Ellice Maud Nosworthy was a practising architect for almost 50 years, graduating in 1922.
In the earliest cohort to enroll in the new architecture course at the University of Sydney under Leslie Wilkinson, she registered as an architect in 1923.
Her work included many houses; additions to the Women’s College at the University of Sydney; childcare centres for the Sydney Day Nursery, the Nursery Schools Association and the Karitane Mothercraft Society; and housing for the Kuring-gai Older Peoples’s Welfare Association.
After graduating, Ellice Nosworthy joined the Sydney architectural offices of Waterhouse and Lake and on 26 June 1923 she and Beatrice Hutton became the first women registered architects in New South Wales.
In 1924 Ellice Nosworthy travelled in Europe, returning there in later years as well as travelling extensively to Canada, the USA, Mexico and South America. By 1925 she had set up her own independent practice, first from her parent’s house and later from the home she built for herself in 1956.
Her commissions were mostly for new houses for friends and acquaintances on Sydney’s North Shore and the northern beaches. She also became a specialist in renovations and extensions, an area Bronwyn Hanna notes as one generally neglected by the profession. Her sister Cecily Gunz observed that she always paid great attention to detail and her puzzle-solving abilities stood her in good stead when doing architectural renovations and additions.
Ellice Nosworthy’s clientele was not entirely domestic. She was honorary architect for the Women’s College at the University of Sydney, where she had lived as a student, for more than 30 years. Her work for the College included designs for an air-raid shelter during WWII, the addition of the Reid Wing to accommodate 31 students in 1958 as well as maintenance advice on all the College buildings. In the 1950s Ellice Nosworthy also collaborated with her old professor, Leslie Wilkinson on alterations to St Andrew’s College at the University.
There were ventures into the field of community architecture as well. In the 1940s and 1950s Ellice Nosworthy designed child care centres for the Sydney Day Nursery, the Nursery Schools Association and the Karitane Mothercraft Society. In the following decade, having travelled overseas to consider current trends and developments, she addressed the needs of the other end of the life cycle when she designed four blocks of community housing suitable for older residents. These buildings for the Kuring-gai Older Peoples’s Welfare Association were admirably suited to their purpose, and one of the Assocation’s administrators, Judith Brigden described them later as ‘practical, functional design [and] the best value for money’.
Like Winsome Hall Andrew, a younger colleague who began her own solo practice in 1946, Ellice Nosworthy had a special talent for listening carefully to her clients and making their wishes central to her designs. Her work tended not to seek attention but to fit with the architectural practices and norms of the period in which she was working, so that earlier designs reflected English cottage style while later work showed a preference for non-decorative, functional, modern design. Some idea of Ellice Nosworthy’s output can be gained from the extensive collection of her design specifications and drawings held by the National Library of Australia.
Ellice Nosworthy was a fellow of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects and a fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects. Her practice employed many women architects and played an important role in offering work to women colleagues.
After a long, professionally productive life Ellice Nosworthy died in Sydney on 7 January, 1972.
Early life and education
Ellice Nosworthy was born on 25 February 1897, the second of four daughters. She was dux of SCEGGS Redlands in 1915 and enrolled in an Arts degree at the University of Sydney University in 1916, transferring to architecture when Professor Leslie Wilkinson established Australia’s first architecture course. Her sister Cecily Gunz, who studied in London to become a furniture designer, recalled that their parents had encouraged all four sisters to pursue tertiary education.
Contributed by Pamela Harris
Hanna, Bronwyn, “Nosworthy, Ellice Maud (1897-1972)” Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University (online edition)
Willis, Julie and Bronwyn Hanna, (2001) Women Architects in Australia 1900-1950, Royal Australian Institute of Architects, Canberra