Sir John Evans Centenary Project - image background is marbled paper from one of John Evans's books John Evans Numismatic Society Medal 1899

Maria Millington Lathbury (1856-1944)

John Evans married his third wife Maria Millington Lathbury on 9 July 1892 at St. Mary's Church in Wimbledon. They had met in February 1892 when she was attempting to attend a lecture given at the Society of Antiquaries. The speaker for the evening, Mr. Penrose, was unaware that visitors were not admitted to the lectures unless introduced by a member of the Society and had invited her, but Evans, in his capacity as President, facilitated her entry.

Maria was 37 and John was 70. She had led a quiet life with her parents in Wimbledon but had studied Greek and classical archaeology privately. When she reached 30 years of age she decided she would like to go to university. Her father disapproved, but eventually in 1888 she obtained a scholarship at Somerville to read Greats, with financial help from her mother. After graduation, determined not to return to the family, she set up home in London and became a professional lecturer (again aided financially by her mother). She gave public lectures on the Greeks to audiences at the British Museum and elsewhere.

Click on image to see larger version

2 pages from Maria Lathbury's diary 3-4 August 1892
Maria's travel diary entry for 3 and 4 August 1892. Visiting Christ Church, Wimborne Minster and looking for flints on the beach at Milford

In 1892 she was invited to travel to Greece as a companion to another younger woman. Just before this trip she attended the Antiquaries lecture where she met John. They became engaged on her return from Greece, and married in July, her mother giving her away and her father not attending. The first few weeks of the honeymoon were spent in England, after which they travelled in northern France where they visited the gravel pits of St. Acheul and progressed through the Seine and Somme valleys. Maria shared her new husband's enthusiasm for archaeology and history. In 1898 Maria (as Lady Evans) laid the foundation stone for the new Hertfordshire County Museum at St. Alban's. It was perhaps under her influence that they took to wintering in Egypt.

The John Evans archive has acquired two travel diaries kept by Maria, one from July 1892 to August 1894 and the other January 1901 to August 1902. The entry for July 1892, shortly after their marriage, has them leaving Ladbroke Terrace and travelling from Waterloo Station to Salisbury, where they stayed at the White Hart Hotel. On arrival, while Maria was resting, John Evans visits James Brown 'who however, has nothing special to communicate as to flint implements'. They then visited curio shops (looking for objects), and in the following few days did the rounds of flint collections, museums, a private collection of objects from barrows, Stonehenge and Old Sarum. They visited Chesilbury Camp looking for flints, then on to Christchurch and Bournemouth, following the same procedures.

Maria had never wanted children but found herself expecting a child. In June 1893 Joan was born, much to Maria's dismay. When the baby was six weeks old she was left with a nanny while the Evanses went off for another six-week holiday in France.

Maria first met Arthur Evans (later to become her step-son) and his wife, Margaret, through the academic world of Oxford. Arthur had been superviser to one of her fellow archaeology students, and as part of her time at Oxford she studied Greek sculpture and vases in the Ashmolean, where Arthur was Keeper.

Old Photograph of Britwell, Berkhamsted (by kind permission of Dacorum Heritage Trust)
Britwell, Berkhamsted
(courtesy of Dacorum Heritage Trust)


Britwell is the house John Evans had built in 1906 on Berkhamsted Common and named after his childhood home in Buckinghamshire. John and Maria lived for only two years together in this house before he died. In 1912 Maria sold Britwell and put the furniture into storage. She and Joan went on holiday to Cromer in Norfolk then travelled on to Rome. Maria was a a very domineering mother, but at the same time placed great importance on education and foreign travel. Maria and Joan travelled extensively and Maria did not purchase another family home for many years.

Maria was described as 'handsome and strong with Anglo-Saxon blue eyes and golden hair'. There are no photographs of Maria in the John Evans archive, but one is reproduced in Prelude and Fugue. At the end of her life Maria went to live with Joan at Thousand Acres, Wotton under Edge, and died there in June 1944.

diaries will be scanned by Bodleain Library - make link

Further References / Links:

Joan Evans, Prelude and Fugue, An Autobiography (1964)

Dacorum Heritage Trust, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire