The Royal Military Asylum, Chelsea

On the 19th June, 1801, the Duke of York, Commander in Chief of the Army, laid the first stone for  new institution, the Royal Militry Asylum for the children of soldiers of the regular army, on a site near the Royal Hospital, Chelsea.  As the Royal Military Chronicle commented in an article eleven years later:

“The motives which gave rise to the establishment, and the principles upon which it is founded, are alike honourable to the present enlightened age, and congenial with the soundest maxims of policy, humanity, and benevolence.”

The Royal Military Asylum was not, however, the first institution to offer a refuge to the orphaned children of soldiers.  The Royal Hibernian Military School had been established in Dublin in 1765, and was the model for its London counterpart.  When the Duke of York conceived the new institution, he based his ideas on the already existing military school.  On a more humanitarian level, he was inspired to do something for these orphaned children by the sheer number that eight years of war had produced.

Frederick, Duke of York

Frederick, Duke of York

The Asylum was run on military lines with military appointees in charge: commandant, adjutant, chaplain, quartermaster, surgeon, assistant surgeon, and matron.  In addition, there was a sergeant major of instructions who, with his assistants, supervised the education of the boys, while the matron, with her assistants, did the same for the girls.  The affairs of the Asylum were regulated by commissioners, appointed by the King, and they also selected the children (originally 700 boys and 300 girls) who should be admitted as pupils.  Some would come automatically from an establishment on the Isle of Wight for children who were considered too young for the Asylum.

These children were the legitimate offspring of soldiers who had been killed, or died while serving abroad, or whose mothers had died and whose fathers were serving abroad, or whose fathers had been ordered on foreign service, or whose parents had other children to maintain.  The character of the father, whether dead or still living, was crucially imporatnt.  For this reason, once the child’s parent or guardian had made the initial application, giving full details of the child’s situation, the commanding officer of the father’s regiment had to vouch for the soldier’s good conduct.  In addition, the parents’ marriage certificate and the child’s birth and baptismal certificate had to be supplied, as well as a certificate of health, from the regimental surgeon or a recognised medical practitioner.

Once the children were accepted, on the understanding that they would stay for as long as the commissioners considered desirable, they wore the red and blue uniform of the Asylum: red jacket, blue breeches, blue stockings and black cap for boys; red gown, blue petticoat, white apron, straw bonnet for girls.  They also followed a strictly regulated day.

Royal Military Asylum, Chelsea

The Royal Military Asylum, Chelsea

The children were woken by the beat of a drum, at six o’clock in the summer and seven o’clock in the winter.  They had two hours to clean boots and shoes, wash their face and hands, and generally put their dormitories to rights, before breakfast at eight o’clock in the summer and nine o’clock in the winter.  Breakfast consisted of milk pottage, made of 1/6th quart of milk and 1/10th pound of oatmeal per child, and 1/20th of a quartern loaf.   The school day started with prayers read either by the chaplain or by the sergeant major of instruction (to the boys) and the matron (to the girls).  Lessons then followed, reading and writing and the first four rules of arithmetic so that the children could cast accounts.  Dinner was at one o’clock, and allowed some variation.  For example, on three days the children were given eight ounces of beef, roasted, stewed or boiled, with twelve ounces of potatoes, 1/40th of a quartern loaf, and half a pint of beer.  This was varied with boiled mutton, suet pudding, or pea soup, and milk rather than beer.  Lessons recommenced at half past two, until five, followed by supper at seven o’clock in the summer and six o’clock in the winter.  This meal consisted either of cheese, bread and beer,  or bread and milk.  There were also periods of play fitted into the timetable, although the girls were required to perform household duties, in which they were given specific instruction, and the boys were drilled.

Since moral education was also considered crucially important, the chaplain taught the children their catechism and gave them religious instruction.

It was hoped that the boys would choose to enlist in the regular army, although those who did not were given training that would prepare them for an apprenticeship.  The girls were also trained for apprenticeships or for employment as servants.

Although this may seem a very regimented existence by today’s standards, it is important to remember that the parents of many of these children came from the lowest levels of society.  The education they received from the Royal Military Asylum undoubtedly prepared them for a future which offered more opportunity than their parents would have experienced.

