St Richard's Catholic College

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St Richard's Catholic College
St Richard's Catholic College is located in East Sussex
St Richard's Catholic College
St Richard's Catholic College
St Richard's Catholic College is located in England
St Richard's Catholic College
St Richard's Catholic College
Ashdown Road

, ,
TN40 1SE

Coordinates50°50′35″N 0°29′19″E / 50.84305°N 0.48867°E / 50.84305; 0.48867Coordinates: 50°50′35″N 0°29′19″E / 50.84305°N 0.48867°E / 50.84305; 0.48867
TypeVoluntary aided school
MottoComitas, Scientia, Caritas (Community, Knowledge, Charity)
Religious affiliation(s)Roman Catholic
Patron saint(s)St Richard of Chichester
Local authorityEast Sussex
PrincipalMiss D Cronin
ChaplainJo Doyle
Staffapprox. 70
Age11 to 16
HousesGwynne, Rigby, Howard, Wells
Colour(s)St Richard's Grey, black

St Richard's Catholic College, or St Richard's, is a secondary school in East Sussex in the United Kingdom. It is a voluntary aided school, maintained by East Sussex County Council. The school is situated in the Catholic Diocese of Arundel and Brighton. St Richard's was rated 'outstanding' by Ofsted in 2006, a rating that it sustained following an interim assessment in 2010. Of the school community, HM Inspectorate commented 'The social, moral, spiritual and cultural development of students is outstanding'.[1] St Richard's also scored a Level 1 (the highest rating) in each section of its 2018 Denominational Inspection Report.[2]


St Richard's Catholic College was opened in 1959. Its construction was funded, in part, by fundraising within the local Roman Catholic community.[3][4] For example, in July 1958, just under £1000 was raised by Catholics in Eastbourne for the Diocesan education fund.[5]

When it was first opened, the college was known as St Richard's Catholic School; it was named after St Richard of Chichester (1197 - 1253), who visited Bexhill during his lifetime. It is probable that St Richard built the manor house at Manor Barn, found in the ancient centre of Bexhill-on-Sea, the ruins of which are still visible today.[6]

The raison d'être of St Richard's Catholic School was to offer a denominational secondary education for the local Catholic population. Hitherto, there had been a number of Catholic primary schools in the area (e.g. St Mary Star of the Sea in Hastings and St Joseph's in Eastbourne, inter alia),[7][8] though there had previously been no sufficient provision for Catholic children over the age of eleven. As a result, St Joseph's in Eastbourne was severely overcrowded. The school was obliged to take infants, juniors and seniors, despite that 'the buildings [were] totally inadequate to house all these groups for education'.[9] St Joseph's has since closed and been replaced by St Thomas a Becket Catholic Primary School.

St Richard's was, and remains, the only Catholic secondary school in East Sussex (the nearest alternatives being in Brighton and Tunbridge Wells). As such, it has always had a substantial catchment area, traditionally ranging from Eastbourne, through Bexhill, to the vicinity of the Hastings area.[10]

At the time of the school's construction, the issue of transporting children into Bexhill proved controversial within Eastbourne's town council. Indeed, a series of contemporary newspaper articles from the Eastbourne Gazette and Eastbourne Herald reveal the contention that surrounded the payment of the future pupils' train fares.

It was suggested in February 1958 that, when the school was built, Eastbourne's council should subsidise half the cost of Eastbourniyn pupils travelling into Bexhill. In March, however, the council's Education Committee voted by a majority of eight to six to cover the whole cost of pupils' fares. This decision followed a letter from the archdiocesan secretary responsible for education (at his time, Eastbourne and Bexhill both fell within an archdiocese - the Archdiocese of Southwark - as Arundel and Brighton had yet to be created). Yet, this was not the end of the episode. On 1 April, Eastbourne council's Finance Committee urged the main chamber to reconsider their U-turn. Concerned over the cost to rate payers, the Finance Committee argued that the council should only pay for half of pupils' fares. Travel for a single child, at that time, would have cost 2s6d a week.[11]

Finally, on 8 April, the council agreed with the Finance Committee and voted by a majority of twenty to five to subsidise only half of any future pupils' fares. Another vote, which passed by fourteen to eleven, allowed for families in 'hardship' to claim for a 100 p/c subsidy on rail fares. This proved controversial at the time, as some interpreted the vote to contradict contemporary directives issued by the Ministry of Education (whereby full fares, in that instance, could be paid). Moreover, it was feared that many local Catholics simply would not be able to afford the cost - and that many would be too proud to go 'cap in hand' to the council and plead 'hardship'.[12] Some believed the decision was reached because of the denominational nature of the new school. Indeed, the council did pay for the entire fares of other pupils travelling similar distances.

