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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Nosworthy, Ellice Maud (1897–1972)

by Bronwyn Hanna

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

Ellice Maud Nosworthy (1897-1972), architect, was born on 25 February 1897 at Neutral Bay, Sydney, second of four daughters of Robert John Nosworthy, who came from England and was secretary to Burns, Philp & Co. Ltd, and his native-born wife Maud Jane Eliza, née Smith. Ellice attended Redlands Girls' School under Gertrude Roseby and was dux in 1915. At the University of Sydney (B.Arch., 1922) she enrolled in arts in 1917, but transferred to architecture in 1919 and studied under Professor Leslie Wilkinson. She lived at Women's College, where she won (1919 and 1921) the Dickinson Cup for tennis.

Employed (1922-23) by (B. J.) Waterhouse & Lake, Nosworthy was registered as an architect on 26 June 1923. After travelling and working in Europe in 1924, she practised from her parents' home at Lindfield and specialized in domestic architecture. She made several extensive study and working trips to North America (1929) and Britain (1935-38), and was employed by the Department of the Interior during World War II. From 1956 she conducted her practice from her own home, built to her specifications in her parents' orchard. Her clientele consisted largely of well-connected North Shore friends and acquaintances. She mostly employed women architects, including Barbara Munro, Louise Hutchinson and Brigid Wilkinson.

As honorary architect (1941-72) for Women's College, Nosworthy provided free advice on the maintenance of its buildings and also designed several substantial alterations, among them an air-raid shelter (1942) under the cloister and the (Mary) Reid wing (1958) which accommodated thirty-one students. She frequently donated her fees for such work to the college's building appeal. In the late 1950s she collaborated with Wilkinson on additions to St Andrew's College, University of Sydney.

Her other non-domestic projects included work for the Australian Mothercraft Society (1942) and the Young Women's Christian Association (1958-59). She designed child-care centres for the Sydney Day Nursery & Nursery Schools Association at Erskineville (1945) and Newtown (1955), and for the Ku-ring-gai Municipal Council at Gordon (1950). In the 1960s she designed community housing for the Ku-ring-gai Old People's Welfare Association. Nosworthy tended to follow contemporary architectural norms: her early houses exhibited Federation-type spaces and details, while her later work showed a preference for non-decorative, functional, modern design. Her architectural philosophy focused on accommodating her client's complex needs rather than imposing stylish aesthetic solutions: 'The more I plan houses for people the more it is brought home to me that there will never be the perfect house, for the very things that one person thinks so desirable—another would not want at any price'.

Miss Nosworthy was a fellow (1970) of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects and an associate-member (1948) of the Royal Institute of British Architects. A member of the Australian Federation of University Women, she attended the international federation's conference in Mexico City (1964) and visited South America. She died on 7 January 1972 at Killara and was cremated with Congregational forms; her estate was sworn for probate at almost $510,000.

Select Bibliography

  • G. Beiers, Houses of Australia (Syd, 1948)
  • Australia: National Journal, Autumn 1940
  • Australian Federation of University Women (Sydney), Newsletter, no 40, Mar 1972
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 1 Apr 1958, 16 Aug 1964, 10 Jan, 10 Mar 1972
  • E. M. Nosworthy papers (National Library of Australia).

Citation details

Bronwyn Hanna, 'Nosworthy, Ellice Maud (1897–1972)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 21 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

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