|The following is the diary of a visit to Great Wigborough for the wedding of Joan Yates, daughter of the Rector Revd. Frederick Yates. It was sent by Ivor Hopkyns, son of Joan and John Yates.
DIARY OF THE WEDDING OF JOAN YATES AND JOHN HOPKYNS
20th November, 1941
By Mary Dean Hopkyns 1876 - 1970 - Eldest aunt (age 65) of the bridegroom
22nd November 1941
My diary of a visit to Meadlands for John's wedding, November 20th to November 25th. (John's parents' house half a mile from Stowmarket on the Ipswich Road) .
I had a comfortable journey both up to London and down to Stowmarket, but the train being 1 hour and 20 minutes late in leaving Oxford, I missed the 1 o'clock train at Liverpool Street. My porter at Oxford station was a young woman I had known at St. Luke's. The drive across London gave me many vistas of the devastation caused in the air-raids especially round St. Paul's Cathedral. I walked about the City till I could take the 4 o'clock train and visited Churches of Great St. Helen's, St. Etheldreda and St. Botolph, also getting some necessary refreshment at an A.B.C. café and sending a postcard to Irene (sister). My first meeting with female porters was on this trip and very glad I was when one approached me at Ipswich station. I was quite at sea when I got there, as I could not distinguish any official in the darkness. John met me at Stowmarket station with Maud's little car and I was soon at the end of my journey and glad to be with friends in warmth and light. After my nice supper of casseroled chicken and a milk pudding Maud and I helped John to unpack, label and list his wedding presents. He was very busy and happy and put all ready to take over to his bride the next morning. The bride had given him a case of diagnostical implements for nose, ear and throat, in which subjects John hopes to specialize. John's gift to the bride was a gold wristlet watch; a pretty silvery broach of marcasite was his present to the bridesmaid.
John had lots more letters and presents. He left for Great Wigborough (a small village about 30 miles away near West Mersey in Essex) soon after 9 a.m. He confessed on his return in the evening that he and the bride had spent the day in Colchester and not in wedding preparations! I went for a walk into Stowmarket and looked at the result of the Blitz - it's a rather dreary little town. On my return I went into the dug-out and much hope I shall not have to spend even one half hour in it! There was a continuous stream of coach-loads of soldiers, guns, wagons, tanks etc. along the Ipswich road all the time I was at Meadlands.
Maud (née Creasey - age 65 mother of the bridegroom) showed me her costume for the wedding and a new hat. She showed me the little narrow wedding
ring for the slender finger of the young bride of 20. After tea I helped the bridegroom to collect his trousseau, he not having yet decided
which shirt to wear. I did some repairs for him and have promised to pack in the morning and hope that ring and buttonhole won't get left
behind. About 9.30 p.m. John went off to meet the best man, (John Langley), who after supper, is to sleep at the Cedars (farm & farmhouse across
the road from Meadlands owned by the Creasey family). I had retired to my bedroom to write up my diary. The best man is House Surgeon at
Willesden LCC Hospital; he had also been at Middlesex Hospital.
It is only 10.30 a.m. but what a hectic morning I have had. I was privileged to make toast and give the bridegroom and Best Man their breakfast, both ready dressed for the wedding. They left in Maud's car with a picnic lunch, wedding ring, button-holes and more presents.
John had to take the news to Joan that he would have to report at Chatham (Kent) on Nov. 28th instead of Dec. 5th as previously ordered. He is delighted that he will be at Chatham as that place is not far from Sheerness where Joan is a WREN (sic. Women's Royal Naval Service). She also has to be on duty on 28th. Poor young things!
About 11 0'clock Wykeham (age 64, father of the groom) drove Maud and me to Stowmarket Station to catch a train to Colchester. We met Mrs. Cawthorne, Mrs. Holdness, (bride's aunt from Finborough, through whom John and Joan first met) Mrs. Bannerman and Dr. Maloney, bride's uncle from London also joined the party. At Colchester Wykeham and I ran round to the down platform to meet Stenning and Molly (groom's uncle and cousin). Another uncle of the bride also came by their train and several more guests. A private bus was waiting for us and drove us to the George Hotel, a delightful old Inn in the centre of Colchester. Here we met Mrs. Allenby and had sandwiches, tea and a tidy up. Then we all got into the bus and drove to Great Wigborough.
The drive after leaving the suburbs was very rural. We travelled 8 long miles of winding narrow lanes with lovely views over the marshes and estuaries. We passed batches of Indian soldiers in full war kit exercising their horses. I felt thankful for them that the sun was shining though they looked cold in the damp November atmosphere. We picked up some more guests at some cross roads and then drove along a still narrower and more winding lane to the Rectory. We walked along a pretty path through the Rectory grounds and into the Churchyard. The plain English Church with its square tower was built of flint and stone.
