The Royal Hospital School was known for educating boys for entry into the Navy. However, it also provided training for girls to prepare them for domestic service. This guide gives a brief chronology of the Royal Hospital School followed by sources of information available relating to girls who attended the school from 1805–41.


1694 The Royal Hospital for Seamen founded at Greenwich by King William III and Queen Mary II. The charter specified that out of the funds provision was to be made for ‘the maintenance and education of the children of Seamen happening to be slain or disabled in the Service of the Royal Navy’.
1712 The school began when the governor of Greenwich Hospital started using money collected from visitors to the Painted Hall to support the educational needs of ten sons of poor Greenwich Pensioners. They were taught at Thomas Weston’s Academy in Greenwich.
1720 Fifteen boys were boarded in the Hospital, under separate care from the pensioners.
1758 The Hospital built its own school on King William Walk.
1782-84 The Hospital was replaced by a larger building on the same site.
1798 The British Endeavour Society was founded by Mr Thompson for the orphaned children (both boys and girls) of naval seamen in Paddington Green.
1805 The British Endeavour Society was granted use of the Queen's House, Greenwich by George III, and became known as the Royal Naval Asylum.
1806 The fifty-six children at Paddington Green were transferred to Greenwich.
1807 The Queen’s House was altered to provide accommodation for three hundred girls and seven hundred boys.
1821 The Hospital School was amalgamated with the Asylum.
1825 The schools became known as the Upper and Lower Schools of the Royal Hospital.
1841 The Girls’ School was closed as part of general reforms.
1892 The school was officially renamed Greenwich Royal Hospital School.
1933 The Royal Hospital School moved to its present site at Holbrook, Suffolk.
1934 The National Maritime Museum Act was passed transferring the land formerly occupied by the Royal Hospital School to the Trustees of the National Maritime Museum.
1937 The Museum was formally opened by King George VI.

Sources of information available at the National Maritime Museum

Bold, John, Greenwich: an Architectural History of the Royal Hospital for Seamen and the Queen’s HousePBF0290.

Chapter 8: ‘Buildings for Education’ is useful for anybody interested in the history and design of the school buildings and the alterations made to them between 1807–11 in order to accommodate the growing number of pupils. It provides photographs and drawings (with references) of the buildings.

Fisher, Reverend George, 1794 – 1873: Regulations of the Royal Naval Asylum, 1821, FIS/48.

Details of the lower school where the girls were educated including the scale of admission (both boys and girls), school hours, the children’s playgrounds (the boys and girls were segregated) and female servants, p.10–17.

- Appendix 3: A weekly menu for meals served to the children.

- Appendix 4: Details of the clothing and bedding distributed to children upon admission to the school.

Newell, Philip, Greenwich Hospital: a Royal Foundation 1692–1983PBN9361.

- Details of girls’ clothing, bedding, washing facilities and cleanliness, p.155.

- Communication between the boys and girls despite being segregated, p.170.

- Details of provisions made for the girls when the girls’ school closed, p.171.

Turner, H. D., The Cradle of the Navy: The Story of the Royal Hospital School at Greenwich and at Holbrook, 1694–1988, PBA7807.

- Information on the clothing of the girls, 34p.

- The conduct and education of the girls at the school, and allowance on leaving when the girls’ school was closed, p.44–47. 

Regulations for the Establishment and Government of the Royal Naval Asylum, 1809, PBD1250.

- Information on regulations relating to the appointment of female staff, p.9.

- Rules relating to children selected for admission to the school, p.16–20.

- The duties of the matrons with regard to female servants and the management of girl pupils, p.52–56.

- Type of instruction received by the girls: i.e. knitting, sewing, laundry and kitchen duties, p.57.

- The Museum also has in its collection prints and drawings relating to the school.

Sources of information available at the British Library

A brief account of the Naval Asylum at Paddington Green, 8365.b.51.

This provides details of how the society was managed and funded.

Type of instruction given to the boys and girls, p.3.

Regulations for admittance and the number of places available (40 boys and 10 girls), p.4.

List of subscribers (alphabetical, including amount of subscription), p.8–18.

For more information, or to arrange to view this publication, contact:

The British Library

Tel: (+44) 0207 412 7676

Sources of information held by The National Archives (TNA)

The Greenwich Hospital Records are held at TNA within the class Records of Admiralty. The following records are probably the most important ones relating to the admittance of girls at the school:

School Admission Papers – an index of pupils admitted to the school 1728–1870

These are often accompanied by service records, and marriage and death certificates relating to the parents, as well as the children’s baptism certificates. The papers are arranged alphabetically by applicant surname.

