Historic Environment Scotland is appealing for more information about a mysterious female architect who joined the profession around the outbreak of the Second World War
The public body is seeking details of the life and works of Jean Payton-Reid – who would have worked within a male-dominated profession and at a time of great hardship – after preserving some of her drawings recently.
Payton-Reid was born in 1917, studied at the Edinburgh College of Art’s School of Architecture from 1934 and became a member of the RIBA in 1940. It is believed that she worked in Edinburgh into the 1970s but there is no record of buildings she produced or jobs she held.
In a rare glimpse into her career, it emerged she was awarded a £20 prize in 1940 for a series of drawings she entered under a pseudonym into a competition hosted by The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS).
Historic Environment Scotland said the ‘accomplished drawings’ showed Jean had ‘tremendous talent’. It added that the sketches were ‘extremely valuable’ because they showed the ambition of the Scottish Modernist movement between the world wars.
Colour scheme for a bar by Jean Payton-Reid
Library assistant Niamh Crimmins, who catalogued the drawings, wrote in a blog post ahead of International Women’s Day: ‘The collection appealed to me because it’s a relatively rare example of the work of a female architect in a male-dominated field. It is quite varied, with designs for private houses, a music school, a holiday camp for children and even a dam.
‘As I digitised her drawings, I imagined a trailblazer. A person defying the society’s expectations to follow her passion. Very few women during the war were enrolled in higher education and even fewer were training to become architects. So I wanted to find out more about her. Who was this Scottish feminist architect and what barriers did she face?’
An RIBA spokesperson said: ‘Jean Payton-Reid was elected an associate of the RIBA in 1940 and listed in the RIBA Member directories until 1975. We have records of her resignation on 5 February 1975, indicating that at this point she retired.
Holiday camp for children by Jean Payton-Reid
‘Unfortunately, we are unable at this stage to shed any further light into her work or life that would complement Historic Environment Scotland’s discoveries. We would be keen to know more about Jean Payton Reid and to be able to share more about her life and work.’
Anyone with information is urged to contact Historic Environment Scotland.
Watercolour of a funicular railway by Jean Payton-Reid