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The Royal Hospital for Seamen, Greenwich: 'A Refuge for All'

The foundation of the Hospital
Funding and building
The Pensioners
The decline of the Hospital
The Greenwich Hospital collection
Cradle of the Navy: the Hospital School then and now
The invisible Hospital
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The invisible Hospital

Valuable inheritance

Old pensioners leaving hospital.
View full size imageOld pensioners leaving hospital. © NMM

Since the pensioners left Greenwich in 1865-69, the Hospital has developed as a substantial charitable organization, with an updated welfare and educational role. This has been possible because it has inherited a number of valuable assets, all now under professional management.

Pupils behind bars.
View full size imagePupils from the Hospital School behind fence railings. © NMM
Under the Greenwich Hospital Acts of 1865 to 1990, and through other legislation, the Secretary of State for Defence holds these assets in trust for the Crown, for the exclusive benefit of the Hospital. 




Sources of income

The Royal party at the opening of the National Maritime Museum.
View full size imageThe Royal party at the opening of the National Maritime Museum. © NMM
Greenwich Hospital receives no public funding. Its financial capital, built up since the last century, includes Government securities, loans and deposits, and more recently shares. Its other main resource is property, including about 8000 acres of farming land in the North of England - the remaining part of the 'Northern Estates' it received in 1735.

The Hospital also derives

Old Royal Naval College and the Queen's House from the Thames.
View full size imageRoyal Naval College. © NMM
income from the rents of commercial and residential property in Greenwich, and from other properties in London and elsewhere. The Hospital has no income from the National Maritime Museum buildings, only a right to reclaim them if they cease to be used for that purpose.



The modern charitable role

300 years on from its foundation, Greenwich Hospital continues to perform its charitable role in accordance with the principles set out in the Royal Charter of 1694. It still cares for seafarers and their dependants.

However, the emphasis has moved from helping the elderly to assisting the young. Some 90% of the Hospital's net income is now devoted directly and indirectly to the Royal Hospital School, although this will be reduced over the next ten years to achieve a more balanced charitable outcome.

A continuing commitment

Greenwich pensioners.
View full size imageGreenwich pensioners. © NMM

Other income remains committed to elderly ex-seafarers, who also continue to receive substantial support. The Hospital provides a range of pensions - more than 1000 in all - to needy ex-seafarers and their widows, administered by the Royal Naval Benevolent Trust. It also gives substantial support to the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Children's Fund.

In addition, the Hospital has started to provide sheltered housing for eligible former Royal Naval and Royal Marine personnel. Purpose-built accomodation has been opened in Southsea and Saltash in Cornwall.

More recently, the Hospital reclaimed a fine early 19th-century ancillary building on the original Greenwich site, the Trafalgar Quarters, and converted it into a third residence. This opened in 2001, bringing 'Greenwich pensioners' back to the site for the first time since 1869.

Thus Greenwich Hospital continues to serve seafarers and their dependants, for whom it was founded 300 years ago. Queen Mary would surely have approved!

To find out more about the Royal Hospital School, now at Holbrook, Suffolk, visit:

Page 8 of 8. Previous page

Find out more
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Early sketches for Thornhill's Painted Hall in Greenwich Hospital.
GalleriesThe Greenwich Hospital collection
Examples of famous paintings and artefacts donated to the Greenwich Hospital.
StoriesMaritime Greenwich: A World Heritage Site
A unique historical landscape
GalleriesGreenwich through the ages
Greenwich has been the site of many prestigious buildings including a royal palace, the Royal Observatory and the Naval College
StoriesTraining ships on the River Thames
Preparing boys for a life at sea
National Maritime Museum/Royal Observatory GreenwichNew Opportunities Fund 
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