What is probably Ropley’s most extraordinary wedding took place in April 1929 when George Evans married Diana Stuart Smith. The event was widely reported in the newspapers. The following is a transcript from the Hampshire Telegraph of 26 April 1929:
Hundreds of people from all over the countryside attended the wedding of the Joint Master of the Hampshire Hunt, Mr George Patrick Elyston Evans, son of the late Mr John Carbery Evans JP, Hatley Park, Cambridge, and Miss Diana Bayard Stuart Smith, only daughter of Mr S A Stuart Smith JP, and Mrs Stuart Smith, Hall Place, Ropley, which took place at the Ropley Church yesterday afternoon.
The wedding coincided with the last meet of the season, and everyone, bride, bridegroom, and guests, was in hunting dress.
The service was timed for noon, but long before that hour the village was crowded and by the time the meet had arrived 500 cars were parked in the field reserved by the motor scouts. People crowded into the churchyard, lining the walls and paths, and climbing into the trees. The interior of the church was decorated with red and white flowers, and over the porch hung a floral horseshoe, in white and red.
Arrival on Horseback
The bridegroom, dressed in a red hunting coat, arrived on horseback just before noon, and shortly after the bride and her father also arrived on horseback. The bride was dressed in a grey hunting habit, and her bridesmaid, Miss Synolda Munro Spencer, was also in hunting attire.
The service was conducted by the Vicar, the Rev W H C Geldart, and the Rev Canon Pycock. The bride was given away by her father, and the best man was Mr Percy Bullivant. Whilst the register was being signed, Master Taylor of St Thomas’s choir, Winchester, sang Mendelssohn’s “O for the Wings of a Dove” and the “Wedding March” was played as the bridal party left the church
Scarlet-coated members of the Hampshire Hunt formed an archway of riding crops as Mr and Mrs Evans walked from the church, and when the bridegroom reached the gate, he was presented with an inscribed hunting horn, the presentation being made by Mr H Healey, head-keeper at Rotherfield Park.
Reception and Gifts
The horses were waiting at the church gates, and the Master and his bride attended by huntsmen and friends, rode with the hounds to Hall Place, where a reception was held in a marquee in the grounds. Here a presentation from the farmers in the Hampshire Hunt country took place, Mr Austen Chalcraft, on behalf of the farmers, presenting Mr Evans with a silver salver, inscribed with the names of 115 farmers, and a silver tea service, and to Mrs Evan he handed a hunting crop. Mr Evans was also given an illuminated address, decorated with symbols of the chase.
After an informal reception the bride and bridegroom led the hunt to draw the last cover of the season.
There follows a list of the guests where one name stands out – Sir Robert Baden Powell.
The couple, however, did not live happily ever after. Here is a transcript of an announcement in the Hampshire Telegraph of 7 March 1930, just under a year later.
Death of Mrs G Evans
We regret to announce that the death took place on Monday last of Mrs Diana Bayard Evans, wife of Mr George Evans JP, and Master of the Hampshire Hunt. Death followed a very brief illness, and it has called forth a great measure of sympathy and sorrow for the deceased lady’s husband and family relations. Mrs Evans was the only daughter of Mr Stuart Smith JP and Mrs Stuart Smith, and her picturesque marriage to Mr Evans, in hunting attire, less than a year ago, at Ropley Church, will be well remembered. Mrs Evans shared her popular husband’s love of hunting; she was held in great estimation, and the greatest regret is felt at her early decease.
George Evans remarried in 1934 and had survived his second wife by two years when he died in 1956 at the age of 84 following a road accident. George and Diana are remembered on a gravestone in Ropley churchyard.
Transcriptions are from newspaper reports found on findmypast.co.uk