Old Boy From Drake House,The Royal Hospital School
As an old boy of The Royal Hospital School and having posted on the school before,I have been asked to expand further on the history and origins of The Royal Hospital School.Today the school still look back on those early years and the good and not so good moments of life in The Royal Hospital School.I am convinced of one point that has served me well since leaving the school.Academic provision at the Royal Hospital School is exceptional. From their earliest years all pupils are encouraged to enjoy learning and to develop a lifelong appetite for knowledge.
The downside of when I attended the RHS was the strict punishment system and rigorous routines put in place by the governors and headmaster.The Royal Hospital School is steeped with history and traditions.Glimpsing back,the ignorance of youth blinded most to the past.It is only in recent years that I have began to understand all the good qualities that the school instilled in each and most pupils.Apart from an excellent education,the RHS offered a full schedule of activities.In five years of attending,I can whole heartedly say that there was very few moments of not knowing what to do or where to be.Sports was not only an avenue to dispel pent up frustrations but an excellent way to keep fit and healthy.You name your sport or interest and the RHS would have a club or society ready and eager for you to join.
Life then as a 12 year old had no real direction or goals.The Royal Hospital School attempted and achieved to put this right.Most of us New Boys had seen many schools due to our fathers association with the Royal Navy.Up until the age of 11 I had attended no less than 8 schools.Traveling,saying farewell to school mates and meeting having to resettle was the way of most pupils.The RHS served as an anchor for many and offered the chance to build lasting friendships and get some decent education papers and stability in our lives.Mostly it gave most a direction in life and the opportunity to go forward and follow our inner voices.I myself can say some 30 years after leaving the school,that I would not have ventured abroad nearly as often as I have.So what was so special about attending The Royal Hospital School;
Origins Of The Royal Hospital School
The origins of the Royal Hospital School are founded as a result of King William’s and Queen Mary’s Royal Charter of 1694 for the relief and support of wounded, disabled or aged Royal Navy seamen unable to support themselves. The Charter also made provision for the support of Widows and children of seaman killed in service, including the education of children. In the 1696 Act for the Increase & Encouragement of Seaman, the benefits of the school were extended to the children of mariners wishing to have a career in Her Majesty’s Sea Service. Boys were originally taught at Weston’s Academy, King William Street, in Greenwich, and accommodated in the attic of the Hospital buildings.
The school grew quickly and soon established an excellent reputation in the teaching of of mathematics, navigation, nautical astronomy, and seamanship skills, thus providing it’s pupils with the required knowledge to go ahead into the Royal and Merchant Navy to become navigators and officers. In 1798 the School was established as The British National Endeavour in premises in Paddington where Lord Nelson was a member of the Committee.
After the defeat of the Spanish and French at the Battle of Trafalgar, the school was renamed as the Royal Naval Asylum, and moved to new facilities at Queens House, Greenwich (picure of main gate above) in 1806. Here it remained and flourished until1933 when it moved to Holbrook in Suffolk. Queens House and it’s estate now form the National Maritime Museum.
The Royal Hospital School New Jacks
When Albert and Frederick joined as “new jacks” , the school had a thousand children (200 boys in the Upper School, with 600 boys and 200 girls in the Lower School). Upon arriving, they would have been given a medical check up then issued their uniform. This included a blue serge suit, knitted jumper, flannel vest and long pants, socks and boots. With their number two’s on, and civilian clothes packed into a bag, they would have proceeded to Trafalgar Quarters in Park Row opposite the eastern gate. There, they would have been allocated their lockers, each with a number by which from now on they would be known. The next morning after arrival, and their hair being cut to “convict” length, they would be vaccinated before their first lesson in the rudiments of parade drill.
The school life was regimented, Spartan and run with military precision. A typical daily routine of the time was:
05.00 – Wake up and make bed (3 mins allowed). Then off for swim in the outdoor swimming pool
08.00 – Breakfast: Bread & butter/dripping with a jam jar of cocoa.
09.00 – Lessons: Including history science, geography & arithmetic. The school had its own observatory for teaching navigation
12.00 – Drill
12.45 – March to dinner. All 1000 pupils in one dining room. Roast beef invariably served.
14.00 – Classes: Learning trades such as shoemaking, carpentry, baking and laundry. Senior pupils taught seamanship.
17.00 – Teatime: Bread & butter with cocoa again.
19.00 – Further classes
20.00 – Bedtime
The daily routine also included uniform inspections (including highly polished shoes) by the House Master, Prefects and seniors, all in keeping with the traditions of the Royal Navy that were important elements of school life.
The Royal Hospital School today still expects exacting high standards from all pupils and masters.
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