[A fuller printed History of St Francis’ Church and the Parish of Valley Park may be obtained from St Francis’ Church, priced at £2.50]
St. Francis’ Church is located in a quiet corner of Valley Park local centre, enclosed on two sides by original field hedges.
The church was designed by James Lunn-Rockliffe RIBA, and was built in 1990 and 1991. It was dedicated by the Bishop of Winchester, on Friday 4th October 1991 during the celebrations for the Patronal Festival and annual Harvest Thanksgiving.
Liturgically the building is ‘back to front’ (i.e. the Sanctuary and Holy Table are at the western end), but overall it is of fairly traditional layout. A large worship space and adjoining utility and meeting facilities form an “L” shape, enclosing a large area of lawns and shrub planting, together with a Garden of Remembrance. These open areas are approached through a lych gate.
The church is built of buff coloured brick with mixed tiles, and is designed to be light and open. It has extensive glazed walls facing south and west, and the architectural design brief was to recreate the informality of the shells of the pair of bungalows which formed the former temporary community facility “Mulberry Corner”, and in which the congregation met for its first four years.
The Garden of Remembrance, located adjacent to the south-west corner of the church is screened by a decorative timber archway and trellis fencing, and contains as its focus a large cross. For many years after the Second World War this was mounted on the tower of St. James, Bernard Street, Southampton (now part of the Parish of St. Mary in the City Centre).
In 2002 a single storey extension, with a pitched roof to match the main church, was built to the west and north of the north-western corner of the Worship area, providing for a small Chapel/meeting room, and for a Clergy Vestry and storage space. The Vestry currently houses the Parish office. In 2005, a further extension created the present Narthex, double the depth of the original construction. At this time the plain entrance doors, were enhanced by the construction of a small gabled portico. Modifications to the former parish office and original double-door service entrance have provided space for a large Kitchen with servery, as well as providing a utility area in a space previously occupied by a smaller catering servery. These two extensions together cost in the region of £180,000 and were almost largely funded by the local congregation.
Church Interior and Furnishings
Entering the worship area, one is immediately struck by the sense of space and light, aided by the fully-glazed south-facing aspect. This is amplified by the white painted plasterwork of the walls, but the building draws warmth from the extensive use of lightly stained natural wood in the roof, skirting boards and other finishings.
The seating is of light oak linked chairs, and the Sanctuary contains a Holy Table, Principal Lectern, Bishop’s and Priest’s Chairs, Devotional Table and Font Stand in oak. These Sanctuary items were all made in 1991-92 by the late John Singleton of Hedge End, Hants to matching designs by Lunn-Rockliffe. A matching display case and stand to the rear of the worship area, contains the Parish Book of Remembrance.
Beneath the Sanctuary is a small vault containing a casket in oak made by a member of the congregaton. This contains soil from Assisi and from Valley Park, and was placed in the sanctuary vault in 1990 to mark the ‘laying of the foundation stone’ of the Church.
The Font pedestal supports a bowl of hand-painted porcelain in deep blue, with a flag-iris decoration by Idonia Van Der Bijl of London. It was given by Valley Park’s first Vicar, Timothy Daykin and his wife Ruth in 1991. Other furnishings, mainly in oak have been given to mark the life or service of various members of the congregation.
The church has a two manual electronic organ, by Wyvern Organs Ltd. to a Dutch design and specification, installed at Easter-tide 2002, and a grand piano is by Heake of Hannover; a gift to the church in 1996.
Dominating the Sanctuary is a Christus Rex in wood and acrylics by Francis Stephens of St. John’s Wood, London, (1991). Christ is represented in resurrected form having conquered the Cross, and is dressed in the ‘royal’ robes and crown of a Hebrew King. The clasp of the richly coloured azure lined cloak has a dove motif representing the Holy Spirit, while the Hand of God reaching down from Heaven is shown at the head of the Cross.
A Patronal Banner of St. Francis of Assisi in monastic tonsure and robe, drawn in ink on canvas and hessian, hangs on the north wall and is by local artist and former church member Susan Smith – circa 1992.
