Shopaholics and secrets at Nostell Priory

Visitors having tea outside Nostell Priory, West Yorkshire

During the First World War, the Winn family of Nostell Priory, in Yorkshire, were a colourful bunch.

Before secretly marrying Rowland George Winn (the future 3rd Baron St Oswald), Evie worked as a chorus girl at Daly’s Theatre in London. The theatre was known for its musical comedies and Evie made appearances in productions of ‘The Count of Luxemburg’, ‘Gipsy Love’, ‘The Marriage Market’, ‘The Country Girl’ and ‘Betty’.

News of Evie and Rowland’s marriage was only made public when the Daily Mirror broke the sensational story with a centre page article. The newspaper described Evie as ‘uncommonly beautiful’ and ‘a very charming girl, with the most lovable disposition’. However, it is clear that Rowland’s family were unhappy with what seemed to be an unsuitable match for their son and heir.

Anything but an ‘average chorus girl’

Putting their misgivings aside, a few months after the news of the marriage was reported, Evie met with Rowland’s mother and father, Lord and Lady St Oswald. Writing from the front, in an anxious letter to this father, Rowland commented on the meeting declaring that:

'As far as I could gather from Mummy’s letter you were favourably impressed and liked her. At any rate she wrote me and told me you were extremely nice to her. I only hope you really understand that she is anything but the average ‘chorus girl’ [...] I also hope that the interview you had, made you feel that it will not be so hard, as you previously imagined it would be, to befriend her and get to know her properly. I have known her so long now and think I am in a position to judge, I am quite certain you will, if you ever really get to know her, as I most sincerely hope you will, find her the most loveable person and as refined as you could possibly wish!'

Being well looked after

By the summer of 1916 Evie and Rowland were expecting their first child. With Rowland away at war, Lord and Lady St Oswald agreed to pay the rent on the couple’s London house. Rowland took this as a sign that his marriage to Evie had been accepted and wrote to his father declaring:

'I don’t know how to thank you enough for all you have done for us, for the way in which you have taken to my Eve. I am sure you do like her and could keep doing that! It is such as relief when one is out here, to know that she is being well looked after.'

Despite the initial scandal which surrounded their marriage, Evie and Rowland appear to have had a very happy marriage. In 1919 they inherited the title Lord and Lady St Oswald and went on to have two sons Rowland and Derek.