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Dame  Joyce Beverly Drew (1911–1996), by Ida Kar, 1958 [right, with Maxwell Fry]Dame Joyce Beverly Drew (1911–1996), by Ida Kar, 1958 [right, with Maxwell Fry]
Drew, Dame Joyce Beverly [Jane] (1911–1996), architect, was born on 24 March 1911, at 8 Parchmore Road, Thornton Heath, Surrey, one of two daughters of Harry Guy Radcliffe Drew (1880–1958), inventor and designer of surgical instruments and founder of the British Institute of Surgical Technicians, and his wife, Emma Spering Jones, a schoolteacher. Jane Drew was educated at Woodford House school, Croydon—where she befriended Peggy Ashcroft—and at Croydon High School for Girls (1921–9), where the future painter and illustrator Barbara Jones (1912–1978) became a close friend. An early love of Gothic architecture decided her on a career in architecture (Parker, 10). She entered the Architectural Association School of Architecture in 1929, one of 12 women among 100 students, and graduated in 1934.

At the Architectural Association Drew met James Thomas Alliston (b. 1908), architect, and son of Montagu Shirley Alliston, whom she married on 27 December 1933 at St Paul's Church, Thornton Heath; they had twin daughters, Gillian and Jenny (b. 1937), of whom the latter predeceased her. Having worked previously in the offices of the architects Joseph Hill and G. Grey Wornum, in 1934 Drew set up a joint practice, Alliston and Drew, with her husband, based at their home at 24 Woburn Square, London. Over the next five years they designed a number of small houses, predominantly in the Dutch-influenced modern style that had begun to be favoured by the Architectural Association's more progressive students in the early 1930s.

In 1939 Drew met , then the leading British modernist architect, at a meeting at the Royal Institute of British Architects. He fell instantly in love with her (Fry, 161–4). Drew took a little longer to come round but, following the dissolution of her marriage in 1939, and of his early in 1942, the couple married at Westminster register office on 25 April of the same year, with the zoologist Julian Huxley as best man. In part under Fry's influence, Drew had by this date become an enthusiast for the modern movement, and would henceforth identify herself as a modernist designer (Drew, 34). In 1939 she joined the Modern Architectural Research or MARS group, the English branch of the Congrès Internationaux d'Architecture Moderne, of which Fry had been a prominent member from its formation in 1933.

In 1939, with Fry on overseas service with the Royal Engineers, Drew set up what was initially a women-only practice at 12 King Street, St James's, London. Among her staff were Diana Rowntree (1915–2008) and, later, Trevor Dannatt (b. 1920); an early commission was for a factory for sea-rescue craft at Walton-on-Thames, Surrey. In 1941 Drew became a consultant to the British Commercial Gas Association and was asked to explore the possibilities of applying wartime technologies to the mass production of gas equipment in peacetime. This led to a research trip to the United States to investigate prefabrication techniques, and an exhibition on kitchen planning held at Dorland Hall, London.

Throughout the war Drew played an active part in debates on rebuilding bomb-damaged areas. In 1941 she became a member of the housing group, a subcommittee of the RIBA's reconstruction committee. Its report, Housing, was published in 1944. Also in 1941 she had the idea of an exhibition on reconstruction, ‘Rebuilding Britain’, to be organized by the RIBA. With the support of the art historian Kenneth Clark, whom she had met at a dance, a committee was formed and space found for the display in the basement of the National Gallery, London, in 1943 (Parker, 37–8). Through Clark Drew became a close friend of the publisher and arts patron (Eric) Peter Gregory, and this resulted in a lifelong interest in contemporary art. She would always seek to incorporate artworks into her post-war commissions; Ben Nicholson, Victor Pasmore, Barbara Hepworth, and Eduardo Paolozzi were beneficiaries of her patronage. In 1944, with Maxwell Fry, she wrote her first book, Architecture for Children, and was appointed as the first editor of the Architects' Year Book. She also lobbied the Ministry of Town and Country Planning to engage young, modernist, architects once the war was over. This resulted in Maxwell Fry's appointment as town planning adviser to the resident minister in west Africa, with Drew as his assistant. The couple left in 1944 for Accra, where they were based for three years. In 1945 they also formed the partnership of Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew—from 1951 with Lindsay Drake and Denys Lasdun as Fry, Drew, Drake and Lasdun, and subsequently with Frank Knight and Norman Creamer as Fry Drew Knight Creamer—with premises in Gloucester Place, London.

Together the couple worked on a number of significant post-war projects. An early commission, executed by Drew, was the conversion of premises at 17–18 Dover Street, London, for the newly founded Institute of Contemporary Arts (1950). This was an outcome of her friendship with Peter Gregory, one of the institute's founders, and in the mid-1960s she designed its new, larger premises at Carlton House Terrace. Drew also led the team that designed a number of schemes for the Festival of Britain (1951) on London's South Bank, chief among them the Thames-side Restaurant with its undulating aluminium roof (dem. 1963) and the Harbour Bar. For much of the 1950s the practice worked extensively in the Gold Coast (from 1957 Ghana) and Nigeria on a programme of housing, education, and health projects, with Drew's principal work including Wesley Girls' School at Cape Coast (1946–7), the women's teacher training college at Kano (1958), and the Ahmadu Bello Stadium in Kaduna (1963). With Fry she also worked on the partnership's most significant project, University College, Ibadan, Nigeria (1948–57), for which she undertook, among other structures, the Queen Elizabeth hall and the domed Sultan Bello hall. In 1951 Drew and Fry joined the team, also comprising Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret, to design Chandigarh, the new capital of Indian Punjab. Drew remained with the project for three years and was principally responsible for housing, shopping areas, and a hospital in the new city. In 1954–5 she undertook similar work for the design of new oilfield towns at Gachsaran in southern Iran. The care taken by the partnership to develop a modernism suitable for west African and northern Indian climates resulted in two further books, Village Housing in the Tropics (1947, with Fry and Harry Ford) and Architecture in the Humid Tropics (with Fry, 1956).

