|A Squall, Southampton Water|
brothers, James and George, lost their father young. James snr had been
discharged from the navy in 1814 after serving during the Napoleonic Wars and
by the time his children were born was living in Marchwood, Hampshire earning an income as a waterman and ferryman. His
death in 1826 left his widow Ann in an unenviable situation without the family
breadwinner and with five children to rear.
However, Ann was a resourceful woman and with the help of influential friends managed to get her two eldest sons James and George into the Lower School at the Royal Hospital, Greenwich, with a view to their being educated towards a seafaring career.
The magnificent group of buildings beside the Thames at
Greenwich must be
one of the most recognisable sights in the world; the has been situated
there since 1934. National Maritime
maritime history, though, goes back much earlier. King William III and Queen
Mary II founded the Greenwich Royal Hospital for Seamen at in 1694. Its Royal Charter included
provision for the 'Maintenance and Education of the Children of [Royal Naval]
Seamen happening to be slain or disabled'. The aim was to create a
hospital, to provide support for seamen's widows, education for their
children and to improve navigation. Greenwich
The Hospital – now the
– was built from 1696 to 1751. Old Royal
|Greenwich Royal Hospital|
The School began when the Hospital took in ten ‘orphans of the sea’ to be educated in navigation for the merchant service. At first housed in Thomas Weston’s Academy in
, the Hospital
built its own school on King William Walk which was replaced by a larger
building in 1782. Greenwich
In 1798 an orphanage school, The British Endeavour, was founded in Paddington for children whose fathers died in the French Revolutionary War.
This establishment was granted the Queen’s House,
in 1806 and renamed the Royal Naval Asylum, which was later extended to house 800 children (boys and girls). Greenwich
By 1821 the Asylum and
amalgamated as the Royal Hospital Schools. Hospital School
|Greenwich Hospital and Royal Naval Asylum 1820, South Aspect; |
engraved by Henry Wallis from painting by Charles Bentley
Ann Caithness made application for her boys James and George to attend the Lower School in 1827 and surviving records offer a glimpse into their world at the time.
|James and George Caithness would have qualified for admittance |
to the Lower School as 'boys whose Fathers have fallen in His Majesty's Service,
whose Mothers are living.'
To be continued …
Tom Sheldon for copies of the Lower School documents