Anyone familiar with the Guildhall will have probably seen the Bapsy Hall, and the portrait and display case positioned next to the hall’s entrance.
The portrait depicts the hall’s namesake Bapsybanoo Pavry, the Marchioness of Winchester, while the display case contains some of her personal papers which she left to the city upon her death.
Bapsy was born in Bombay, India and is thought to be the only Indian Marchioness in history. Bapsy attended both Queen Mary High School and St Xavier College in Bombay before being one of the first women to graduate from Columbia University with a graduate degree in Indo-Iranian languages. Herself and her brother, Dr Jal Pavry spent their time after university travelling around Europe where they were received by the Pope in Italy, Hitler in Germany and various monarchs throughout the rest of Europe, including King George V and Queen Mary in England.
Bapsy spent the majority of her time in Bombay during World War II, and stayed in the Taj Mahal Hotel, until the end of the war when she went with her brother to the Paris Peace Conference in 1946. Despite spending most of her life in England, Bapsy held a deep connection to her Indian Heritage and attended the launch of the Asian Relation conference, as well as participating in many Indian Independence celebrations held in the UK.
When Bapsy was 51 she married the 16th Marquess of Winchester, a twice widower, childless 90 year old man called Henry Paulet. After just a few weeks of marriage Henry left Bapsy to continue a relationship with his ex fiancée, Eve Fleming, who had only broken off their engagement when she learned that remarrying would cost her the substantial widows allowance she received after the death of her husband. Bapsy sued Eve Fleming for enticement, and initially won the case until Eve Fleming’s appeal in which the favour was revoked from Bapsy. After her husband left her, Bapsy left her home at the Winchester House and moved to London. Bapsy and her husband never divorced but he did spend the rest of his life in Monte Carlo with Mrs Flemming. Bapsy continued to use her title of Marchioness of Winchester until she died in 1995.
Bapsy used her family fortune as well as her own wealth to create various grants and fellowships, some with her brother and some just in his name. A silver plate is on display in the Guildhall to commemorate a donation made by Bapsy and her brother in 1972. They also made a trust fund for Columbia University and after Jal’s death in 1985 Bapsy created the “Dasturzada Dr. Jal Pavry memorial award for International Peace and Understanding”. Bapsy also created “The Most Honourable Bapsy C. Pavry, Marchioness of Winchester Award in Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms” at Columbia University, as well as the “Bapsybanoo Marchioness of Winchester Lectureship” and the “Dasturzada Dr. Jal Pavry Memorial Lectureship” at Oxford University.
Despite the fact that Bapsy had lived in England for a large part of her life, and that she was the Marchioness of Winchester she only actually visited Winchester once, after her marriage to the Marquess and she never returned to the city as few people acknowledged her during her visit. When she died Bapsy bequeathed £500,000 to the city of Winchester with the stipulation that they create a public hall in her memory. For 14 years that request went unfulfilled as there was insufficient room at Guildhall to complete the request. In this time, the money had increased to almost £1.5 million and in 2009 a hall within the Guildhall was refurbished and named the Bapsy Hall with her portrait mounted at the entrance and a display case full of her personal papers and belongings sat next to it for all to see.