School’s heritage play tells story of humble start of Catholic education in Melton

Pupils listen to an important announcement on the wireless during their Heritage Play at Melton EMN-200801-133859001
Pupils listen to an important announcement on the wireless during their Heritage Play at Melton EMN-200801-133859001
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Melton schoolchildren have put on a special play telling the story of how Catholic education started in the town with a tiny school for just four children in Sherrard Street 120 years ago.

The production, at St Francis Catholic Primary School, tells the story of the Franciscan Sisters Minoress and their arrival in Melton Mowbray at the request of the Bishop of Nottingham.

The Sisters had begun their mission, under the leadership of Mother Francis Murphy, where they served the poorest communities.

After they relocated to Melton, 1900 saw the beginnings of a small school, the humble beginnings of the history of Catholic education in the town, but three years later the demand for spaces meant it had to be moved to Tower House, on Dalby Road, when a private convent school for girls was set up.

In 1957, St Francis Catholic Primary School opened and pupils continue to study there today.

Year six children produced the Heritage Play, working with the principal from Tollethorpe Youth Theatre, Mary Benzies.

The school’s head teacher, Gosia Brown, told the Melton Times: “The children’s performances were outstanding, a passion no doubt inspired by the devotion of the sisters to grow the school community they are now a part of.

“The play was supported by Lux Technical, who produced all of the wonderful sound effects, oral recordings, lighting and projection of images during the play.

“The mix of media alongside the performances of the children ensured that play was a standout performance and the experience for the children of being a part of such a large scale production was incredible.

“Many of the costumes and props from across the decades were authentic or professional replicas, including gas mask boxes, lanterns and a 1930s tea set.”

As well as the children, the play featured the voice of Maia Lewin, who was a pupil at the town’s Franciscan Convent School.

Her stories of school life were an inspiration for the play, along with many recollections from pupils and staff, past and present.

These were recorded during the many memory sharing events held by the school as part of a Heritage Lottery-funded project entitled, ‘Memories of St Francis Catholic Primary School in Melton Mowbray’.

Mrs Brown added: “The voices of the Franciscan sisters were also woven into the play and the poignancy of their words continues to resonate with pupils and staff.

“The sisters continue to be a prominent presence in our school community and we are delighted that many of the sisters were able to come and see the plays.”

The play was recorded and will soon be available either online or on DVD - go online to the school’s Heritage facebook page @stfrancisheritage for details.