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St Francis Church

Like most things associated with Welwyn Garden City, the Church originated in the early 1920's with the earliest settlers to the area, a great many of whom were Church of England members. Around these times they used whichever buildings were available on Sundays for various acts of worship.

In 1923 a dual purpose church/hall was built on a site which adjoins the present building, and is now a block of flats for the elderly. When this building was sold to make way for the new development, the proceeds went towards completing the West end of the unfinished church, and the building of a new church hall and facilities.

Louis de Soissons - who masterminded much of the town's layout and buildings - was the architect for St Francis Church. His original plans were for a building at least twice the length of the church as we know it (in fact the West end of the church is the site of the original crossing - there were to be two transepts and a nave with an imposing tower alongside). The first stage was built in 1935; a temporary West end wall was erected when the project ran out of money. This - in major terms - was as far as they got as the outbreak of the Second World War put paid to any building work that was not absolutely necessary. The temporary wall survived until the West end aisle, with a new porch and adjoining hall were built to designs by the architect David Sutcliffe in 1977. He also produced plans for a new chapel dedicated to St Clare which was rather cleverly created from "closing in" the now redundant North West porch.

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As one enters from the North West porch an immediate sense of openness and simplicity is experienced. The windows are all glazed in plain glass (with the exception of the West Window), the nave pillars are very slender (yet functional), and the vast majority of wood work is light and simply executed. One notices straight away that the chancel area is very open and sparsely decorated; the absence of choir stalls is certainly a major factor in this; they are at the West end of the church arranged in the traditional manner (Decani & Cantoris) underneath the North and South organ cases. The organ console is mobile, but normally situated behind the Decani stalls. The congregation mainly sit in the nave - there are however seats behind the choir stalls and in the North and South chapels.

There is an enormous loft above the nave roof. This was used as a workshop when the organ was being built. It is now a very useful storage area as well as serving for access to the nave and chancel lights. The vestries are to the South East of the church. There is a comfortable meeting room with Vicar's and servers vestry next door, and above this, the Song School which is where the choir rehearses.

The St Clare Chapel is on the North Eastern side of the church and is generally used for mid-week services and meetings. It is also used for the healing ministry on Sunday mornings.

The nave pews are mobile (they are moved to face North/South for Evensongs, and remain facing East for all other services at St Francis). The altars in both North and South chapels are used for the administration at Sunday Eucharists as well as the main altar. In the same way as the Clare chapel, these areas are also used for occasional services.

St Francis Choir – The Trebles and education

The choir prides itself on the depth and variety of the social and spiritual environment that it fosters. It also has an excellent reputation for developing the talents and personal skills of young people within a supportive community.

It is widely acknowledged that a sound musical education significantly improves a child’s IQ. Studies show that music greatly improves a child’s capacity to learn. The commitment and involvement needed contribute to the development of important skills that are of benefit in both personal and professional life. Many choristers from St Francis’ have put these skills to good use and gone on to become professional musicians, barristers, teachers and successes in many other walks of life.

Between 1964 and 2010 the treble line-up was exclusively boys. In 2005 a choir for girls was formed, and in 2010 this choir was amalgamated into the main choir. So for the first time in nearly 50 years, boys and girls sing together in the St Francis Choir!

Since 1935, there have been a number of organists and choir trainers. Here is the list, but there are gaps. Please let us know if you have the answers!

Choir Trainers
1935 – 1964 Susan Frankton, Frances Frankton, a Mr Hughes, Roger Ellison, a Mr Bryant, and Sydney Weart
1964 – 1982 Malcolm Warwick
1982 – 1988 Andrew Bruce
1988 – 1999 Richard Harrison
1999 – 2006 Andrew Crookall
2006 – 2010 Elizabeth Green
2010 - Richard Harrison

1935 – 1970 A number of organists including Maurice Champ
1970 – 1976 John Marsden (his wife Jill ran a ladies choir called the St. Clare Singers)
1976 - Robin Coxon

Our Trebles do more than sing!

We currently have 23 trebles in the choir (13 girls and 10 boys), but did you know, they play the following instruments?

2 trumpets  2 french horns  2 cellos  1 double bass  4 violins  2 guitars  1 oboe  2 clarinets  1 flute  1 recorders  8 pianos

Not only do they play the above instruments, but they play them well! The following grades have either been reached, or are being worked towards by our trebles:

9 x Grade I   3 x Grade II  2 x Grade III  5 x Grade IV  8 x Grade V  2 x Grade VI  3 x Grade VII  1 x Grade VIII 

© St Francis Choir 2017