Odds and quads

January 14, 2010

This ladies' lavatory, listed by English Heritage as a superb example of Victorian luxury design, is on the University of Greenwich's Avery Hill campus, and is still in daily use by the staff.

In 1882, the "nitrate king" John North, known as Colonel North, returned from making his fortune in Chile and took out a lease on a mansion in Eltham, southeast London. When he bought the property outright in 1888, he embarked on an ambitious enlargement programme, to house his art treasures and incorporate a uniquely elaborate set of private Turkish baths.

Although the baths and much of the complex were destroyed in the Second World War, the fine ballroom (now the campus library) and the dome-covered Winter Garden - with palm house, pond house and fernery - survive to this day. The lavatory is notable for its ornate stained glass tiling in Burmantoft's faience and mosaic marble flooring.

In 1890, a writer in The British Architect magazine said that "the decorative effect is the best of its kind we have seen".

Send suggestions for this series on the sector's treasures, oddities and curiosities to: matthew.reisz@tsleducation.com.

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