SHE was a quiet, modest woman who referred to herself as ‘just an ordinary girl’.

But Bournemouth born Elisabeth Scott was in fact a pioneering architect, renowned for designing one of England’s most prestigious buildings in the 1920s, and now being commemorated in the new British passport.

Scott rose to fame after she won an international competition to design the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon in1928. Architecture was in her blood, being the great-niece of the architects George Gilbert Scott and George Frederick Bodley and second cousin of Giles Gilbert Scott, architect of Liverpool Cathedral.

The press attention Scott received was unrelenting – she was a young woman, the only one in her field, and without much experience. But it was the label of ‘female architect’, not simply ‘architect’, that aggravated Scott above all else, according to architectural historian Sarah Howard.

“She hated being referred to as a female architect. The press would make comments about her hair, her clothes... She had quite a tough time,” she explained.

When she later returned to Bournemouth and joined the council’s architects’ office in the late 50s, Scott was forgotten by many, and some of her colleagues didn’t even know who she was. But she set to work on designing her next architectural legacy, this time in her home town – the iconic Pier Theatre.

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Gillian Drewitt, joint managing director at The Drewitt Group, which built the Pier Theatre, said: “It makes us extremely proud to learn that the Pier Theatre is pictured on the new British passport.

“Everyone who knows the town well would have seen or visited the Pier Theatre at some stage as it is an iconic building, and we are really pleased that our family business played a vital part in the construction of it.”

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Photo: The Drewitt Group

Scott’s design of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, although iconic, did receive a largely negative response at the time, with many critics dubbing the building ‘the jam factory’ or ‘the battleship’.  Sir Edward Elgar referred to it as "unspeakably ugly and wrong" and "an insult to human intelligence".

Sarah said: “The comments she received were very disparaging and her career started to head south due to the unpopularity of the theatre.

"But it was a team effort, which involved architects such as John Shepherd, Geoffrey Jellicoe and Maurice Chesterton, to name a few, yet Elisabeth was very loyal, perhaps naive, and never turned round and said it was a team effort.

“I don’t think she appreciated how it would affect her career,” she added.

During her architectural practice, Scott mainly worked with women clients. In 1929, she worked on the Marie Curie Hospital in Hampstead, later expanding the cancer hospital to treat 700 women a year. It was destroyed in a bomb attack in 1944.

And although she was not an outspoken feminist, she did, in quiet determination, open her profession to women and ensured they were represented on her design projects.

As for whether she would be proud to be on a passport today, Sarah believes Scott would be “turning in her grave” if she knew – she never liked the attention, after all.