So, prior to the elections of May, the same year, local Cannon J J Curtin took the issue to the pulpit at Sunday Mass: "It would be a good if all Catholics," he said, "when canvassed for their votes [...] satisfied themselves that candidates would, if elected, endeavour to get the decision of Eastbourne Council to pay only half of the fare for pupils to the new Catholic school in Bexhill rescinded."[13] Further action was taken by the local church in October. Archdiocesan representatives wrote to the relevant Ministry, expressing concern over the legality of the council's decision. However, after a legal review by the town clerk, the decision to pay for half fares was kept. The council held out on the issue.

Clock at St Richard's Catholic College commemorating the school's golden jubilee

In its early years, St Richard's Catholic School existed largely in the shadow of the local grammar (now Bexhill High Academy). This was because St Richard's offered placements based on faith rather than on intelligence. It is for this reason that St Richard's continues to have a higher than average proportion of pupils for whom English is a second language.[14] However, following the Cessation of Grant Regulations 1975, which saw the conversion of many grammar schools across the country,[15] the playing field between St Richard's and Bexhill High (as it was known) was to levelled.

The school's reputation has increased exponentially since the late 1980s, largely as a result of the accession of Mr Anthony Campbell OBE to the position of Headmaster. After a series of reforms under Campbell, St Richard's became the forerunning state school in East Sussex. It still frequently comes first in the county league tables for both results and Progress 8. Campbell's achievements were recognised in the 2007 New Year's Honours List, wherein he received an OBE for 'services to education'.[16] Campbell retired in 2008; his retirement mass and celebrations were recorded in the local paper.[17]

The role of headmaster has since been taken over by Miss Doreen Cronin, under whom the school has continued to flourish and attain excellent results. Under her tenure, GCSE results (the highest qualification offered at the school, save for an AS in Religious Studies) have remained well above average. In 2018, the first year that the new grade 1 - 9 GCSEs were sat, 83 p/c of pupils achieved a grade 4 or above in English and Maths. This is well above the National and the County averages (National 68 p/c).[18]

Coat of Arms[edit]

The arms of St Richard's Catholic College are depicted on an escutcheon divided into three sections by an ordinary - a pall. The pall denotes that the arms are derived from St Richard himself, who was a bishop. Palls, or palliums, are part of the vestments worn by senior clergy in the Roman Catholic Church. Originally, they were peculiar to the Pope, but for many centuries they have been bestowed by him on metropolitans and primates as a symbol of the jurisdiction delegated to them by the Holy See.[19] There are three charges on the arms of St Richard's Catholic College, found in the three divisions of the field left by the pall (said divisions being dexter chief, sinister chief and nombril point).

At the dexter chief point of the escutcheon (or top right from the viewpoint of the bearer, dexter being from the Latin 'dextra' meaning 'right') is a wavy six pointed star, or 'estoile'.

At the sinister chief point of the escutcheon (or top left from the viewpoint of the bearer, sinister being from the Latin 'sinister' meaning 'left') are six martlets. This is typical charge among the noble families of Sussex. Indeed, the county's arms also include these six martlets. Ostensibly, the birds represent the six historical rapes (sub-divisions) of Sussex. The birds' presence in the both the St Richard's and county arms likely bears a canting connection to the Earls of Arundel: the French word for swallow is hirondelle. The Earls of Arundel were the leading family in the county for many centuries; the 20th Earl, Saint Philip Howard, lends his name to one of the school's four houses.

At the nombril point of the escutcheon (or bottom centre, nombril being from the French nombril meaning "belly button") is the image of Saint Richard of Chichester himself. He is depicted in his ecclesiastical robes and mitre, with his crosier in one hand and administering a blessing with the other. This image is taken from a thirteenth century wall painting of St Richard, painted shortly after his canonisation.

The motto St Richard's Catholic College is Comitas, Scientia, Cartias, meaning "Community, Knowledge and Charity". The motto reflects the Catholic values of the school, as well as its dedication to learning.


