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Beatrice May (Bea) Hutton (1893–1990)

by Judith M. McKay

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Beatrice May (Bea) Hutton (1893-1990), architect and craftswoman, was born on 16 July 1893 at The Folly, Lakes Creek, Queensland, second of seven children of Falconer West Hutton, a surveyor born in New South Wales, and his Queensland-born wife Clara Susannah, née Holt. Bea spent much of her childhood at Comet Downs, Comet, Central Queensland, until the effects of the great drought at the turn of the century forced the Hutton family off the land. They moved to Rockhampton, where Falconer practised as a surveyor and Bea attended Rockhampton Girls’ Grammar School. Resolving on an independent career, she entered her father’s office for a year to learn the rudiments of drafting.

In June 1912 Hutton began her architectural career as an articled pupil of the leading Rockhampton architect Edwin Morton Hockings, principal of the firm E. M. Hockings & L. T. Palmer. With the departure of Hockings on active service during World War I, she became the firm’s chief draftsman. In March 1916, on completion of her articles, she applied to become an associate of the Queensland Institute of Architects. Her application was accepted at the institute’s meeting of 30 October without debate or controversy, making her the first woman admitted to an architectural institute in Australia. An earlier application, to the Institute of Architects of New South Wales, by Florence Taylor, had been rejected in 1907 because she was a woman.

Late in 1916 Hutton moved to Sydney for wider experience. She worked briefly for the architects Wardell & Denning and in April 1917 joined the office of the Queensland expatriate architect and consulting engineer Claude William Chambers. She assisted Chambers with major works in Sydney: the New South Wales Masonic Club in Castlereagh Street and Sirius House in Macquarie Place. In 1923 Hutton was registered as an architect in New South Wales and in 1931 became the junior partner of Chambers, in the restyled firm of Chambers & Hutton. That year she joined the Society of Arts and Crafts of New South Wales to pursue an interest in handicrafts nurtured by her mother.

Hutton believed that the greatest contribution of women to architecture was in the domestic sphere, in the design of homes suited to climate and equipped for modern living. Houses are among the best-known works attributed to her: the J. W. Dalzell residence, in Spencer Street, Rockhampton (c.1916); the Frank Rudd residence for a friend, in Agnes Street, Rockhampton (c.1923); Ngarita for an uncle, Sir William Vicars, in Cranbrook Road, Rose Bay (Bellevue Hill), Sydney (c.1926); and a retirement cottage for her parents, in Brecknell Street, Rockhampton (c.1926).

In 1933 Beatrice cut short her architectural career to return to Rockhampton to care for her ageing parents. Following her father’s death in November that year, she and her mother moved to Brisbane, settling at Toowong and becoming actively involved in handiwork. Beatrice joined the Arts and Crafts Society of Queensland and took lessons in wood carving from Lewis Harvey. In 1936 she opened a craft studio, The Glory Box, in Brisbane’s Colonial Mutual Life Building, where she sold her work and that of her mother, including embroideries, knitted dresses, rugs, ceramics, wood carving and rolled paper and bead curtains. She also undertook commissions for carved portraits. In 1940-42, following her mother’s death, she returned briefly to architecture, working for the retailers Penneys Ltd.

In her later years Hutton was surrounded by her creative handiwork. She never married. A reserved and gracious woman, she was tall and slim, with large, observant eyes and a ready smile. She retained the poise that had made her, in her youth, a champion horsewoman. She died on 7 October 1990 at Indooroopilly, Brisbane, and was cremated. Her work is represented in the collection of the Queensland Museum, South Bank, Brisbane, and in a name-plate that she carved for Miegunyah, Bowen Hills, the home of the Queensland Women’s Historical Association, of which she was a member. She is honoured by the Beatrice Hutton award for commercial architecture, made annually by the Royal Australian Institute of Architects Queensland chapter, by the Beatrice Hutton room of the Rockhampton Art Gallery, and by Beatrice Hutton House of Capricornia College, Central Queensland University, Rockhampton.

Select Bibliography

  • D. Watson and J. McKay, A Directory of Queensland Architects to 1940 (1984)
  • G. R. Cooke, Lady Woodcarvers of Rockhampton (2000)
  • Daily Mail (Brisbane), 21 Oct 1916, p 12
  • Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton), 23 Nov 1933, p 6
  • J. Mackay [McKay], `Beatrice Hutton’, Lip, no 8, 1984, p 100
  • private information and personal knowledge.

Citation details

Judith M. McKay, 'Hutton, Beatrice May (Bea) (1893–1990)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 20 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (Melbourne University Press), 2007

View the front pages for Volume 17

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