A look back at almost nine decades of St Francis' College

St Francis' College, Letchworth

St Francis' College, Letchworth - Credit: St Francis' College

St Francis' College has long appeared in the pages of the Comet - and its predecessors. We take a look back at some of the stories to come from the preparatory school for girls. 

The school was founded in 1933 and soon began making news locally. 

St Francis' College pupils feature in the Pictorial in 1935

St Francis' College pupils feature in the Pictorial in 1935 - Credit: Garden City Collection, Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation

From theatre productions in 1935, the opening of the elementary school in 1936, right through to the annual GCSE and A-level results celebrations covered by the Comet today, St Francis' College's history can be traced back through the pages in a myriad of local editions.

St Francis' College opens elementary school in 1936

St Francis' College opens elementary school in 1936 - Credit: Garden City Collection, Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation

The Citizen reported on the success of the St Francis' College senior choir at the Hitchin Music Festival in 1962.

Garden City Collection, Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation

St Francis' College senior choir take first prize in the 18 and under choral class at Hitchin Music Festival, 1962 - Credit: Garden City Collection, Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation

A funding appeal to expand the school's science lab equipment raked in £20,000 in one year back in 1966. A report from the time explains boarders had grown from just 21 in 1933 to more than 850 in 1966. 

A successful funding appeal saw new science labs at St Francis' College in the 60s

A successful funding appeal saw new science labs at St Francis' College in the 60s - Credit: Garden City Collection, Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation

Just nine years after opening, plans were quickly drawn for a new building which would overlook Broadway. The large Broadway building was opened just as the Second World War began.

In 1978, we reported on the campaign by former St Francis' College headmistress Janise Frith to have a youth orchestra set up in the town.

Youth orchestra the comet

Former headmistress of St Francis' College Janise Frith campaigned for a youth orchestra for Letchworth in 1978 - Credit: Garden City Collection, Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation

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Mrs Frith joined the staff of St Francis’ in 1972 as director of music.

In 1983, she spent four months as acting headteacher before being appointed deputy head in 1984. Three years later she became head, a position she held until her retirement in 1993. Janise sadly died in 2015.

More recently, the school has featured in the Comet prominently as many success stories came through the news desk. 

As coronavirus took hold in 2020 and the PPE shortage caused further problems for our key workers on the front line, St Francis' College stepped up and did their bit to help.

The Science Department donated a range of much-needed PPE to Foxholes Care Home in Hitchin, and Garden City Court Care Home in Letchworth.

St Francis' College PPE

St Francis' College PPE - Credit: Archant

Pupil Lucy Jefford, 13, won a national writing competition in 2021 for her story about a doctor's preparations for a shift with COVID-19 patients.

Lucy Jefford from St Francis' College won a writing competition

Lucy Jefford from St Francis' College won a writing competition - Credit: St Francis' College

She had her story 'On the Frontline' chosen alongside 14 other entries to feature in the anthology 'My Twist on a Tale: Everyday Heroes Winning Stories'.

In 2021, St Francis' College's Charlize Church contacted the Comet asking for help to raise awareness of littering and smoking.

Charlize Church from St Francis' College made the Comet pages in 2021

Charlize Church from St Francis' College made the Comet pages in 2021 - Credit: Archant

The six-year-old St Francis' pupil even even set up a meeting with her local MP Stephen McPartland to raise her concerns. 

Throughout its 89-year history, the college has been a part of the fabric of Letchworth, and seen many changes both to the physical building and in the community. 

St Francis' College opened its new building overlooking Broadway in 1939. Picture: St Francis' Colle

St Francis' College opened its new building overlooking Broadway in 1939 - Credit: St Francis' College

Headmistress Mrs Bronwen Goulding said: "Over the last 85 years there have been many changes at the college. There have been physical improvements and additions to the building and teaching.

"The 21st century bears no resemblance to what took place in the early days, but the college continues to offer a wide range of extracurricular activities as well as encouraging girls to ​achieve their potential in their academic studies just as they did in the 1930s. 

Letchworth's St Francis' College science class 1951. Picture: St Francis' College

Letchworth's St Francis' College science class 1951 - Credit: St Francis' College

"In 1983 the college became and still is a multi-denominational Christian community that welcomes pupils of all faith​s or none from the age of three. ​

In1933 a number of members from Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary travelled to Letchworth from Gh

In 1933 a number of members from Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary travelled to Letchworth from Ghent in Belgium to open St Francis' College, and continued to run it until 1983 - Credit: St Francis' College

"Since then, we have been preparing young people for the future with a specific and dedicated programme. Most of our students go on to study a wide variety of subjects at the best universities in the country such as Oxford and Cambridge, Durham, Warwick and LSE. 

"St Francis' College prepares its students for the future

"St Francis' College prepares its students for the future while keeping the best traditions and values of the past", says headmistress Bronwen Goulding - Credit: St Francis' College

"We are proud of the contribution our students make in the fields of science, broadcasting , music, business and politics around the world.

"St Francis’ College can be proud of its achievements over the last 85 years. It is a happy, successful school where pupils thrive in an environment ​which recognises the unique qualities of each individual.   

St Francis' College

St Francis' College - Credit: St Francis' College

"St Francis' College prepares its students for the future while keeping the best traditions and values of the past. A modern exciting and values based education in a warm community not an impersonal institution."

To find out more about the college, go to www.st-francis.herts.sch.uk.