RETIRED JP and St Peter's School six-form head, Angela Preston, has died at the age of 80.

Born in North London, the eldest of four children, Angela had a difficult childhood. Their father died when she was six and she took over as head of the household as their mother was running the shop or in sanatoriums with tuberculosis.

"As the oldest she took this role seriously and maintained it throughout her life. They were often put into a children's home and if it had not been for free school meals they would have starved," said her daughter Kate Thew.

She attended the grammar school and then studied Romance Languages at Bristol University where she enjoyed debate and discussion. She had digs with Gertrude Boyd, the first female librarian and a strong advocate for women's rights. There were regular musical and book reading evenings as well as debates which fostered her lifelong love of music and the arts.

After her honours degree, Angela gained a teaching qualification. In 1960 she married Tony Brench and a year later their eldest daughter Kate was born. They then lived in Ghana where Tony taught at the University of Cape Coast where their youngest daughter Eleanor was born two and a half years later. They moved to Glasgow to lecture in French at the university before moving to Nigeria where they separated.

Angela stayed in Nigeria as a lecturer at the University of Ife before going to Lesotho and then back to Nigeria where she met Tom Preston and they married in 1974. They went to Canada where she taught at the University of Alberta, returning to Christchurch when Tom retired.

Angela taught at St Peter's School in Southbourne, where she was head of the sixth form. She was a staff governor, led the debating society and started the school exchange programme. She retired in 2001. Her colleagues recall her having wise words of advice and being dedicated to the pupils.

As well as teaching Angela was a JP on the East Dorset bench. She also worked with a gap year project into her retirement and was a member of NADFAS, the Cambridge Society, Friends of Stanpit Marsh and attended art and Italian classes and a reading group.

After Tom's death, Angela travelled to Sicily, Italy, Turkey and the Baltics which fed her interest in the history of art and languages.

Recently she struggled with her health and was fiercely independent but following a stoke in May went to recuperate in Lancashire with her daughters. She died in Blackburn on September 11.

"Angela believed passionately in the power of education to change lives as it had changed hers. She lit up so many lives and achieved so much, never giving up when things were tough. She is sorely missed," said Kate.

Her funeral was held at Bournemouth Crematorium on October 5.