Richard Holmes 1931-2023


Richard Holmes was born in Udimore and went up to Clare College, Cambridge University in 1951 to read Classics, later changing to English Literature.

Richard Holmes as a young man, early 1950s

He had many great stories of his time at Cambridge, made lifelong friends and proudly hung his oar from the May 1952 Bumps on the wall. He started his working career at the British Aeroplane Company, based in Bristol where, amongst other things, he learnt to fly. He returned to Clare to do a PGCSE before teaching at Shrewsbury School. There he was persuaded by a colleague to go to Africa and teach in a mission school in Mzpanza, Northern Rhodesia, which he did for three years. Following the foundation of Zambia, he returned to Europe on a boat up the East Coast of Africa to Venice. During the voyage he achieve two great accomplishments: he finished reading War and Peace and he met his future wife Matty, who had been teaching in Cape Town and was also returning to Europe.

On his return to the UK, Richard took a teaching post at Clifton College, Bristol, where he remained until his retirement in 1991. He taught English and Latin in the Upper School, before finally finding his home teaching science, with an emphasis on biology and the environment, in the Prep School. After retiring, he returned to his birthplace of Udimore, near Rye in East Sussex. He was well known and respected in the locality, taking an active role in nature conservation. At various times he took the chair of several voluntary organisations, amongst them the Friends of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, the Rother Environmental Group and the Marsh Link Action Group. He led the campaign for an improved railway service when the Ashford to Hastings line still had slam door carriages and the campaign to protect the Brede Valley with its Site of Special Scientific Interest from devastation that would have been caused by being part of the South Coast Link Road. Richard demonstrated great commitment to environmental causes and had the patience and courtesy that helped win the day.

Richard was an enthusiastic organic gardener and he and Matty opened their garden once a year to raise funds for charity. Richard was deeply knowledgeable, modest and always interested in people, with a warm-hearted twinkle in his eye. His funeral service took place on February 25 at a packed St Mary’s Church, Udimore, where he was a regular worshipper. He is survived by his wife, Matty, two children and four grandchildren.

Image Credits: Kenneth Bird , courtesy of Rhoda Richartdson .

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  1. A real gentleman whom I was privileged to know for a short time. I wasn’t aware that he had an early background in aviation; our chats would have been much longer……..

  2. Richard was the first person to welcome us to the parish. We went to church and he embraced us with smiles and welcome. A true gentleman with his wonderful wife. Thank you

  3. News has only just reached me at Clifton – Richard taught me biology and natural history and then was a supportive colleague on my return to the Prep School to teach science alongside him. A lovely gentle man.


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