St Richard's Catholic College has a number of student and staff run societies, including a Latin, French, Classics, and debating club, among many others. The debating union has held two major in-school debates. The inaugural debate of the St Richard's Union was attended by hundreds of pupils and judged by Huw Merriman MP and Amber Rudd MP, then Home Secretary.[20] The Union was established, and is maintained, entirely by the pupils themselves.

Although a specialist science school, St Richard's also prides itself on the creativity of its pupils. The school boasts both an award winning choir and dance troupe. The choir has performed at Westminster Abbey on occasions usually dominated by independent schools. Both singers and dancers showcase their skills regularly before their peers at assemblies and masses.

The school also has a range of councils, run by prefects and teachers (e.g. Liturgy council, Eco council, School council, etc). The school council is run by the Head Boy and Head Girl, who are chosen from among the year tens (the penultimate year group) at the end of each school year. The selection progress is rigorous, including several interviews and two elections (with one election enfranchising the candidates' peers, and another exclusive to the school's teachers). Head Boys and Head Girls of St Richard's take an active and prominent role in school life, giving speeches and supporting peers.

Spiritual life[edit]

13th Century wall painting of Richard of Chichester, used in the college arms

St Richard's works closely with the local Church to ensure that pupils are grounded in the Catholic faith. The college has a Spiritual Life Team who are responsible for promoting and co-ordinating liturgical activities throughout the year. They also lead the community in supporting the spiritual journeys of all who come to learn and work at St Richard’s. This Team is led by the Lay Chaplain and is assisted by Liturgy Captains, who are chosen from among the student body.

Local priests are regularly in college and are available to staff, pupils and parents. They lead assemblies and school Masses on special occasions and Days of Holy Obligation. Year group Masses and form Masses are celebrated by the priests of both Deaneries on a rota basis. Pupils at St Richards are provided the opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

The prayer of St Richard (attributed to the Saint himself) is often recited at college. It goes as such:

"Thanks be to thee, my Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits Thou hast given to me, and for all the pains and insults Thou hast bourn for me. Most merciful redeemer, friend and brother, may I know Thee more clearly, love Thee more dearly, and follow Thee more nearly. Amen."

The prayer has been adapted to music and forms the school hymn, which is sung rousingly on special occasions.

As a Roman Catholic School, charity and alms-giving are central to school life. Thousands of pounds are typically raised each year for various charities, particularly CAFOD, the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development. Fund raising activities are the prerogative of both students and staff. Indeed, during lunchtimes, student-led bake-sales are a common sight in the school corridors; charity talent shows, fashion shows, and Mufti days are also common fixtures in the school calendar.

House System[edit]

There are four houses at St Richard's Catholic College: Rigby, Wells, Gwynne and Howard (red, yellow, green and blue, respectively). Each house is named after an English martyr from around the time of the reformation. Apart from Saint Philip Howard, each of the martyrs for which the houses are named were canonised by Pope Paul VI in 1970. The former three are each one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.[21]

The houses are not a central part of life at St Richard's, though they do determine the colour of PE kit that is worn by pupils. Nonetheless, they do become important on Sports Day, held in the summer term, where pupils compete ferociously for the title of champion.

The winning house on Sports Day is determined by the number of points allocated to it after all events are finished. A single point is awarded to each pupil for participation; greater numbers of points are allocated to pupils who achieve a place on the podium. Members of each house usually sing chants to each other (for example 'Gwynne Gwynne for the win', or 'Red Army' for Rigby House). Each house also elects a captain for the day, apart from Wells whose captain is known as the 'Prince of Wells' . The Prince of Wells typically leads a call and response chant whereby he/she cries, 'Tunbridge' and the rest of the house replies, in unison, 'Wells!'.

Sports Days take place on the school playing field, which St Richard's also allows local primary schools to use for similar events.


Saint John Rigby was (ca.1570 - 21 June 1600) from, Eccleston, near Chorley, Lancashire. He was the fifth or sixth son of Nicholas Rigby, by his wife Mary (née Breres).

In 1600 Rigby was working for Sir Edmund Huddleston. Sir Edmund, sent him to the sessions house of the Old Bailey to plead illness for the absence of his daughter, the widow Mrs. Fortescue, who had been summoned on a charge of recusancy. A commissioner then questioned Rigby about his own religious beliefs. Rigby acknowledged that he was Catholic and was thus sent to Newgate.

