People, places and events in the parish's history

George Crawford and the Festival Choir

George Crawford and the Festival Choir

As the Festival Choir plans its Centenary Concert, it’s a good time to remember some of the people who were involved in earlier years.

Barbara Clegg, in her booklet “Compton and Shawford – The Story of a Quiet Parish” tells us that

The Compton and Shawford Festival Choir, or to give it its familiar name, the “Choral”, was founded in 1921, under its first conductor, Mr. G.R. Crawford.

It has competed since 1922 in the Winchester Music Festival, with varying success.

Since 1940 its conductor has been Denis Lee, who is also the Church organist, and its accompanist has been Anita Mary Blake. The “Choral”, augmented by the church choir, has been responsible for the fine service of Carols each Christmastide.

George Crawford had been born in Bath in 1873.

By 1901 he was teaching at Glenalmond College near Perth. Originally called The Scottish Episcopal College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Glenalmond, the school had been co-founded in 1847 by future Prime Minister William Gladstone.

After retiring from Glenalmond, George Crawford came to live at Avonmore in Southdown Road.

By 1918 he was on the committee of four, led by Mrs. Hallifax, which raised the funding for the Wayside Cross. After the war, he chaired the committee to establish the stone War Memorial.

In the Parish Hall, framed Records of Success at the Winchester and County Music Festival (WCMF) tell us that George Crawford was conductor of the C&S Festival Choir from 1921-39. His deputy was A.C.Lee.

George Crawford was also Chairman of the WCMF from 1928 to 1939.

Following the death of Arthur Heathcote in August 1934, the Heathcote Players were established in his memory, in a meeting chaired by G.R.Crawford.

From the Parish Magazine, May 1936


As a result of recent Dramatic activity in the village a meeting was held at the Parish Hall on March 26th, at which Mr. G. R. Crawford took the chair, and thirty-six people were present. The meeting decided to form a Dramatic Club for Compton and Shawford to be called the “Heathcote Players.”

The object of the Club is to encourage the Drama as a recreational part of village life, and to enable village players to take part in the Competitions organised by the British Drama League, and to perform plays for the benefit of local causes from time to time.


George Reginald Crawford.

Entered into Rest, July 30th, 1945.

After a long and painful illness lasting nearly three years, but borne with wonderful courage and patience, George Crawford has passed on into the fuller Life of Paradise.

In honour of his memory, I should like to mention some of his good works, as it shows that the Diocese as well as the Parish has lost a faithful servant and friend. After retiring from his work as School-master at Glenalmond, he gave himself whole-heartedly to the work of this Diocese, especially to the Diocesan Church Fund, which mainly through his efforts was put on a sound basis. He also worked very hard for the Division of the Diocese, and for several years was Treasurer of the Friends of the Cathedral Fund.

Another movement in which he took the keenest interest was the Winchester Musical Festival, giving his help and guidance as Chairman of the Executive Committee, and for many years he was conductor of our own Festival Choir. He was a staunch supporter of our Church, being most helpful as Chairman of our Finance Committee, and he seldom failed to read the lessons at Mattins on Sundays.

We give thanks for his work for the extension of God’s Kingdom as well as for his cheerfulness and tactful guidance in many ways. His illness and death have meant much both to the Diocese and to all his friends.

from the Parish Magazine September 1945

Arthur Crawford Lee was the son of Rev. Godfrey Bolles Lee, the last resident Warden of Winchester College, who had also, briefly, played first-class cricket.

A.C.Lee had married Dorothy, eldest daughter of Arthur Heathcote. He is commemorated on this carved oak tablet in the sanctuary in All Saints’, Compton.

Denis Lee was the church organist for (at least two) broadcasts from Compton on the BBC Home Service. On Sunday 3 January 1943 the morning service was broadcast; evensong on Sunday 8 February 1948 featured the first in a series of three sermons by the Dean of Winchester on “What Does the New Testament Mean by Love?”

When Denis Lee succeeded George Crawford as the Festival Choir’s conductor, Anita M Blake was his deputy and accompanist. Anita Blake also played the piano at the Heathcote Player’s annual Shawford pantomimes written by Barbara Clegg.

Anita Blake’s daughter Hilary (later Hilary Tudor) sang a solo in October 1952 when the Festival and Church choirs gave a combined concert.  Her son Denis had married Barbara Clegg’s daughter Anne.

Having been widowed herself, Anita Blake married Denis A B Lee in 1964.

Reprinted from the July 2021 issue of Compton & Shawford Parish Magazine