We met at King's – A Classical Romance

Diana and Brian Sparkes, then and now
Image from left to right: Brian and Diana at Hampton Court Maze, 1953 and on holiday in Italy in 2017

Diana Sparkes (née Foss) and Brian Sparkes (both Classics, 1955 and 1956) met on their first day at King’s. They married seven years later and will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary in 2019.

A classic meeting

Brian and Diana met on their first day at King’s in 1952. It was in the Department of Classics library where they were assembled with a group of first year students. It was a meeting that would change the rest of their lives!

Taking to the stage

Talking about their time at King’s Brian says 'One of our greatest memories is acting in the Department of Classics 1953 production of the Greek tragedy Hippolytus, performed in the original Greek, dating from 428 BC. I played Hippolytus. This was its first production and the annual 'Greek Play' still continues'. Diana adds 'Little did we think we were starting a King’s tradition, or that students would apply to King’s because of the Greek Play! I also remember singing in the Chapel choir every week for four years. I also represented King’s in netball, fencing and tennis'.

The fabulous fifties

1950s London was a very different place. Brian recalls ‘Living in London was exciting and new. There were so many cinemas, theatres, exhibitions and second-hand bookshops to explore. There was also smog and mods and rockers to avoid. I was lucky to live in halls for all my undergraduate years’. Diana was London born and bred so knew it well, but really enjoyed visiting the major hotspots with King’s friends.

A shared love of Classics

Diana applied for Classics because of her inspirational Latin teacher, Meg Parker, (née Graves), now aged 96, who studied at King’s. Brian’s inspiration was his teacher Professor Winnington-Ingram, an expert in Greek drama and music, and Professor Romilly Jenkins who taught Greek art. After graduating Brian moved into academia. ‘I studied for a PhD and spent two years in Athens, where I worked at The American School of Classical Studies. I then moved into academia, eventually becoming a professor of classical archaeology at the University of Southampton. Both of us have always been fascinated by the Greek and Roman world – history, literature, art’. Diana became a Latin teacher, ‘My first job was at a comprehensive school in Putney, south west London. After marriage and children, I introduced Latin to a comprehensive school in Southampton. It continues to this day, 50 years on!’

Brian and Diana on their wedding day, 1959Brian and Diana’s wedding in 1959

The secrets of their success

Brian and Diana will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary in 2019. Talking about their marriage Brian says ‘Our marriage has been a combination of love and friendship, shared interests, worldwide travel, putting each other first and discussing plans together’.

Forever King’s

We’re so glad that King’s brought Diana and Brian together and we thank them for sharing their story with us. Diana agrees ‘I have a great deal to thank King’s for. The myriad of friendships and wealth of experiences have influenced my whole life. We gained so much from our time at King’s. It determined our lives forever’.

This is an ongoing series of stories about alumni who met at King's and we're on the hunt for more. Please email forever@kcl.ac.uk to submit yours.

Read more We met at King’s alumni stories.