‘His heart was always in Romford’: Tributes paid to busker and amateur historian
- Credit: Rachel Stanton
A former busker who lived in a tent on the streets of Romford for around a decade has died aged 72.
Richard Stanton was a father to three children, and best known by his family and friends as Dick.
He suffered from heart disease and passed away from a heart attack on November 15.
During his life Dick had several careers, including working in insurance and as a driving instructor.
His daughter, Rachel Stanton, described him as “quirky, “chatty” but said he also “enjoyed time on his own”.
Rachel said her dad was an avid music lover who enjoyed playing the guitar and folk music.
She said “many moons ago” he started an open mic night at the Wheatsheaf Public House in Romford, where she often felt “embarrassed” and would ask her dad to play something modern, only to find “he got it all wrong” when he did.
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Dick busked in Romford with the guitar for many years and for around a decade, was homeless by choice, according to Rachel.
She said: “Dad was one hundred per cent quirky. He had a very deadpan humour at times, which I really enjoyed. He was a sudden ideas man and if there was any chance of fancy dress, he would jump at it.”
Reflecting on her dad’s living situation, Rachel said he "felt confined sometimes in what we’d consider the normal way of life.”
Dick lived with Rachel in Grays for a while, but she said his "heart was always in Romford and he struggled not being around Romford”.
Rachel added: “His second home was the Golden Lion. He never worked there but he would help out.
“There were some Christmases where I wouldn’t see him as he would have lunch there, so I knew he had a second family.”
In December 2020 Dick got in touch with homeless charity Ahava Community, formerly Hope for Havering, where Rachel said Dick got on “like a house on fire” with senior support worker Robert Wilkinson.
Robert, 53, has worked for Ahava for the past seven years.
He described Dick as “very complex, very interesting and loved".
Every Monday morning the pair would meet, and Robert said it was a “nice way” for him to start his week.
He said: “Richard always provided me with a certain levity whenever we met, so I made an effort to meet him on Monday mornings.”
At some point Dick became unable to climb the stairs to the charity’s office, so Robert moved their meetings to a coffee shop, where Dick would enjoy “his favourite” cappuccino.
Together Robert and Dick would talk for an hour about his life, and Robert said his conversations with eager historian Dick “in some way” educated him and gave him “historical perspective”.
He added: “We talked about many things which went far beyond my normal conversations. This man was my friend, he was a lovely man and I really came to enjoy his company, time and deep discussions about politics, sports, art and history.”
Meanwhile, Stephanie Fenny's friendship with Dick blossomed over a decade due to their mutual love of music and history.
The 38-year-old, who plays the lute, said she found Dick to be “so fascinating” and praised him as “the most interesting historian” she has ever met.
Stephanie added: “I saw him as one of the characters from a Shakespeare play, a complex but reliable character.
“I thought he was amazing and I had the patience for him and he had the patience for me.”
Robert encouraged anyone struggling with “the hand they have been dealt” to reach out for help.
He said: “People should never lose hope - there is always an opportunity to get and receive it.”
Rachel added: “If Dad knew he had helped somebody, that would be incredible."
Dick’s funeral was held at the South Essex Crematorium in Upminster on December 17.
Anyone who is experiencing homelessness can contact the Ahava Community for help: https://www.ahavacommunity.org/contact-us/
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