ADM 73/154–389: Girls were admitted to the Lower School from the age of 9–12 years. They were to be put to trade or household service, and any unprovided for at 14 years were to be sent back to their parents or guardian.

ADM 73/392: Boys and Girls Claims and Candidates – a list of claimants 1821–26

ADM 73/440–441: Girls. Claims and Candidates – a list of claimants 1826–41.

These ledgers give details of date of petition, name of child, age, grounds of admission, when and where born; Christian names of parents and date of marriage; number of dependant children; place of residence of parents or friends; by whom recommended; details of fathers service; and remarks e.g. died in service, date of admission and if relevant the cause of rejection.

ADM 73/442–443: Girls, Admissions – a list of girls admitted to the school 1805–40

This ledger gives details of the date of admission, child’s name, age, grounds of admission; when and where baptised; name of father; by whom recommended, date of certificate of parents marriage, ship or ships in which father served, place of residence of parents or friends, when discharged and how disposed of e.g. who apprenticed to.

ADM 73/442: Contains a list of children recommended by the Patriotic Fund.

ADM 73/444: Girls. Index to Claims 1833–41

ADM 73/445: Girls. Index to Admissions 1805–21.

ADM 73/446 – 447: School Registers. Girls. Index to Admissions 1816–59.
The indexes provide an alphabetical list of names A–Z, but no other information.  

ADM 73/448: Girls. Apprenticed 1808–37.

The ledger gives details of each girl’s first name and surname, person to whom apprenticed, when apprenticed (date), length of apprenticeship in years, and place of residence of parties to whom the girl is apprenticed. It also contains ‘a separate list of girls in 1841 and the quarters to which they are articled’ which is bound into the ledger.

ADM 169/39: Greenwich Hospital Act 1872: Pensions of Merchant Seamen. Education of daughters of seamen. Educational grants to daughters of officers.

Section 4: Rules relating to the daughters of Warrant Officers.

Section 5: Rules relating to the daughters of Commissioned Officers.

ADM169/244: Admission of Girls to St John’s Servants School, Paddington at Greenwich Hospital expense 1877–78

A list of schools and homes that girls were accommodated in dated 16th August 1877, and details of fees.

The file also contains a school report dated 1877 which gives details of the school rules.

Pappaladro, Bruno, Tracing Your Naval Ancestors

The reference book contains information on the Royal Hospital School and is available to view in the Research Enquiries Room at TNA.

For more information, or to arrange to see specific materials, contact:

The National Archives

Tel: (+44) 020 8876 3444

Other points of interest

The Royal Hospital School, 1806–1933

The School was originally housed in the buildings of the National Maritime Museum. A plaque on the wall of the Museum bears the inscription:

The buildings of this Museum were occupied until 1933 by the Royal Hospital School, founded in 1694 for the sons of Seamen of the Royal Navy. The ashes of many of the former pupils of the school have been scattered over the lawns.

The Cradle of the Navy

The Royal Hospital School Gallery is a permanent exhibition dedicated to the story of the School, located at the Queen’s House, National Maritime Museum. Information on the Royal Hospital School is also included in the Historic Greenwich exhibition located in the Queen's House. 

The Royal Hospital School Cannon

The cannon was originally presented to the Royal Naval Asylum by its patron, HRH Prince Ernest, Duke of Cumberland, to mark the formal inauguration of the Asylum on 21 October 1807. The cannon was returned to Greenwich on 21 October 2007 and is now located in front of the Visitor Centre, the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich. [NB: the Greenwich Gateway Visitor Centre is now closed. It will be replaced by 'Discover Greenwich' in 2010.]
The inscription on the top of the cannon reads:

This gun was presented by his Royal Highness Ernest Duke of Cumberland, to the Royal Naval Asylum: which institution was commenced in the year MDCCXCIX by the generous and humane policy of the royal family and some private individuals for the reception of orphans and children of His Majesty’s Seamen and Marines. His Royal Highness was chosen President, the Reverend Thomas Brooke Clarke LL.D. Auditor, and William Fauntleroy Esq. Treasurer. In the year MDCCCIV, His Majesty was graciously pleased to establish it on a Royal Foundation, and in MDCCCVI a donation of £61,000 consols subscribed by the public, was appropriated towards its support by the Committee of the Patriotic Fund.

Next steps

Other guides in the series which may be useful for researching Greenwich are:

Although care has been taken in preparing the information contained in this document, anyone using it shall be deemed to indemnify the National Maritime Museum from any and all injury or damage arising from such use.