The History of the chapel of St Francis of Assisi, Val
Up until 1964 the Anglican community of Val had no proper place of worship. Church services were held regularly on a monthly basis, in the hall of the old Val School, a wood and iron structure, and the congregation sat in small, uncomfortable desks – no comfort to nod off during the sermon! Easter and Christmas services were usually held in the home of Mr and Mrs Quinton Smith. From 1954, services were held in the newly built hall of the Val Farmers’ Association.
In august 1963, the idea of building our own Anglican Church began to gain favour in the community, although with some initial resistance because of the low numbers of Anglicans in the Val area. Mrs Marjorie Armitage played a vital role in gathering support for the project, and undertook the mammoth task of gathering contributions from residents and ex-residents of the district. It was very gratifying to see how many people were willing to contribute to this project.
The design of the church was eventually decided upon. Mrs Helen Lawrence proposed that the plans be drawn up based on St. George’s Church, White river, and it was decided that it should be the same size as the little church in Devon. The property was donated by Mrs Sybil Quinton Smith and a building committee appointed, consisting of Mr Norman Lawrence, Mrs Marjorie Armitage, Mr Jimmy Rodda, and Mr and Mrs Douglas Hulse.
The foundations were started on the morning of the 9th of September 1963 by Mr TJ Rodda, helped by Simon, aged 2, with his small wheelbarrow. Stone was donated from a number of sources, and a very skilled stone mason by the name of Moloi, was engaged by Mr Lawrence, who saw to the building, which progressed slowly, as most of the stones needed cutting, and it sometimes took a whole day to prepare and cut one stone. The building was completed, and St Francis of Assisi, Val. Was consecrated by Bishop Leslie Stradling in January 1965.
The first wedding to be solemnized in the church was that of Jill Quinton Smith and Ron Creasy, in September 1965, and the first baby to be christened was Georgina Butler Porter in 1966.
Sadly the church was struck by lightning in 1970 and burnt down, leaving only the walls standing. Mrs Sybil Quinton Smith, the first person alerted, was only able to save one pew, and the family Bible, before the heat became too intense. It was rebuilt in 1971, and a vestry added. It is a remarkable witness to the Anglican community and the district that such a destructive event only appeared to challenge them to greater things! The church itself bears witness to the community it serves, and those who have contributed to it, with brass plaques recording donations of pews, doors, altar rail, windows – all donated by residents of Val, past and present, and friends. It stands as a wonderful witness to the faithfulness of god in this community, and to the faithfulness of His People.
“The stones themselves bear witness to this, and if we were to keep silent, they will cry out!” (Luke 19:40)
(Submitted by Rita and André Britz of the Val Hotel – 2013)
All truncated references not cited and linked below are those of Joanna Walker’s original text and cited in full in the ‘Bibliography’ entry of the Lexicon.
Writings about this St Francis of Assisi Anglican Church
Menache, Philippe & David, Darryl Earl. 2012. A Platteland Pilgrimage : 102 country churches of South Africa . South Africa: Booktown Richmond Press. pp 65.