By far the oldest of the Church’s artefacts is the Service bell. Weighing about ½ cwt., un-inscribed and by an unknown founder, the bell has recently (2017) been dated by campanological experts as likely having been cast around AD 1370! It was a gift from the parishioners of Holy Trinity Church, Colden Common, Hants. However it is understood to have been second or third hand when acquired there. There are two other bells of the same appearance in Hampshire – at Bossington and West Tytherley, and it is conceivable that they were all cast at the mediaeval Salisbury bell foundry. Research into the possible origins and original location of the bell continue.
The bell was refurbished by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry of London and installed during the building of the church. It is hung from a fabricated steel bracket under the western gable, for swing chiming by lever, with an iroko headstock, traditional wrought-iron strap work and modern ball bearings. At noon on January 1st 2000, St. Francis’ bell joined many thousands of other church bells across Britain and beyond to “Ring-in” 2000. Similarly on Sunday 11th November 2018, at 12.30 p.m. and again at 7.05 p.m. it was chimed alongside bells nationwide and globally, to mark the Centenary of the Armistice of the Great War and to “ring out for peace” respectively.
The meeting rooms are well equipped, and used daily for a wide variety of congregational and outreach activities including pre- and post-school clubs.
The east wall of the Chapel is of un-rendered brick – previously being the outside wall of the church. This has a simple, plain cross made locally in 2002 by a member of the congregation, using salvaged American oak surplus to works at St Nicolas’ Church, North Stoneham. This strengthens a link with that church, as the Parish of Valley Park was formed, in part, from the Parish of North Stoneham and Bassett. The Holy Table in oak in this chapel, and other furnishings were given to mark terms of office of former Church Wardens and Church Treasurer.
Folding doors in pine in the Narthex are a memorial to the late Philip Challen, a much loved member of the local congregation, and one of the organists and musicians, who died suddenly in 2005.
Clergy and office holders
Church of England Conventional District of Valley Park
|1987 — 1991||Timothy E. Daykin, Priest in Charge.|
Church of England Parish of Valley Park
|1991 — 1992||Timothy E. Daykin, Vicar.|
|1993 — 2017||Peter F. Hutchinson, Vicar.|
|2018 — Present||Dr. Sarah P. McClelland, Priest in Charge.|
Valley Park Local Ecumenical Partnership
Methodist Church Ministers
|1988 — 1996||Bryan Coates.|
|1996 — 2001||Robert McBain.|
|2001 — 2006||Dr. Andrew Wood.|
|2006 — 2018||Peter Cornick.|
|2018 — Present||Susan Keegan von Allmen.|
United Reformed Church Ministers
|1988 — 1995||Mark Westerman.|
|1997 — 2006||Ms. Marilyn Allen.|
|2008 — 2016||Timothy Searle.|
|2018 — Present||Mark Robinson.|
Associate Ministers (Non Stipendiary)
|2004 — 2011||Tom Grant (United Reformed Church).|
|1991 — 1994||John Bigg (obit 2015).|
|1991 — 1994||Edward Carney (obit 2005).|
|1994 — 1999||Mrs. Pamela Dewis.|
|1994 — 1999||Colin Ray.|
|1999 — 2004||Philip Watts.|
|1999 — 2005||Mrs. Barbara Deane.|
|2004 — 2011||Glenn Barlow.|
|2005 — 2008||Geoffrey Roberts.|
|2008 — 2014||Andrew Grove.|
|2011 — Present||Steven Williams.|
|2014 — 2018||Mrs. Elizabeth Watts.|
|2018 – Present||Mrs. Alison Rhodes.|
Pro (Deputy) Wardens
|1998 — 1999||Christopher Smith.|
|1998 — 2000||Mrs. Valerie Boden.|
|1999 — 2000||Philip Challen (obit 2006).|
|2000 — 2004||Glenn Barlow.|
|2000 — 2004||Richard Hyde.|
|2004 — 2005||Geoffrey Roberts.|
|2004 — 2008||Andrew Grove.|
|2005 — 2011||Mrs. Deborah Reeves.|
|2008 — 2009||Mrs. Sharon Haworth.|
|2009 — 2010||Philip Watts.|
|2010 — 2011||Steven Williams.|
|2011 — 2013||Mrs. Jill Taylor.|
|2011 — 2016||John Course.|
|2013 — 2015||Mrs. Linda Badley.|
|2015 — Present||Andrew Grove.|
|2016 — 2018||Mrs. Alison Rhodes.|