Life of man who featured in classic railway poster to be celebrated at his “special place” - Norwich Cathedral

Remembering William Francis, who was immortalised in the 1930's poster of Norwich Cathedral. Daughte

Remembering William Francis, who was immortalised in the 1930's poster of Norwich Cathedral. Daughter Sarah Mackenzie with a copy of the poster in the cloisters. Photo : Steve Adams - Credit: Steve Adams

It was one of many promotional posters produced during the golden era of rail travel, now considered classics.

Remembering William Francis, who was immortalised in the 1930's poster of Norwich Cathedral. Photogr

Remembering William Francis, who was immortalised in the 1930's poster of Norwich Cathedral. Photograph of Willaim and fellow choiristors. - Credit: Steve Adams

But for William Francis, this stunning image of choristers in the cloisters at Norwich Cathedral had a very personal resonance – for it is he depicted at the head of the group, holding the cross aloft.

It remained a source of pride throughout his life and adorned his bedroom wall right up to his passing. Indeed, when he was anointing Mr Francis, shortly before his death, aged 92, this month, the cathedral's Reverend Canon Andrew Bryant spotted the image.

This week, Canon Bryant will conduct Mr Francis' funeral at the cathedral, a location he always remembered as 'his special place'.

A former carpenter and director at Boulton and Paul Ltd, Mr Francis' permanent connection with the cathedral was established when he was a choirboy there in the 1930s and a photograph was taken of him leading a procession of choristers. This image was then used as the basis for an advertising poster for the London & North Eastern Railway, produced by celebrated artist Harry Tittensor, extolling the benefits of rail travel.


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His daughter, Sara Mackenzie, 54, who still has a copy of the original photograph, said: 'He just adored the cathedral. He was president of the ex-choristers. My brother was a chorister and he (Mr Francis) would attend every service and evensong. He just loved it.'

Mrs Mackenzie, from Wymondham, added: 'Dad was mobile up until a couple of years ago and even though he was in very poor health I still used to bring him. He lost most of his language but would still be able to say 'you've brought me to my happy place'. It was like Disneyland for him, he just loved the cathedral.' She described her father as 'just the kindest of men' and a 'very much loved grandfather and father'.

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Mr Francis, whose wife Myra died in 2014 aged 84, passed away on February 17, leaving two children and two grandchildren.

He had been battling Alzheimer's and was living in a nursing home in Attleborough.

He had previously lived in Poringland, Trowse, Loddon and Lowestoft. Close friend Duncan Pigg, who was also in the picture, will be one of a number of friends and family attending the service for Mr Francis, at 11am on Wednesday, which will feature a boy chorister singing solo.

Do you have a story about Norwich? Email peter.walsh@archant.co.uk

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