The next day, the feast day of St Valentine, he signed a confession saying that since he had been reconciled to the Roman Catholic faith by Saint John Jones, a Franciscan priest, he had not attended Anglican services. Over the course of his imprisonment, Rigby was twice was given the chance to recant, but he twice refused.

As such, Rigby was sentenced to death hanging, drawing and quartering. He gave his executioner a piece of gold, saying, "Take this in token that I freely forgive thee and others that have been accessory to my death." Rigby was executed at St Thomas Waterings. Cut down too soon, he landed on his feet, but was thrown down and held while he was disemboweled. According to Challoner, "The people, going away, complained very much of the barbarity of the execution."[22]


Saint Swithun Wells was born at Brambridge House, Hampshire in 1536, of a wealthy country family, and was christened with the name of the local saint and bishop Swithun. He was the youngest of the five or six sons of Thomas Wells of Brambridge, by Mary, daughter of John Mompesson. During the Reformation, his family contributed to the secret funerals of Catholics at the local cemetery, and their house was a place of refuge for priests. Wells was well-educated, a poet, musician, and sportsman. Among his travels, he had been to Rome, and had a working knowledge of Italian.[23]

In June 1586, he was arrested with seminarians Alexander Rawlins and Christopher Dryland and imprisoned in Newgate, but was released 4 July when his nephew posted bail. On 9 August 1586, he was examined for supposed complicity in the Babington Plot, and on 30 November 1586, he was discharged from the Fleet prison. At one point he went to Rome on a mission for the Earl of Southampton, but he returned to England to work in the English Catholic underground. He was again examined 5 March 1587, and on this occasion speaks of the well known recusant, George Cotton of Warblington, Hampshire, as his cousin.

In 1591, Edmund Gennings was saying Mass at Wells's house, when the priest-hunter Richard Topcliffe burst in with his officers. The congregation, not wishing the Mass to be interrupted, held the door and beat back the officers until the service was finished, after which they all surrendered peacefully. Wells was not present at the time, but his wife was; she and Gennings were arrested along with another priest by the name of Polydore Plasden, and three laymen named John Mason, Sidney Hodgson, and Brian Lacey. Wells was immediately arrested and imprisoned on his return. He was charged under the 1585 Act Against Jesuits, Seminary Priests and Other Such Disobedient Subjects. At his trial, he said that he had not been present at the Mass, but wished he had been.

Wells was sentenced to die by hanging, and a gibbet was erected outside his own house on 10 December 1591. On his way to the scaffold, Swithun caught sight of an old friend in the crowd and said to him "Goodbye my dear. Goodbye to our nice hunting companies. Now I have something much more important to do." Wells was buried in St. Andrew's Churchyard in Holborn.[24][25]


Saint Richard Gwyn (ca. 1537 – 15 October 1584), also known by his anglicised name, Richard White, was a Welsh school teacher. He was martyred by being hanged, drawn and quartered for high treason in 1584. His feast day is celebrated on 17 October.

Gwyn was a Catholic during the reign of Elizabeth I, under whom it was illegal to adhere to any faith but Protestantism. Gwyn often had to change his home and his school to avoid fines and imprisonment. Finally in 1579 he was arrested by the Vicar of Wrexham, a former Catholic who had conformed to Anglicanism. He escaped and remained a fugitive for a year and a half. He was recaptured, and spent the next four years in one prison after another.

In May 1581 Gwyn was taken to church in Wrexham, carried around the font on the shoulders of six men and laid in heavy shackles in front of the pulpit. However, he "so stirred his legs that with the noise of his irons the preacher's voice could not be heard." He was placed in the stocks for this incident, and was taunted by a local Anglican priest who claimed that the keys of the Church were given no less to him than to St. Peter. "There is this difference", Gwyn replied, "namely, that whereas Peter received the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, the keys you received were obviously those of the beer cellar."

Gwyn was fined £280 for refusing to attend Anglican church services, and another £140 for "brawling" when they took him there. When asked what payment he could make toward these huge sums, he answered, "Six-pence". Gwyn and two other Catholic prisoners, John Hughes and Robert Morris, were ordered into court in the spring of 1582 where, instead of being tried for an offence, they were given a sermon by an Anglican minister. However, they started to heckle him (one in Welsh, one in Latin and one in English) to the extent that the exercise had to be abandoned.

