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Richard Lewis Wells Cathedral Independent School Somerset WCS

Very Revd Richard Lewis

It is with much sadness we report the death of Richard Lewis. Richard was Dean of Wells and Chair of Governors from 1990 to 2003. His funeral will take place in Wells Cathedral at 2pm on Tuesday 28 June.

John Baxter, Head Master for much of the time Richard was Chair of Governors, has written this tribute:

“One of my early duties as Head was to provide the Prime Minister’s Appointments Secretary with a “wish-list” of the qualities of an ideal Dean to replace Patrick Mitchell as ex-officio Chairman of Governors. Richard Lewis “ticked every box” for the School. I could not have wishes for a more supportive Chair or a wiser counsel. Despite the demands on his time he thoroughly enjoyed his close involvement in the life of both the Junior and Sevior School, and hardly missed any of the many events presented by a busy school.

Inevitably the Governors were faced with a variety of challenging subjects: an economic recession, sensitive personnel issues, a monumental decision about the fate of the Mendip Hospital, a cruel Press allegation, in addition to the routine matters raised by a unique and busy school. Throughout Richard presided with warmth and wisdom over a thoughtful body of Governors and Consultants; never was there any sense of serious disagreement. He gave me, and the School, unwavering support and I always looked forward to our weekly meetings.

The one subject which did spark controversy had an outcome of which Richard and I felt most pride. I was heavily involved with the Choir Schools Association and was aware that Salisbury was preparing to admit girls into the Cathedral Choir. I was under increasing pressure from girls in the school to be able to sing in the Cathedral Choir, and I was profoundly supportive of this.The Director of Music and I put forward a case to a small group chaired by the Dean. There was vehement opposition (not within the Chapter). Richard Lewis gave strong support and we carried the day. The glowing international reputation of the Choir throughout the 21st. Century thoroughly justifies that decision.

Richard’s spiritual example and guidance was immense. He had a rare gift for choosing the most appropriate words, and his sermons always generated attentive interest. He was held in great respect by Staff and Parents, and took such interest in the students that he recognised many by name.

It is not surprising that Richard and Jill Lewis became close personal friends .We regularly kept in touch, particularly when Richard was alone in Union Street. He and I spoke together by telephone almost fortnightly in the months before his death.

In “A Brilliant Foundation for Life” Richard writes of his” responsibility for something that is a precious resource and a hope for the future”. We should rejoice that his part in fulfilling that duty was colossal.”

Elizabeth Cairncross, who took over as Head from John Baxter, has added her own tribute:

“Richard Lewis was a big man and a big personality, harnessed for a time in the service of God, his family, Wells Cathedral, Wells Cathedral School and, of course, of all that had come before.

He was warm and welcoming; we experienced that when we came to Wells in 2000 and I saw it over and over again. There were the Christmas Eve breakfasts to welcome guests at an extraordinarily busy time and to honour his birthday.

He was stern and capable of downright scariness if he thought it necessary; his challenges were always thoughtful and acute. 

He chaired really well and always focused on the best possible governance for the School. 

He had many weighty things on his mind, always, but he made one feel that the School came first.

He was prophetic as a truth teller both public and personal, and he was often downright funny and always humorously balanced and kind.

He taught from the pulpit, and in personal conversation.

His big and lovely singing voice tended always to come as a surprise to those who didn’t know about his singing and performing career.

He loved the music of Wells Cathedral and guarded it with energy and with vision – the outstanding choir that exists now exists in no small part because of Richard and his determined vision for girls and boys and their joyful noise, with the excellence of a talented back row.

His devotion to his sons and grandchildren was inspiring – as was, most importantly, his utter devotion to Jill and his acknowledgement, always, of all that she was and of their partnership.

The world will seem grey for a while – may he rest in peace and rise in glory.”


Picture credit: Jason Bryant

His Majesty King Charles III retains Patronage of Wells Cathedral School
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