You have more chance of being commemorated in a British passport if you live in Hampstead than if you’re a woman
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The Passport Office may have felt it could provide a “good representation” of Creative United Kingdom – this year’s theme – by including only two women, compared to seven men, in its 16 pages, but there was no way it could overlook the apparently disproportionate contribution of Camden to the cultural life of the country.
Five of the figures depicted in portraits or through their achievements were either born in, or spent significant periods of their lives in the borough.
Painter John Constable spent most summers between 1819 and 1826 with his family in Hampstead before moving there permanently in 1827. He painted numerous scenes of the Heath and of his house on Well Walk and is buried in St John-at-Hampstead.
A graveyard neighbour is clockmaker John Harrison, the clockmaker who invented the marine chronometer, a device to measure longitude at sea, although he lived in Red Lion Square in Holborn, not in Hampstead.
Architect Giles Gilbert Scott, who features on page 16, was born in Hampstead in 1880. His most well-known designs include the telephone box and Battersea Power Station, both pictured in the passport.
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More recent additions include the Angel of the North sculpture by Hampstead Garden Suburb-born Camden resident, Anthony Gormley.
Along with Ada Lovelace, Elisabeth Scott, second cousin to Giles Gilbert Scott, is the only other woman commemorated in the passport. She joined, and later became partner at, a Hampstead-based architecture practice and designed the Marie Curie Hospital on Fitzjohns Avenue, a pioneering radiation centre, treating, organised by and staffed by women. This was destroyed by a bomb in 1944.
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Defending the choice of subjects for the passport Mark Thomson, director general of the Passport Office, said: “It wasn’t something where we said let’s set out to only have two women.
“In trying to celebrate the UK’s creativity we tried to get a range of locations and things around the country to celebrate our triumphs over the years, so there we are.
“Whenever we do these things there is always someone who wants their favourite rock band or icon in the book.
“We’ve got 16 pages, a very finite space. We like to feel we’ve got a good representative view celebrating some real icons of the UK – Shakespeare, Constable and of course Elisabeth Scott herself.”