George Harrison’s Surrey wedding at the height of Beatlemania

As Beatlemania was at its peak, Beatles guitarist George Harrison and first wife Pattie Boyd married in Epsom.

The late musician, who would have celebrated his 78th birthday next Thursday (February 25), married the model at Epsom Registry Office on Friday, January 21, 1966.

To contextualise the wedding in the story of The Beatles, 1966 was the year they released the album Revolver in August.

Albums such as Help! and Rubber Soul were already under their belts, both released the previous year.

The Beatles were still to release classics such as Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), The White Album (1968) and Abbey Road (1969), but they were already megastars, with the fan craze phenomenon known as Beatlemania in full swing.

1966 was also a significant year for The Beatles because it was their last standard live concert, when they performed at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, on August 29.

The Beatles perform live on Top of the Pops in June 1966
(Image: Mirrorpix)

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Paul McCartney was at the wedding as Harrison’s best man, and Brian Epstein, who managed the group from 1962 until his death in 1967, was also present.

There were two notable absences, though – John Lennon and Ringo Starr were both out of the country on holiday at the time.

The marriage lasted over 10 years. Harrison’s bride, Pattie Boyd was an English model and photographer. She inspired Beatles songs including the classic ‘Something‘, and before her later marriage to Eric Clapton, she would inspire Clapton’s 1971 composition, Derek and the Dominos hit ‘Layla‘.

Pattie Boyd lived with Harrison in Esher, a house which she would return to in order to unveil a blue plaque in 2017.

A Day in the Life

George Harrison and Pattie Boyd, pictured on their honeymoon in Barbados
(Image: Getty Images)

In her 2007 autobiography ‘Wonderful Tonight’ (also the title of another Eric Clapton song she inspired), Pattie Boyd describes her memories of the ceremony itself as not ideal.

She talks about how the couple wanted somewhere relatively discreet and as they lived in Esher at the time, Epsom was a good choice – this Ashley Road location did not have an Ashley Centre right next to it at the time!

She wrote: “It was not the wedding I had dreamt of – I would have loved to be married in church, but Brian [Epstein] didn’t want a big fuss. They all trusted him so implicitly that when he said it should be a quiet register office wedding George agreed. He also said it had to be secret – if the press found out, it would be chaotic…”

The couple unfortunately had the worst of both worlds – a wedding that didn’t happen in a church and, sure enough, a heavy press presence.

Boyd wrote: “We came out into the street to find dozens of press photographers lined up outside. So much for keeping the whole thing secret!”

The couple left the register office in a Rolls-Royce Princess. The day after the wedding, they gave a press conference in London, chaired by The Beatles’ press officer Tony Barrow. On February 8, they would leave for their honeymoon in Barbados.

Here, There and Everywhere

An 1822 watercolour of Ashley House by J. Hassell, titled ‘Epsom, Miss Ashley’ and signed in the lower right hand corner
(Image: Bourne Hall Museum)

The origins of the building itself date back to the 1760s, Ashley House being built for a man called John Rily, and later named after its lessor between 1800-1845, Mary Ashley.

In the 1920s, it was purchased by local builders Henry John Roll and Frank Ernest Roll, who were based in Epsom High Street.

They converted it before the house was sold for offices of the Rural District on 21st January 1926. It was acquired by Surrey County Council in 1934 before use as a Registry Office.

Today, it is just next to the aforementioned Ashley Centre, which opened in 1984. In its place today, there are just flats, which were only built in the last five years.

Pattie Boyd unveils a plaque commemorating her first husband in Esher in 2017
(Image: Surrey Advertiser)

Looking at wider Surrey, there is no shortage of Beatles links across the county, even at the height of Beatlemania.

As well as the couple living in Esher at the time, John Lennon spent four years living in Weybridge in the 60s.

The Beatles performed live in Guildford at the Odeon in 1963, and Ringo Starr has had links to parts of Surrey including Weybridge, Elstead and Cranleigh.

Thank you to Epsom and Ewell History Explorer and The Beatles Bible for the research for this article

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