Here are two vivid pictures not just of this interesting character, my paternal grandmother’s great-grandfather, but of his life and times. I have included them in extenso because the incidental details seem almost incredible to us nowadays that the house master of a boarding school could absent himself for two years, leaving its conduct entirely to his daughters.
The author of the memoir Annals of an Eton House, Thomas Gambier Parry (1816-88), was a former pupil of Evans and had an evident affection for his old house master, who was clearly a formative influence. Parry was also an interesting man. Orphaned in childhood but inheriting a fortune, he became a fine artist and discriminating collector who used his wealth in many socially and artistically progressive ways, especially around his estate at Highnam Court, Gloucestershire. Among his many personal achievements was the 1858 repainting of the wood paneling of Ely Cathedral’s nave roof, which remains to this day. His son was Sir Charles HH Parry, composer and director of the Royal College of Music.
An independent contemporary view is given in the Introduction to 1998 Exhibition of Evans's work by Louisa M Connor.
William Evans also features in R A Austen-Leigh's An Illustrated Guide to Eton, revised by RC Martineau, 1988.
'Down Keate's Lane on the right is Ballard's … where the four generations of the Evans family lived, from the 18th to the 20th century, teaching drawing in the studio which was converted in 1930 into the Keatre's Lane Schools. In 1837 William Evans was persuaded to buy out the dame who had the dilapidated building opposite, and covert it at his own expense into a sound house. He fed and housed his boys so well that one dame called out whenever he passed her window "Oh Williams Evans, Williams Evans, you are ruining us all!"
'At his death in 1877 his daughter Jane, the last of the dames, succeeded him; and, though at her death in 1906 the boys were scattered, the building is still known as Evens'. All through these years the Evans family retained Ballards 'over the way', and lower boys used to run across the road to fag calls. Sidney Evans, Jane's nephew, who had been helping her as well as, like his father, teaching drawing, retired in 1906 back to Ballards, and continued teaching there till his final retirement in 1919. …