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

Cradle of the Navy: the Hospital School then and now

Early educational responsibilities

The Greenwich Pensioner.
View full size imageThe Greenwich Pensioner and boy. © NMM

The 1694 Hospital charter had spoken of 'the maintenance and education of the Children of Seamen happening to be slain or disabled'.

From about 1712 Governor Aylmer began to fund such education from entry charges to the Painted Hall, Pensioners' fines and proceeds from the sale of stores. This money supported the first 10 sons of poor pensioners at Thomas Weston's Academy in Greenwich.

Weston appears in his earlier Greenwich role of assistant to the first Astronomer Royal, John Flamsteed, in the Painted Hall ceiling. His teaching included mathematics, and fitted Greenwich boys for a sea career.

Hospital boys

  • The Greenwich Royal Naval School Boys.
    View full size image'The Greenwich Royal Naval School Boys'. © NMM
    From 1720 about 15 boys were boarded in the Hospital, under separate care from the pensioners.
  • By 1731, with wider naval entry than just pensioners' sons, there were 60 boys.
  • In 1748 a new ward was fitted for the boys in the Queen Mary Court.
  • In 1756 a children’s uniform of 'sailor's dress' with distinctive leather caps was adopted, instead of the uniform based on what the pensioners wore.

The first Hospital school

  • In 1758 the first Hospital school building was built on the pensioners' burying ground, north of Weston's Academy on modern King William Walk. This school was still run by the Academy.
  • In 1779 the Hospital insisted that the staff that it paid taught only Hospital pupils.
  • In 1782-84 a new school was built on the same site, with living accommodation for up to 200 boys, though there were then only 150 ready to move in. Half this building still exists as a rear wing of the 1929 Devonport Nurses' Home (now Devonport House, a conference centre and student accommodation).

The Royal Naval Asylum

  • Greenwich Hospital & Royal Naval Asylum.