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Gold telephone returns to Art Deco mansion after being found in skip

It has been donated to Eltham Palace.

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English Heritage Collections curator Olivia Fryman gives a recently donated 1930s gold telephone a final brush up before it goes on public display for the first time at Eltham Palace (English Heritage)

English Heritage Collections curator Olivia Fryman gives a recently donated 1930s gold telephone a final brush up before it goes on public display for the first time at Eltham Palace (English Heritage)

English Heritage Collections curator Olivia Fryman gives a recently donated 1930s gold telephone a final brush up before it goes on public display for the first time at Eltham Palace (English Heritage)

A millionaire’s gold telephone is returning to its Art Deco mansion home after being discovered in a skip.

The 1930s gold telephone, which belonged to eccentric millionaire Virginia Courtauld, was saved in the 1980s but its rediscovery has only just emerged.

It has now been donated to Eltham Palace, which is in the care of English Heritage.

The telephone is one of only two surviving Siemens Bakelite telephones – the other is black – of the original 19 installed in 1936 for the wealthy Stephen and Virginia Courtauld.

Virginia’s Bathroom at Eltham Palace (English Heritage)

This golden-coloured object was one of five located in the palace’s bedrooms and is the only example still in existence.

Virginia, who commissioned the gold phones, had an ensuite bathroom lined with gold mosaic and onyx, gold-plated bath taps and a marble statue of Greek goddess Psyche.

The Courtaulds moved out in May 1944 and passed the lease to the Army Educational Corps.

When the Royal Army Educational Corps (RAEC) moved out of Eltham Palace in the 1980s, all the original telephones were thrown away.

Eltham Palace (English Heritage)

The gold telephone was rescued from the rubbish by a passing member of the RAEC and has now been donated to English Heritage.

Dr Olivia Fryman, English Heritage’s curator of collections and interiors, said: “It is wonderful that the only surviving gold telephone belonging to the Courtaulds has returned to Eltham Palace and into the care of English Heritage.

“This important object gives a real sense of the glamour and modernity of the interiors and the couple’s extravagant lifestyle.

“From being housed in bomb-hit Eltham during the Second World War, to being accidentally thrown away, it is a miracle that this telephone has not only survived but finally found its way home.”

The gold telephone will go on display at Eltham Palace, in south-east London, from February 15.

PA Media