As the Royal Military Chronicle concluded:

“To the soldier, it must continually afford the most pleasing prospects for the comfort and support of his infant children, and will induce him to fight, if possible, with greater confidence and energy; at least, it will incite him to enter the field against the enemies of his king and country, with a full and complete assurance that, if he falls in battle, his family will never feel the pangs of misery, famine, or want; there indeed can exist but one opinion of the utility and necessity of such an institution as the Royal Military Asylum for the children of soldiers of the regular army, which appears to have entirely realized the benevolent intentions of the original projectors.”

1. The Royal Military Chronicle Volume III p.242

2. Ibid p.249

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Comments (60)

  1. Timothy Nelms 20th September 2010 at 5:48 am

    Interesting article Carole

    Well done.

    Good bit of history revealed.

    Tim

    • Carole Divall 21st September 2010 at 3:59 pm

      Thanks for that, always good to know that people are reading my articles. Please feel free to contact me at any time at: caroledivall@aol.com
      You probably are already aware that I put a new article on my site on 1st of each month, and I update the “Diary of a Regiment” feature on 1st and 15th of each month.
      Best wishes,
      Carole

  2. Timothy Nelms 20th September 2010 at 5:48 am

    Interesting article Carole

    Well done.

    Good bit of history revealed.

    Tim

    • Carole Divall 21st September 2010 at 3:59 pm

      Thanks for that, always good to know that people are reading my articles. Please feel free to contact me at any time at: caroledivall@aol.com
      You probably are already aware that I put a new article on my site on 1st of each month, and I update the “Diary of a Regiment” feature on 1st and 15th of each month.
      Best wishes,
      Carole

  3. dave caplan 29th September 2010 at 10:21 am

    An extremely interesting and fascinating article.
    I found it while browsing in search of information relating to a button I found recently with my metal detector in Canterbury, Kent.

    This button is military in looks, with a central crown and the words Royal Military Asylum Chelsea around the edge. There are the remains of gold plating. A lovely period piece, which I am about to put on my Flickr page in the next day or so.

    Regards,
    Dave Caplan

    • Carole Divall 30th September 2010 at 4:20 pm

      Hello Dave,
      It’s gratifying that you found the article interesting, and absolutely fantastic that you found a Chelsea button- I look forward to seeing the picture.
      I think you are probably aware, but I try to publish an article on the 1st of every month. The piece for October is about the Royal Military Chronicle, a series of six volumes detailing all the army was doing in the Peninsula from 1810 to 1814. Unfortunately I have a small internet connection problem so this latest piece might not appear until Saturday.
      Regards,
      Carole.

  4. dave caplan 29th September 2010 at 10:21 am

    An extremely interesting and fascinating article.
    I found it while browsing in search of information relating to a button I found recently with my metal detector in Canterbury, Kent.

    This button is military in looks, with a central crown and the words Royal Military Asylum Chelsea around the edge. There are the remains of gold plating. A lovely period piece, which I am about to put on my Flickr page in the next day or so.

    Regards,
    Dave Caplan

    • Carole Divall 30th September 2010 at 4:20 pm

      Hello Dave,
      It’s gratifying that you found the article interesting, and absolutely fantastic that you found a Chelsea button- I look forward to seeing the picture.
      I think you are probably aware, but I try to publish an article on the 1st of every month. The piece for October is about the Royal Military Chronicle, a series of six volumes detailing all the army was doing in the Peninsula from 1810 to 1814. Unfortunately I have a small internet connection problem so this latest piece might not appear until Saturday.
      Regards,
      Carole.

  5. Shirley 2nd October 2010 at 3:35 am

    Very good article thanks Carole

    My Gt Gt Grandfather and his sister were boarders at RMA and he became a schoolmaster/musician but died early in his 30’s. So trying to find out more about the family.

