Marchioness of Winchester

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The Marchioness of Winchester (Bapsy) was born Bapsybanoo Pavry at Bahrat, India, in 1902, the daughter of Khurshedji Erachji Pavry. Bapsy attended Columbia University, New York, and in 1928 was presented at court to King George V.

Bapsy led a cosmopolitan lifestyle and travelled extensively around Europe, meeting heads of states and other notable personalities of the time. In 1952, Bapsy married the twice-widowed 16th Marquess of Winchester, who was then 90 years old. The Marquess was to live for a further 10 years and died in 1962, not long before his 100th birthday. The marriage was not a happy affair. The Marquess spent much of the time with his previous fiancée, Mrs Fleming, the mother of writer Ian Fleming, and in 1957 Bapsy took Mrs Fleming to court, suing for enticement. The judge found against Mrs Fleming but in 1958 this was overruled by a court of appeal and the Marquess spent his last few years in Monte Carlo with Mrs Fleming.

Amongst the many achievements in her life, Bapsy was a delegate at the UNESCO Paris Peace Conference in 1947 and was also a member of council of the World Alliance for International Peace through Religion. Born a Zoroastrian, she was also active in global Zoroastrian affairs. The Marchioness endowed two fellowships for the study of international relations and human rights at Oxford University in memory of her brother and herself. After the death of her husband, she spent much of her time with her brother Dasturzada Dr Jal Pavry. Bapsy died in September 1995 in Bombay, India. Her legacy to Winchester comprised a portrait of herself, an archive of personal and social memorabilia and a bequest, initially of £500,000, for a community hall to be built in her name.

The constraints of Winchester Guildhall’s listed building status and the lack of sufficient open space nearby made it difficult to satisfy the conditions of the Marchioness’s bequest. However, the money was eventually used to aid comprehensive renovations to the Guildhall. This included revealing original Victorian features that had previously been covered up and the opening up of new areas which were formerly roof space. Many of the more modern renovations made to the building were only possible due to the Marchioness’s generous bequest. As a sign of the city’s gratitude, her portrait is displayed next to the main hall, which was renamed the Bapsy Hall, alongside a display case full of information and objects left by Bapsy.