Gillian was born in Rochdae UK in 1927, both her parents were electrical engineers although her mother was unable to work as it was ‘not done’ in the twenties for a woman to work in a man’s world!
The family moved to London in 1936 when her father took a new job and Gillian joined the primary department of Loughton High School for Girls staying here until she had passed her 11 plus exam in 1938 and went as a boarder to the Friends School Saffron Walden Essex until 1945.
She gained admittance to the Architectural Association School of Architecture which offered a five year course leading to qualification and membership of the Royal Institute of British Architects and registration as an architect.
Her interest in photography began seriously when she was given a Kodak Box Brownie camera for her 8th birthday and the negatives of her early efforts are carefully retained. A roll of film had only 8 exposures. Then the roll of film had to be taken to a chemist for development and printing, eagerly collected after a few days and the results carefully examined. Pocket money saved and another roll of film purchased.
Gillian’s father was also a keen photographer and set up a dark room in the new house in London enabling her to learn to develop her own film and to print, compose and enlarge negatives. This became a useful adjunct to her architectural training which involved visiting and recording buildings as she was able to sell some of her work to the executive architects, many of whom were well known.
Gillian met John Godwin on the first day of term at the AA, they were in the same year and the same studio. They worked together, with other students, on many schemes during the next five years and actually did a joint thesis in the final year.
They became engaged in 1950 and were married the following year during John’s two year National Service in the army. This ended in 1953 and after a year when both of them were working in London John was offered a job in Lagos as Resident Partner for a London firm of architects and he opened an office there in February 1954. Gillian arrived in March and worked only part time as their first baby was on the way, to be born in the Creek Hospital in September. The second baby was born in 1959.
After one tour, they went on leave and then returned to Lagos in 1955 to start their own practice, Godwin and Hopwood, which developed over the years to have work throughout the Federation and offices in Kaduna, Kano, Jos, Maiduguri and Warri. In 1989 the practice merged with that of Tunde Kuye and Associates and continues today as GHK Architects. John and Gillian having retired from active practice the Company is headed by Arc Mrs Abiola Fayemi..
Practice does not leave a great deal of time for other activities but Gillian was also active in the Business and Professional Women’s Association from its inception in 1963, acting as Hon Treasurer and also as architect for their Lagos Motherless Babies Home which was housed in buildings at the end of Marina.
During the Civil War years and for some time afterwards she concentrated on work in the office until 19xx when she joined the Soroptimist International movement. When the second Club, that of Eko, was formed she became its First Vice President and then President, and was given the opportunity to take various offices in both the Club and the National Council which was formed later. She was its’ President in 1990 and had the rare opportunity of representing Nigeria at the International Conference which that year was held in Britain.
Gillian and John are now spending time writing, they have published ‘The architecture of Demas Nwoko’ and ‘Sandbank City – Lagos at 150’ and are now presenting ‘A Photographer’s Odyssey – Lagos Island 1954 – 2014’. The ‘children’ are in England, Tony is an architect and Carey is an interior designer.