In England Jane Drew worked on a number of housing schemes, among them the Chantry and Tanys Dell estates, Harlow New Town (from 1949), and the Passfield flats and Downham estate, Lewisham (1950 and 1953), followed in the mid-1960s with housing projects at Hatfield and Welwyn Garden City. The practice continued to thrive during the 1960s and 1970s, with Drew combining overseas commissions in Ceylon (from 1972 Sri Lanka) and Singapore with further domestic work, including the Herne Hill School for the Deaf (1966–8) and the new Torbay Hospital, Devon (opened in 1970). In the previous year the partnership had received the major commission to design a campus for the new Open University at Milton Keynes. Drew was associated with the project for the next six years, with an initial burst of building work seeing construction of the arts faculty, operations building, laboratories, and library by 1973. In this year Maxwell Fry retired, followed by Jane six years later. Drew and Fry had divided their time between homes at 63 Gloucester Place, London, and the Lake House, Rowfant, near Crawley in Sussex. In 1983 they moved to West Lodge, Cotherstone, Barnard Castle, co. Durham, where Drew continued to live after Fry's death in September 1987.

Jane Drew was among the first generation of women to benefit from the opening up of architecture schools in the wake of the First World War; among her contemporaries were (Margaret) Justin Blanco White, Mary Crowley (later Medd), and Judith Ledeboer. However, her own difficulties in acquiring early positions had been considerable and it was ‘because I had such difficulty myself getting a job’ that she looked to employ women in her own practice from 1939 (Parker, 10). She would go on to be an exemplary professional, becoming the first woman to sit on the RIBA council in 1964, in which capacity she served until 1970 and again between 1971 and 1974. A member of the council of the Architectural Association, she became the association's first female president in 1969. In addition to her work for Fry Drew and Partners she held a series of visiting professorships, including posts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1961), Harvard University (1970), and the University of Utah (1976); she received honorary doctorates from, among other universities, Ibadan (1966) and the Open University (1973).

Friends and colleagues remember Jane Drew as elegantly dressed, dynamic, and supportive. She played an active part in women's architectural organizations, including Union Internationale des Femmes Architectes, and co-organized the exhibition ‘Suffragettes and Suffragists’ at the House of Commons in 1978. In later years she was championed as much for her significance as Britain's first major woman architect as for her architecture. In 1996 she was appointed DBE and two years later the RIBA and the Arts Council of England inaugurated the Jane Drew prize. She died of cancer on 27 July 1996 at the Memorial Hospital, Darlington, and was buried at St Romald's Church, Romaldkirk, co. Durham.

Elizabeth Darling


biographical file, RIBA BAL [Jane Drew and Maxwell Fry] · autobiography, Fry and Drew papers, RIBA · S. Flower, J. Macfarlane, and R. Plant, eds., Jane B. Drew, architect: a tribute from colleagues and friends for her 75th birthday, 24 March 1986 (1986) · K. E. Parker, ‘Jane Drew: architect and practical idealist’, 1993, RIBA · M. Fry, Autobiographical sketches (1975) · M. Emmanuel, ed., Contemporary architects (1994) · The Independent (1 Aug 1996) · S. Hitchens, ed., Fry, Drew, Knight, Creamer: architecture (1978) · R. W. Liscombe, ‘Modernism in late imperial British west Africa: the work of Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew, 1946–56’, Society of Architectural Historians' Journal, 65/2 (2006), 188–215 · www.jane-drew.co.tv, accessed on 20 March 2011 · WW · b. cert. · m. certs. · d. cert.


RIBA, autobiography [also in V&A] · RIBA BAL




BL NSA, National Life Story Collection, architects' lives, interviews with J. McCulloch (1970), H. Cassin (1986), and M. Garlake (1995) · BL NSA, Ove Arup Architecture interviews · BL NSA, documentary and current affairs recordings


I. Kar, vintage bromide print, 1950–59, NPG · photographs, 1950–59 (with Maxwell Fry), RIBA · photographs, 1950–87, RIBA · I. Kar, vintage bromide print, 1958 (with Maxwell Fry), NPG [see illus.] · Snowdon, photographs, 1959, Camera Press, London · J. S. Lewinski, bromide print on card mount, 1965, NPG · M. Magnus, bromide print, 1976, NPG · I. Kar, photographs (with Maxwell Fry), Mary Evans Picture Library, London · J. A. Matthew, photograph (with Maxwell Fry), Camera Press, London · B. McQuitty, photograph, Camera Press, London · Z. Roboz, charcoal, repro. in W. Wordsworth, Women and men's daughters (1970) · obituary photographs · photographs, repro. in Flower, Macfarlane, and Plant, Jane B. Drew · portrait, repro. in www.ribajournal.com/index.php/feature/article/drawn_by_corb/

Wealth at death  

£385,239: probate, 10 June 1997, CGPLA Eng. & Wales