stay at The Shack. The shack can be seen today at Mottistone Manor.
Paget's cousin recommended the partners to Stephen Courtauld, brother of Samuel (founder of The Courtauld Institute), and one of the richest men in the country. This led to the creation of the partners' masterpiece Eltham Palace; an Art Deco extension to a medieval royal retreat.
Their work included all 14 of the bedrooms and all but one of the bathrooms - Lady Courtauld's own. She stipulated that hers be designed by the fashionable Mayfair interior designer Peter Malacrida. Paget later said: "We slightly resented that and thought we would have done something much better."
Life after death
Seely died in 1963 and is buried in St Catherine's chapel garden at the little cloister in Westminster Abbey.
Paget continued his duties at St Pauls, but without his partner and with no architectural training, he felt unable to continue alone. In 1971, he married the children's writer Verily Anderson, for partnership. He retired with her and her children to Templewood in North Norfolk, a building the partners erected for Paget's uncle. He lived there happily until his death in 1985.