    Regards
    Shirley
    a Londoner in Perth, WA

    • Carole Divall 2nd October 2010 at 6:35 am

      Dear Shirley,
      It is so pleasing to find somebody with a family connection to the RMA! I have had some very favourable responses to that article so I shall have to bear in mind for future pieces the global level of interest in family/social history. I don’t know about Australia, but in England researching one’s family history is the fastest growing hobby.

      I don’t know how far you have got with discovering more of your family’s history, if you need some pointers I may be able to help. There is a possibility that your ancestor at the RMA became a musician and/or schoolmaster sergeant in the army. Like me, you may have access to websites which hold this sort of information, but if not just let me have his full name, year of birth, and anything else you have on him and I’ll see what I can dig up.
      Sincerely,
      Carole (a Kentish Maid in Lincolnshire)

  6. Bob Anderson 4th December 2010 at 7:33 pm

    An excellent article,Carole

    I was a pupil at Queen Victoria School in Perthshire during the 1950’s and we had a number of boys from the Duke of York’s Military Colledge, Dover, who had been evacuated to Dunblane as a result of the War in the 1940’s. They were known as “Dukies” and made a significant contribution to our school life.
    Our daily routine in those days was pretty spartan by modern day standards, being woken by a bugle blowing reveille at 06.45am and doing the dormitary chores before breakfast. The military ethos was pretty strong then and is still present but the accent has now focused more on pupil development and education. Founded originally in 1908 as both a memorial to Queen Victoria and for the education of the son’s of Scottish Soldiers,Sailors and Airmen, it is now co-educational which is extremely important in providing stability for the children of Scottish Service personnel in what is a trying time for many of them on active service abroad.
    Bob Anderson

  7. Bob Anderson 4th December 2010 at 7:33 pm

    An excellent article,Carole

    I was a pupil at Queen Victoria School in Perthshire during the 1950’s and we had a number of boys from the Duke of York’s Military Colledge, Dover, who had been evacuated to Dunblane as a result of the War in the 1940’s. They were known as “Dukies” and made a significant contribution to our school life.
    Our daily routine in those days was pretty spartan by modern day standards, being woken by a bugle blowing reveille at 06.45am and doing the dormitary chores before breakfast. The military ethos was pretty strong then and is still present but the accent has now focused more on pupil development and education. Founded originally in 1908 as both a memorial to Queen Victoria and for the education of the son’s of Scottish Soldiers,Sailors and Airmen, it is now co-educational which is extremely important in providing stability for the children of Scottish Service personnel in what is a trying time for many of them on active service abroad.
    Bob Anderson

  8. Bob Anderson 5th December 2010 at 3:48 pm

    Carole

    I should have perhaps added that at Queen Victoria School our no.1 dress was (and still is) red jackets, Hunting Stewart Kilts and glegarry. For everyday where we wore blues except the senior boys and monitors who wore tartan trews and pre-war khaki jackets. We had a military band , several ex-pupils of which became directors of music in forces bands and of course the world famous pipes and drums which have appeared regularly along with the school’s highland dancers at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo and in various international events.

    In many respects, your description of the routines and military organisation of the RMA in years gone by were very like our own at QVS when I entered there as a 10 year old some 60 years ago. Spartan ,yes in many respects, but I still look back with fondness and some pride. When I was conscripted into the Army for National Service, my platoon sergeant asked me after a week of basic training whether I had found it hard, to which I replied, somewhat laughingly,” hard, I spent 8 years at the QVS. This is a dawdle!”
    Best Wishes
    Bob

  9. Eunice Wilson 9th December 2010 at 10:28 pm

    Hi Carole
    Thanks for the article on RMA. I have discovered a relative (my grandmother’s brother) was at the RMA from about 1880. His name is Charles David Tagg and he was at the RMA in the 1881 census aged 11 years (both his parents had died just before this and my grandmother was brought up by relatives). I would love to find out more about him, what conditions were like at the time, and possibly what happened to him.
    if you could point me in the right direction I may be able to do some fossicking on the internet. I now live in Australia, but am coming over for a holiday next year, so was wondering if it is possible to have a look around the building ?

