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Durham University

St John's College

Richard Hillier

Born in Winchester in 1961, Richard attended The King’s School, Peterborough, singing as a chorister in the cathedral choir, before gaining a place to read Classics at St John's College Cambridge, where he also sang in the chapel choir, as well as in the University Chamber Choir. In 1982 he left Cambridge for Durham where he studied first for a PGCE in the University’s School of Education and then for a PhD in the Department of Theology and Religion, under the supervision of Gerald Bonner, as well as singing as a lay clerk in the cathedral choir and as a freelance baritone soloist throughout the north east (an interest, having returned to Durham, he hopes to resume).

Having successfully applied for research funding from the British Academy, he was keen to study in greater depth some of the ground he had first encountered, under the inspirational guidance of Peter Dronke, in the Medieval Latin paper at Cambridge. His thesis, therefore, explored the literary and exegetical context of Arator’s Historia Apostolica, a retelling in Latin hexameters of the Acts of the Apostles (544). In particular, it investigated the evolution and transmission of the ideas which influenced his baptismal exegesis and his reasons for making baptism such a dominant theme in the poem. He gained his doctorate in 1990, having completed it whilst teaching full-time across the river at Durham School (since 1987), as well as tutoring for the Open University. The revised thesis was accepted for publication by Oxford University Press and appeared as one of the first volumes in the series Early Christian Studies (1993).

For the next twenty years or so, Richard concentrated on his teaching career, moving from Durham to Derbyshire in 1991 to become first Head of Classics and then Housemaster of Latham House at Repton School. When not teaching Classics, much of his time was spent teaching singing and producing drama, directing a total of six plays and musicals at Durham and seventeen at Repton (including four in Latin). In 2006 he was appointed Headmaster of The Oratory Preparatory School in Oxfordshire and in 2010 took over the helm at The Yehudi Menuhin School in Surrey, the world-famous specialist music school whose alumni include Nigel Kennedy, Tasmin Little and Nicola Benedetti. He retired from headship and returned to Durham in December 2017 in order to concentrate on his academic studies.

Richard resumed his study of Late Antiquity in earnest when in 2010 he was invited by Juliette Day to give a paper on Arator and Roman baptismal liturgy at a conference on Early Roman Liturgy to 600 at Blackfriars Hall, Oxford, a paper later published in the journal Studia Patristica. He has since given two more papers at Oxford, one for the annual conference of the International Society for Late Antique Literary Studies, the other, at the invitation of Neil McLynn, at one of his Late Roman Seminars at Corpus Christi College. He is currently engaged in a translation of of Arator’s Historia Apostolica for the series Translated Texts for Historian (TTH), published by Liverpool University Press, which is due for completion by the end of 2018.

Richard also has an increasing interest in the popularity and influence of Christian Latin poets in Anglo-Saxon England. The influence of Arator on Bede forms a substantial part of the commentary in the TTH volume and the way in which his verse was used and adapted by the anonymous author of the eighth-century Miracula Nynie Episcopi is charted in an article published in a recent volume of the journal Anglo-Saxon England. Plans for the future include examining evidence for the study of Arator not only in the poets of Anglo-Saxon England but also those of continental Europe during the Carolingian period, who have received rather less scholarly attention. In addition, he plans to look in further detail at Arator’s ‘epic inheritance’, both pagan and Christian, and particularly at the literary and educational context in which Arator was writing, including the writings of Ennodius (473-521) of whose dictiones (or rhetorical exercises) he is planning a translation for possible future inclusion in the TTH series.

Richard has been married since 1984 to Elaine. They have two grown-up sons and a Parson Russell Terrier.

St John's College, Durham is a recognised College of Durham University and incorporates Cranmer Hall. Charity No. 1141701 Limited Company No. 113496 (England and Wales) VAT No. 334 6364 57.