The first person to greet me was the young priest, a friend of John's, who had come to marry him and Joan. I knew Mr. Barff when he was at Oxford and used to teach at St. Luke's Sunday school. He brought his wife with him and later I was able to introduce Stenning and Molly to them. Mr. Barff is vicar of a country parish near Buntingford, Herts. Molly and I were ushered into the front seat on the right side with Wykeham and Maud. The organ was playing softly and there was a bright reverent atmosphere among the congregation. The church was gaily decorated with flowers and foliage and the sun shining through the windows helped the happy feelings of all. John and Dr. Langley arrived and took their stand at the Chancel steps. Immaculately dressed in tail coats, white carnation button holes, striped trousers and lavender waistcoats, John looked exceptionally handsome. A village matron was heard to remark that he was just like a film star! The bride's mother sat on the left side of the Church with her son Paul, a fair haired boy of 16, still at school at Haileybury and wild to leave school and join the RAF.
The bride kept us waiting a few minutes but she was worth waiting for! Such a pretty bride, tall and slim and pale but for her dark hair, exactly like the conventional angel! Her dress was chiffon and net rose white satin and an old family lace veil kept in place by a star shaped coronet of pearls. The little bridesmaid (Mary Robinson) followed - a fellow WREN and only 19 years to the bride's 20. She wore a long dress of pale blue lace over pink, a pink and blue sash and a Juliet cap of silver lace on her dark curls. She carried a bunch of mauve-y chrysanthemums and was almost over whelmed with flowers when she had also the bride's bouquet of pink roses to hold. The group at the Chancel steps gave one to give thanks; the fine young priest, bride and her groom, best man and bridesmaid. I felt we could safely trust in the future if these young people were typical of the present, or rising, generation. Their devout and joyous participation in the ceremony was most uplifting. Bride and groom had chosen for their first hymn 'Oh Jesus I have promised', having discovered that it had been sung at both their Confirmation services. They spoke their vows firmly and with fervour. The priests address was heard by all, He spoke of the new period in their lives that was beginning '..and Jesus went with them' was his text and to seek the presence of Jesus in mutual prayer, church going and Bible reading.
The Vestry, once a chapel to the old Church was next invaded by the 4 parents and the register was signed. Then out into the sunshine; confetti and laughing congratulations from the village folk and then we went across to the Rectory. The Rectory is a grand old house, a relic of the leisurely days of the past when the parson's income was good and Society was spelt with a capital 'S'. A spacious hall led through from front to back, terminating in a greenhouse now much depleted of its flowers for decorating the church and house. The view from the greenhouse door, and indeed from all the windows at the back of the house, was grand; the sunshine pouring down on Marshes and stretches of smooth water.
The bride and bridegroom stood in the drawing room in a most unsafe looking position for there were great cracks in the walls several inches wide and the bedroom above cannot be used; a grim reminder of the evil times we are going through. We were told that the rector (Fred Yates, age 57, father of the bride) and his family often have to sleep in the cellars.
There was a fine show of presents and two long lists of names of those who had sent cheques to John and Joan.
The dining room was a beautiful room of good proportions and simply furnished with a few large 'pieces' and pictures. Refreshments were handed around and what a spread they were and many were the remarks about Lord Woolton having a look in. The bride's Mother (Edith Yates, age 60) explained that the good things had been mostly been made and given by friends. The cake, a real pre war affair, had been made by an expert living in the tiny village and report had it that there were 22 eggs in it! And real icing sugar, not obtained through Black Market, but worried out of a well known firm by an importunate aunt who was determined that the cake should have its proper covering. Reading of telegrams by a nervous best man and speeches followed the cutting of the cake and 'Health's' were drunk in the usual beverage.
Molly, Stenning and I walked about the garden, admiring the lovely views below the house and then into the Church to see the position of a Zeppelin that was brought down in the Great War in the parish - a grim foreword to the present war.
The young couple left in Maud's car for a secret destination amid showers of confetti and rose petals. The best man did his best to protect the car from the decoration of shoes but one was attached to the bonnet and not noticed at the time of departure.
Shortly after their departure the bus took most of the guests back to Colchester through the rapidly failing sun-light still slanting over land and water. The party divided at the station with some returning to London and the rest of us to Ipswich. At Ipswich Wykeham, Maud and I searched for and found Maud's car in the station yard; it was too dark to see if the shoe was still adorned the bonnet! Wykeham drove the car and we reached Meadlands about 7 p.m. What a day and I thoroughly enjoyed it. My journey back on Tuesday was uneventful except that I gave a lift in my taxi to Paddington to a young airman hoping to catch a quick train to Newbury.
1. John Wykeham Hopkyns, Age 64, father of groom
2. Maud Annie Louise Hopkyns, Age 65, mother of groom
3. John Longley, Best Man, Anaesthetist, class mate of groom at Middlesex Hospital
4. John Creasey Hopkyns, Age 26, groom
5. Joan Edith Hopkyns (née Yates), Age 20, bride
6. Edith Yates, mother of the bride, age 60
7. Paul Yates, brother of the bride
8. Fred Yates, father of the bride, Age 57 [Rector of Great and Little Wigborough]
9. Mary Robinson, bridesmaid, fellow WREN at Sheerness, Kent, Age 19.
The Bride's recollections of the Wedding
Rectors of St Stephen's, Great Wigborough