He was educated at Kingston Grammar School. He studied physics and philosophy at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree. He remained at the University of Oxford to study for a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE).
Having qualified, he taught science at a comprehensive school in Richmond, North Yorkshire, from 1978 to 1980. He then moved to Eton College, Windsor, where he was Assistant Physics Master from 1980 to 1983. After five years teaching, he left the profession to become an investment analyst.
Cheetham left his career and in 1985 began preparation for ordination at Ripon College Cuddesdon. Having completed a Certificate in Theology, he was made a deacon in the Church of England at Petertide (5 July) 1987. The following year, at Petertide (3 July 1988), he was ordained a priest; both times by Alec Graham, Bishop of Newcastle.
He began his career as curate at Holy Cross, Fenham, Newcastle upon Tyne and from 1990 until 1999 he was vicar of St Augustine of Canterbury's Church, Luton and additionally (from 1995) Rural Dean of the area. From 1999 to 2002 he was Archdeacon of St Albans. On 17 October 2002, at Southwark Cathedral, he was one (with David Hamid and David Hawkins) of the last three people to be ordained and consecrated a bishop by George Carey before his retirement as Archbishop of Canterbury; Cheetham was then enthroned as area Bishop of Kingston in Southwark Cathedral on 27 October 2002. As the senior suffragan bishop in post at the time of Tom Butler's retirement on 5 March 2010, Cheetham served as Acting Bishop of Southwark from then until his fellow suffragan Christopher Chessun became Bishop of Southwark on 17 January 2011.
In 1999, Cheetham completed his Doctor of Philosophy degree (PhD) as an external student of King's College London. His thesis was entitled, 'The nature and status of religious belief in contemporary Britain (with particular reference to the concept of 'truth') as reflected by acts of collective worship in a sample of Luton schools since the 1988 Education Reform Act'. A book, Collective Worship: issues and opportunities, followed in 2004. He became an Honorary Research Fellow of King's College London in 2011. Cheetham is also a keen sportsman.
Cheetham is Chair of the Southwark Diocesan Board of Education, Anglican President of the Christian Muslim Forum, Patron of the Fircroft Trust, the Curriculum for Cohesion and Kingston Bereavement Service. Until 2012 he was a member of the Roehampton University Council. He is President of the YMCA London South West who have a large multi-function building in Surbiton and became Chair of the British Regional Committee of St. George's College, Jerusalem, in May 2013.
He announced on 8 February 2022 that he will be concluding his term of office on 17 October 2022, the twentieth anniversary of his consecration.
- The Reverend Richard Cheetham (1987 – February 1999)
- The Venerable Richard Cheetham (February – October 1999)
- The Venerable Doctor Richard Cheetham (October 1999 – 2002)
- The Right Reverend Doctor Richard Cheetham (2002–present)
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- "Ordinations". Church Times. No. 6543. 8 July 1988. p. 13. ISSN 0009-658X. Retrieved 22 July 2017 – via UK Press Online archives.
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- Debrett's People of Today 2008
- Diocese of Southwark — Tenth Bishop of Southwark is announced Archived 11 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine (Accessed 17 December 2015)
- "Co-Chairs and Presidents of the Christian Muslim Forum". Archived from the original on 31 March 2012. Retrieved 23 March 2012.
- "The Fircroft Trust". Archived from the original on 14 September 2012. Retrieved 23 March 2012.
- "YMCA London South West". Retrieved 23 March 2012.
- "Bishop of Kingston, Richard Cheetham, announces retirement". Diocese of Southwark. 8 February 2022. Archived from the original on 8 February 2022. Retrieved 17 February 2022.
Media related to Richard Cheetham at Wikimedia Commons