    Thanks Eunice

  10. Eunice Wilson 9th December 2010 at 10:28 pm

    Hi Carole
    Thanks for the article on RMA. I have discovered a relative (my grandmother’s brother) was at the RMA from about 1880. His name is Charles David Tagg and he was at the RMA in the 1881 census aged 11 years (both his parents had died just before this and my grandmother was brought up by relatives). I would love to find out more about him, what conditions were like at the time, and possibly what happened to him.
    if you could point me in the right direction I may be able to do some fossicking on the internet. I now live in Australia, but am coming over for a holiday next year, so was wondering if it is possible to have a look around the building ?

    Thanks Eunice

  11. Charlie McCrow 8th January 2011 at 9:40 am

    Dear Carole
    Your article was very interesting to read as my GGG Grandfather Nathan McCrow must have been one of the early children to have been admitted if this started in 1801 – Nathan McCrow was admitted in March 1810
    I am looking for any information about him or his parents and wondered if you could point me in the direction to get this? I see the father and mother were call Abn and Charity but that’s all I know.
    Nathan went on to settle down and start a business as a shoemaker in Kensington – he got married a couple of years after he qualified so it seems the RMA really helped him along.
    He also heads a large family line
    Charlie McCrow

    • Carole Divall 9th January 2011 at 9:31 am

      Hello Charlie,
      Your comments are very welcome – it’s good to hear from people who read my articles.
      My husband, who knows his way round the ancestry sites, cannot find a single trace of Nathan McCrow, and he is scratching his head in bewilderment. Was Nathan his real first name, or was he something else but used the “Nathan”? Or maybe his surname was spelled differently? John has tried all sorts of variants but without success.
      Do you know the names of his children at all, and where they lived? Given that information John might be able to work backwards along the records.
      All further details gratefully received, then we’ll see if we can get a “fix” on Nathan.
      Best wishes,
      Carole

  12. peter cole 15th January 2011 at 4:29 pm

    Hello Carole,
    Delighted to find you website when checking for more details of the RMA(1802+). I then realized I had missed your talk on the Egyptian campaign at NAM. But I hear we might met if you are able to talk to the Bexhill Hanoverian Study Group in the future.

    There is a certain “presence” of a “dukie”, in all those that I have met, including an uncle of mine. I have found the bursar most helpful in obtaining records and information, although I would suggest that care is taken not to overload, the gentleman as they are changing the status of the Duke of York’s Royal Military School to that of an Academy. It is therefore a very busy time and any information is certainly worth a “donation”.

    In 1813 the Kings German Legion Garrison school in Bexhill had 115 children listed some of whom went to the the RMA Chelsea.
    I am trying to find where this school room was in relation to the rest of the barracks that were in Bexhill at that time.
    Thanks for the lead on the Royal Military Chronicle- I had never heard of that one.
    Best Wishes,
    Peter.

    • Carole Divall 16th January 2011 at 7:19 am

      Hello Peter,
      It’s always good to hear from fellow enthusiasts and I was pleased to read that you have found the web site helpful and informative. Many people seem interested in the RMA and I’m sure that your comment re contacting the bursar is a good point to note.
      I look forward to meeting you at Bexhill if and when we can arrange some sort of event.
      Best wishes,
      Carole

  13. peter cole 15th January 2011 at 4:29 pm

    Hello Carole,
    Delighted to find you website when checking for more details of the RMA(1802+). I then realized I had missed your talk on the Egyptian campaign at NAM. But I hear we might met if you are able to talk to the Bexhill Hanoverian Study Group in the future.

    There is a certain “presence” of a “dukie”, in all those that I have met, including an uncle of mine. I have found the bursar most helpful in obtaining records and information, although I would suggest that care is taken not to overload, the gentleman as they are changing the status of the Duke of York’s Royal Military School to that of an Academy. It is therefore a very busy time and any information is certainly worth a “donation”.

    In 1813 the Kings German Legion Garrison school in Bexhill had 115 children listed some of whom went to the the RMA Chelsea.
    I am trying to find where this school room was in relation to the rest of the barracks that were in Bexhill at that time.
    Thanks for the lead on the Royal Military Chronicle- I had never heard of that one.
    Best Wishes,
    Peter.