Richard Gwyn, John Hughes and Robert Morris were indicted for high treason in 1583 and were brought to trial before a panel headed by the Chief Justice of Chester, Sir George Bromley. Witnesses gave evidence that they retained their allegiance to the Catholic Church, including that Gwyn composed "certain rhymes of his own making against married priests and ministers" and "[T]hat he had heard him complain of this world; and secondly, that it would not last long, thirdly, that he hoped to see a better world [this was construed as plotting a revolution]; and, fourthly, that he confessed the Pope's supremacy." The three were also accused of trying to make converts.

Despite their defences and objections to the dubious practices of the court Gwyn and Hughes were found guilty. At the sentencing Hughes was reprieved and Gwyn condemned to death by hanging, drawing and quartering. This sentence was carried out in the Beast Market in Wrexham on 15 October 1584. Just before Gwyn was hanged he turned to the crowd and said, "I have been a jesting fellow, and if I have offended any that way, or by my songs, I beseech them for God's sake to forgive me." The hangman pulled on his leg irons hoping to put him out of his pain. When he appeared dead they cut him down, but he revived and remained conscious through the disembowelling, until his head was severed. His last words, in Welsh, were reportedly "Iesu, trugarha wrthyf" ("Jesus, have mercy on me").[26]


Saint Philip Howard, 20th Earl of Arundel (28 June 1557 – 19 October 1595) was an English nobleman. He was born during the upheaval of the Reformation. His home from the age of seven was a former Carthusian monastery. At the age of fourteen he was married to his stepsister, Anne Dacre. He graduated from St John's College, Cambridge in 1574 and was about eighteen when he attended Queen Elizabeth I's Court. His life had been a frivolous one, both at Cambridge and at Court where he was a favourite of the Queen.

Philip Howard's father, the Duke of Norfolk, was arrested on 1 October 1569 for his intrigues against Queen Elizabeth. The Duke was attainted and executed in 1572, but Philip Howard succeeded to his mother's inheritance upon the death of his grandfather, becoming Earl of Arundel in 1580.He was present at a debate held in 1581 in the Tower of London, between Father Edmund Campion, a Jesuit, Father Ralph Sherwin and a group of Protestant theologians. He was so impressed by the Catholics that he experienced a spiritual conversion. He renounced his previous, frivolous life and was reconciled with his wife.

Arundel, with much of his family, remained Catholic recusants during the reign of Queen Elizabeth. He was himself suspected of disloyalty, and was regarded by the discontented Roman Catholics as the centre of the plots against the queen’s government, and even as a possible successor.

Howard was committed to the Tower of London on 25 April 1585. He was charged before the Star Chamber with being a Roman Catholic, with quitting England without leave, sharing in Jesuit plots, and claiming the dukedom of Norfolk. He was sentenced to pay £10,000 and to be imprisoned during the queen's pleasure. In July 1586 his liberty was offered to him if he would carry the sword of state before the queen to church. In 1588 he was accused of praying, together with other Romanists, for the success of the Spanish Armada. He was tried for high treason on 14 April 1589, found guilty and condemned to death, but his sentence was not executed; Queen Elizabeth never signed the death warrant, but Howard was not told this. He was kept constantly in fear of execution, although comforted by the companionship of a dog, which served as a go-between by which Howard and other prisoners, most notably the priest Robert Southwell, could send messages to each other. Although these two men never met, Howard's dog helped them to deepen their friendship and exchange encouragement in each other's plight.

One day Howard scratched into a wall of his cell these words: Quanto plus afflictiones pro Christo in hoc saeculo, tanto plus gloriae cum Christo in futuro ("the more affliction [we endure] for Christ in this world, the more glory [we shall obtain] with Christ in the next")

Howard spent ten years in the Tower, until his death from dysentery. He petitioned the Queen as he lay dying to allow him to see his wife and his son, who had been born after his imprisonment. He was refused. He remained in the Tower, never seeing his wife or daughter again, and died alone on Sunday 19 October 1595. He was immediately acclaimed as a Catholic Martyr.[27]

School Awards[edit]

St Richard's have been awarded, by the government, a Leading Edge Status.[28] This means that they have been recognised as an example to others in how they teach. Also St Richard's is a Fairtrade School.


In 2018, St Richards was ranked as second in the county for Progress 8 attainment; its rating stands as 'well above average'.[29]


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External links[edit]