Richard Poulton – Head Master 1987-1996
The funeral service for Richard Poulton will take place on 31st October 2022, at 2pm in Chichester Cathedral, West Sussex, PO19 1PX. There will be family flowers but, if you wish, donations can be made to the Head Master’s Discretionary Fund, Christs’ Hospital, c/o Reynolds Funerals, Chichester, tel: 01243 773311
Peter Allwood is arranging a choir to sing at the funeral. If there are any Old Blues that would like sing, please contact him directly for further details at email@example.com
Obituary submitted by Ben Poulton
Richard Poulton came from a very modest beginning in life. The son of a local parish vicar and a Red Cross volunteer, he grew up in rural south Devon as one of four children in a loving, hard-working and community-spirited family.
The seeds of his future vocation were sown early on – as a capable 9-year-old in a simple one-room primary school in Longdown, Richard was often chosen by the teacher to help other older students with their reading. His aptitude for academia was even more apparent when he won the top scholarship to King’s College, Taunton. During his time at the college he accumulated 7 A-levels – several of which were self-taught, and he was at times asked to sit in on junior classes to cover for teacher absences. His main love was History, and it was the example of his History teacher and the influence he had on his school life which first made Richard believe that teaching could be an honourable and worthy career.
Offered a place at Pembroke College, Cambridge aged 16 (to start 5 years later), on leaving school Richard initially worked as a trainee accountant, and then a brewery labourer, before crossing the Atlantic to spend an eye-opening year studying at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. Here he experienced a very different world from his childhood and relished meeting people from very different backgrounds. His adventure ended with him undertaking a gruelling hitch-hike from east coast to west to work in a kids’ summer camp, before hitch-hiking back again. He later described the biggest lesson from his time in the US: to value people above everything else – something that helped to shape his kind, caring and thoughtful nature through the rest of his life.
On leaving Cambridge with a first-class honours degree, Richard began his teaching career at Bedford School, and at around that time he met and married his devoted wife, Zara (known as Sally), who was a source of strength and support for him throughout the rest of his life. Posts followed at Beckenham & Penge Grammar School, and then Bryanston School where he spent 15 years. Here he became Head of History, followed by Housemaster of first a boys’ and then a girls’ house, as well as being Head of Rowing and frequently being involved in the choral productions and school musicals.
Seeking a fresh challenge, Richard became the fifth Headmaster of Wycliffe College in 1980, where he spent 6 years working extremely hard to grow and develop the school. This included developing a new girls’ boarding house, and numerous other changes to the campus and running of the school. Outside of school life he was appointed as a Justice of the Peace on the South Cotswold Bench. In 1987, the Secretary of the Headmasters’ Conference recommended that he apply for the job as Headmaster of Christs’ Hospital in West Sussex, telling him it was “the school for him”. And how right he was – in what was a period of great change (with the girls’ school having only just relocated from Hertford to the Horsham campus), Richard brought stability and a clear vision during his tenure, demonstrating his passion for providing the opportunity of an excellent education to children who needed it.
Always prepared to take on a challenge and an adventure, Richard took up the role of founding Headmaster of the International School of the Regents in Pattaya, Thailand for a year on retiring from Christs’ Hospital, successfully launching the school from a hotel whilst the campus was still being completed. After retiring fully from day-to-day school life, he continued in the field of educational charities, becoming involved with The Inner Cities Young People’s Project, and then the All Saints’ Educational Trust. In 2008-9, he became Master of the Worshipful Company of Ironmongers.
A man of strong faith and renowned for working hard, Richard provided strong yet calm and sensitive leadership in his schools and organisations. He always took great interest in those around him, making time to guide and encourage pupils, colleagues and family alike. Cherished by his family and friends he was always a pleasure to be with, his trademark smile and twinkly eyes sharing his joy with the people around him. His outlook is perhaps best described by a line in a recent letter to his grandchildren: “Enjoy your lives, and aim to communicate with others, and do good with them and for them.”
Richard Poulton was born on June 21st 1938, and died on Sept 23rd 2022 following a stroke. He is survived by his wife Zara, and children Elizabeth, Anthony and Benedict.