The Reverend Frederick Charles Thomas Lancaster
25th August 1916 – 31st May 2002
This is an edited version of the tribute to Father Lancaster given by me at his funeral on Tuesday 11th June 2002 at the College of St. Barnabas, Lingfield, Surrey, and at a Requiem Mass for him held on Wednesday 12th June at the Chapel of St. Mary and St. John, North Ascot.
I have known Father Lancaster since he and Ethel arrived in Ascot in 1968 to take up his post as Rector of All Saints’ Ascot.
They moved into the Old Rectory, which was at the end of a long drive starting where the hall car-park is now. It was a typical Victorian Rectory, very large, cold and draughty. They didn’t have to stay there long as the new Rectory next to All Saints’ Church was soon finished. My wife, Joy, helped them move into their new home.
Father Lancaster never drove and he said that he did not feel safe even on a bicycle, hence he soon became a common sight in North Ascot as he strode around the Parish. As he didn’t have a car, the double garage at the new Rectory had carpet on the floor and a large painting of St. George slaying the dragon on the wall and became known as St. George’s Hall. It was used by the Sunday School and for many other activities.
There were many new initiatives that came from his ministry. He arranged for the Parish to be a training parish and for this to happen we needed a house for a curate. He persuaded the diocese and wealthy parishioners to donate and loan funds so that a house was purchased and the first curate Patrick Durrant moved in. After the next curate, Freddie Denman, Father Lancaster then felt that the Church Hall in King Edward’s Road and it’s surroundings needed attention as the Scouts met in a ramshackle Nissen hut on the site and he felt that there was room on the site for a curate’s house and so the present Parsonage was built. It’s first occupants were Paul & Lindsey Mellor. Paul is now Cannon-Treasurer of Truro Cathedral. His final curate was Timothy Rawdon-Mogg who is now Rector of Horsted Keynes in Sussex.
Thanks to a bequest from Elsie Joel the chapel of St Mary and St John at the back of the hall was also built.
Finally on the property front Father Lancaster was instrumental in obtaining the Crown Lease on a parcel of land behind All Saints’ Church so that a Church Hall could be built by his successor.
Soon after he arrived in Ascot, he tried to involve younger members of the Church in the PCC and Standing Committee. I was one of these being 35 at the time. When a vacancy occurred in 1975 Father Lancaster asked me to be his Rector’s Warden and this I did until he retired in September 1981. He and Ethel retired to a modern house near the centre of Abingdon, sadly Ethel died some 2 years later. We have kept in touch with him over the 21 years since he retired and especially since he moved to the College of St. Barnabas and last visited him some 3 weeks ago, just before we went to France.
During his ministry he organized a very successful Mission in Ascot, which was led by the fathers of Alton Priory and a number of the present congregation joined the church at that time.
He also started the practice of car parking during Royal Ascot Week. This was a much lower key affair than now and was confined to the Rectory lawn and forecourt. He and Ethel provided facilities for picnics and changing rooms and as usual Father Lancaster was an excellent host.
As an officer aboard Minesweepers in the North Sea during the Last War, he was an active member of the Ascot ex-servicemen’s Club.
After the Sunday morning Service at All Saints’ we would get home at about 11.45am and often the phone would ring about noon and it would be Father Lancaster asking if I felt like a pint at the Royal Foresters Hotel. So off I would go and pick him up for his pre-lunch drink.
We have many fond memories of Father Lancaster. When our youngest son had open heart surgery in the National Heart Hospital, London in 1971, he got himself on a train to London and visited Peter Aged 6 twice while he was in hospital. This was an example of his love of children and his care of his parish family.
Later in 1980 we were very proud to have him marry our eldest child, Deborah to Martin and I know that this gave him a great deal of pleasure to be able to marry a Churchwarden’s daughter.
As you will have gathered from these reminiscences both Joy and I felt very blessed to have Father Lancaster as our parish priest and as a much loved friend. Our world is that much smaller as a result of his passing, but his memory will live with us and our family for ever.
Graham F. Gare – Former Churchwarden