07/03/2018 Share this story Share on Facebook icon Share on Twitter icon Share on Pinterest icon Share on Google Plus icon Share on Linked In icon Share via Email icon

Help solve the mystery of a missing female architect on International Women's Day


Historic Environment Scotland are calling on the public to help solve the mystery of a talented female architect who vanished from the record books.

The work of a female architecture student who attended Edinburgh College of Art from 1934-1940 was recently uncovered. Her work included designs for private houses, a music school, a holiday camp for children and even a dam.

Join the History Scotland community  
Follow us on facebook
Follow us on twitter
Sign up for our free e-newsletter

Discover History Scotland magazine

A rare find, due to the male-dominance of the sector during this period, researchers at Historic Environment Scotland decided to dig deeper and find out more about this trailblazer.

Jean Payton-Reid was born on 4 January 1917 during World War I. She studied at the School of Architecture, Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) from 1934-1940 but her time as a student is really when most is known about her.

Gaining practical experience working in the office of Tarbolton & Ochterlony from 1937 to 1938, Payton-Reid was admitted to the Royal Institute of British Architects after receiving her diploma from ECA in 1940. She was also a member of the Royal Town Planning Institute but it appears that she had left the profession by 1974. This is where the trail goes cold.

Collection highlights

One of the highlights from this small collection is a design for a National Theatre. In 1940, Jean entered a series of drawings for the Rowand Anderson Studentship, a competition for architecture students hosted by The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS). She entered under the pseudonym ‘Lee’. According to the RIAS Quarterly Journal (No. 64 May 1946), Jean was the only female competitor for the 1939-40 Studentship and she was awarded a £20 prize - around £300 in today’s money.

These accomplished drawings not only showcase Jean’s tremendous talent, they are also extremely valuable as archive material because they were produced during the Interwar period in Scotland, right on the brink of the outbreak of World War II. This time period, 1918-1939, is known for the development of Modernist architecture and Jean’s design for a National Theatre is a great example of the ambition and innovation of the Modernist movement in Scotland.

Solving the mystery

Niamh Crimmins, Archive and Library Assistant at Heritage Environment Scotland, said: “As I catalogued her work, I became fascinated by her and on International Women’s Day, it would be amazing to find out what happened to this talented architect. We would love to know more information about Jean Payton-Reid. While, researching this collection I discovered that the Scottish academic painter Robert Payton-Reid (1859-1945) painted a portrait of a young girl titled ‘Jean’ and this could be a relation.

“It would be great to add to our knowledge of this fascinating woman so we are calling on the public to help us celebrate Jean Payton-Reid by getting in touch if they know more.”

The work of Jean Payton-Reid is digitally accessible to the public and can be viewed on a blog written about her for International Women's Day.

  (images copyright Historic Environment Scotland)

Back to News

07/03/2018 Share this story Share on Facebook icon Share on Twitter icon Share on Pinterest icon Share on Google Plus icon Share on Linked In icon Share via Email icon

Recent Updates

Historic Ayrshire christening robe prepared for display

A 180-year-old Ayrshire christening robe has been carefully cleaned by textile conservation experts ahead of ...

Work begins to transform Abbey Strand buildings at Palace of Holyroodhouse into new Learning Centre

The historic Abbey Strand buildings, which at various times housed debtors, weapons and impoverished families ...

New Keeper of the Registers of Scotland announced

Jennifer Henderson has been appointed as the new Keeper of the Registers of Scotland. ...

Five Scottish locations among the 15 most beautiful places to visit outside London - new infographic

A new project which gathers data from hashtags and geotagged locations on Instagram has revealed the fifteen ...

Other News

New funding for world-class research on the evolution of the English language.

The University of Glasgow has announced that funding of more than £400,000 will be invested over the next ...

Gerda Stevenson: A Tribute to the Women of Scotland

Luath Press and the Scottish Poetry Library present the launch of Quines: Poems in Tribute to Women of ...

Museums Galleries Scotland chief executive steps down

Joanne Orr, chief executive of Museums Galleries Scotland for the last 13 years, has announced she is to step ...

Launch of The People's Voice website

A new online resource on the popular political culture of Scotland in the 19th and early 20th centuries has ...