OBITUARY: The Very Rev Harold Frankham

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The Independent Online
Harold Frankham began his working life in banking, and his eye for detail and admiration for efficiency was carried into a distinguished ministry in the Church of England.

His gifts developed widely. He was an accomplished musician, a friend and patron of artists and a fine evangelistic preacher. His conversion to personal faith changed the direction of his life and took him, in the early days of the Second World War, to train at the London College of Divinity and then to a formative curacy at Holy Trinity, Brompton. The vicar, Bryan Green, quickly saw Frankham's enthusiasm and gifts, and thus began a lifelong partnership which took them to many parts of the world and especially the United States, on hundreds of evangelistic missions.

When he took his first benefice at St Mary's, Addiscombe, in south London, he struck up a friendship with the principal of his old college, Donald Coggan. It was a creative partnership which resurfaced in the 1950s when Coggan was Bishop of Bradford and then Archbishop of York and Frankham was Rector of Middleton, Manchester. In Middleton he caught the mood of the times, built up a large congregation and tested the energy of his curates. Significantly, he also developed an ancient building for modern use, and this eye for beauty, enlarged for economy and worship, was to be a hallmark of his next two major posts.

In 1961 he moved to his home town of Luton to take charge of a large town-centre parish. Amidst all his travels, his moving and often provocative preaching, and his meticulous training of curates, he embarked on a vast building scheme. It was to drag him through consistory courts, but he achieved a development built on a churchyard and adjacent to a medieval building.

All these gifts and experience were crowned with 12 creative years at Southwark. His personal friendship with the architects George Pace and Ronald Sims enabled bold plans to take shape for the extension and enlargement of that great cathedral. His vision commanded the respect of people in the City and the money flowed in. Shortly after his retirement, he was able to return to Southwark to see the Queen open the fulfilment of his dream. He had turned a neglected and rather forgotten building into a centre of worship and Christian teaching which could take its place proudly amongst London's other two cathedrals.

From successive home bases his energy was felt in many parts of the Church, notably in the foundation of Scargill House in Wharfedale, in the Yorkshire dales. His partnership with Coggan and Pace was again used to turn a country house into a place of breathtaking beauty where the faith was evoked and sustained. His ability to inspire others with his vision also enabled him to become a fund-raiser it was difficult to refuse. In the 1960s Frankham was also the executive secretary of the Archbishop's Council for Evangelism and, with Cuthbert Bardsley and John Poulton, pressed upon a somewhat deaf church the need to proclaim the gospel to the unconverted. It paved the way for today's greater awareness in the Decade of Evangelism.

There were some struggles in his life. As a young man Harold Frankham had suffered from polio and its effects never entirely left him. The loss of an infant child and of his close friend Dick Marsh in a climbing accident left their scars. His early upbringing had tended to narrow pietism and he wrestled with conscience when the breadth of his personality and his delight in the good things of life seemed to war against the foundations of his faith. He remained true to a Christian gospel of salvation while discovering to the full the delights which creation has to offer.

His years at Southwark brought him under the liberating influence of Mervyn Stockwood, and together they found the honest freedom of children of God. A note discovered after his death included the sentence "An important element is fun in the Christian life", and his ready sense of humour together with an occasionally devastating judgement signalled that the early shackles had been discarded.

Harold Frankham and Mervyn Stockwood both retired to Bath, where Frankham's wife, Margaret, had a care for each of them. Her devotion and constant encouragement were a great stabilising feature of Frankham's ministry. Their hospitality in successive homes was prodigious. Harold and Margaret Frankham were likely to welcome a tramp for breakfast, a curator and a banker for lunch and the churchwardens for supper. And on each occasion they produced the appropriate beverage.

Michael Turnbull

Harold Edward Frankham, priest: born 16 April 1911; ordained deacon 1941, priest 1942; Vicar of Addiscombe 1946-52; Rector of Middleton, Lancashire 1952-61; Vicar of Luton 1961-70; Provost of Southwark 1970-82 (Emeritus); married 1942 Margaret Annear (one son, two daughters, and one son deceased); died Salisbury 17 January 1996.