Posted by Liz Cox on

St Francis Church Langley by Liz Cox (nee Parry)

When we moved to the area in 1954, the church building was in a bad state of repair and not being used.  Geoffrey Gowland was appointed Rector of Exbury in 1959  and plans went ahead for Langley and Blackfield to become part of Exbury Parish, this was finally accomplished in February 1960. The Reverend Gowland wanted to revive the work of the church with “twelve good men and true”. My mother, Margaret Parry was one of these as was my Aunt, Mary Baynton, Sheila and David Henwood, John Beedle and possibly Gwen Parkes. I’m afraid I don’t remember who the others were.

The church of St. Francis became the focal point of many activities. The roof damaged in bombing raids was inspected every three months, the stark interior was furnished and a nissen hut was acquired from an army camp for youth work. This was organised by Mary Baynton and several others.

I remember going to the old building for Sunday morning Family Service and ringing the single bell beforehand. I was about 11 or 12 years old (1962)!

There was a change of Rector in 1963 when The Reverend Kenneth Davies was appointed. The Nissen Hut was then used as a church and the church building became a club room.

With a lot of hard work, numbers of the congregation were growing, savings accumulated and plans to replace the aged building went ahead. The new building was dedicated at Whitsun 1964 by Father Allison, the Bishop of Winchester. To attract people far and wide, but especially from this neighbourhood a Flower Festival was held, the first of many annual events designed to help people get familiar with the building and clear the substantial loan. It was around this time that my father, Joe Parry, organised week long exhibitions to raise funds.

It was The Reverend Davies who officiated at the service when Aunty Mary died (1968), and it was him who officiated when my husband, Peter, and I got married (1976), it was he who took the service when my Mother passed away (1980) and he also took the service to bury my Father’s ashes in Exbury churchyard (1991). This service was held outside as my Father was not a religious man and refused to enter inside the church (despite raising a lot of money for the rebuilding fund). The Rector had said we should have the service inside in case of rain. I had said no, but eventually gave in and agreed. However, on the day the electrics inside the church had gone wrong and were being repaired and so we had no choice, outside it was! The Rector commented that Dad always got his own way!

The Reverend Davies left in 1977. I think this is when Exbury became part of Beaulieu parish and Langley joined with Fawley. I know for both my parents’ funeral services I had to ask special permission for him to come and officiate. Some of the facts here I have taken from the obituary that he wrote and read out, for my mother.