  14. Charlie McCrow 22nd January 2011 at 12:52 pm

    Hello Carole
    Many thanks for your message and searches regarding Nathan McCrow (who could have spelt his name Macrow or Mackrow)
    He married Maria Coalman at St Georges Hanover Sq in 1821 not long after being rewarded 5 guineas after being discharged from his apprenticeship as a shoemaker. They had 5 children that I know about, one being George St ledger McCrow b1826, my GG grandfather. The rest were named Abraham Nathan b1822 d aged 1, Thomas Nathan b1824 d aged 2, Emma Charity Louise b1832 and Edwin J b1828. They lived in Kensington near St Mary Abbotts until his death in 1845 and then Maria’s in 1872
    I did find out that Abraham (Nathan’s father) was a sergeant in the 24th Regiment Foot but dead by the time Nathan was admitted into the RMA Chelsea.
    Do you know if all the children were assigned to a regiment and what they would have done? There is a note that Nathan was ‘DECL Regiment Light Dragoons 13th’ when admitted…
    Best wishes
    Charlie

  15. Charlie McCrow 22nd January 2011 at 12:52 pm

    Hello Carole
    Many thanks for your message and searches regarding Nathan McCrow (who could have spelt his name Macrow or Mackrow)
    He married Maria Coalman at St Georges Hanover Sq in 1821 not long after being rewarded 5 guineas after being discharged from his apprenticeship as a shoemaker. They had 5 children that I know about, one being George St ledger McCrow b1826, my GG grandfather. The rest were named Abraham Nathan b1822 d aged 1, Thomas Nathan b1824 d aged 2, Emma Charity Louise b1832 and Edwin J b1828. They lived in Kensington near St Mary Abbotts until his death in 1845 and then Maria’s in 1872
    I did find out that Abraham (Nathan’s father) was a sergeant in the 24th Regiment Foot but dead by the time Nathan was admitted into the RMA Chelsea.
    Do you know if all the children were assigned to a regiment and what they would have done? There is a note that Nathan was ‘DECL Regiment Light Dragoons 13th’ when admitted…
    Best wishes
    Charlie

  16. Joanne Martin 19th February 2011 at 11:05 pm

    Hi Carole

    Such an interesting article. I’ve just found a long lost relative who was at the RMA from 1847 – 1855 and was wondering if you could find any information on why he was admitted there?

    His name was John Cartwright and was admitted on 7th Oct 1847 and discharged on 7th Jan 1855 where he went on to join the 31st Regitment of Foot who he served with all over the world for the next 30 odd years.

    I can’t find his relatives but know that he was born in 1842 in Meerest East Indies.

    Any information will be greatly received!

    Kind regards

    Jo
    Perth, Australia

    • Carole Divall 24th February 2011 at 3:26 pm

      Hello Joanne,
      Very good of you to write, it is always a pleasure to hear from people who read my web pages. Right now I’m on holiday but I’ll be home in the next few days and then I shall see what I can find on your Mr Cartwright.
      Best wishes,
      Carole

  17. Sharon Priestley 25th February 2011 at 5:34 am

    Hi Carole,
    Thanks for a very interesting and informative article.
    I am doing some family research and came across some records for the RMA, which then led me to more research and your article.

    My gt gt gt grandmother Louisa Wishlaid(Wishlade) and her sister Mary, were admitted to RMA Chelsea in 1819. Their father was John Wishlade, Royal Sappers and Miners.

    I am trying to find out what happened to John, where he was posted etc. I do know that he was married in 1807, Eastbourne.

    Would Loiusa and Mary only be admitted after his death? I am trying to pinpoint John’s death but cannot find any record.

    Do you know where i could get any information or his army records from? I would greatly appreciate any help or advice.
    Kind Regards
    Sharon

    • Carole Divall 25th February 2011 at 8:42 am

      Hi Sharon,
      I am constantly amazed at the number of comments and enquiries I have had following the article on the RMA; it is good to hear from fellow researchers and people who read my pages. Right now I am on holiday but I shall be home at the weekend and in the next few days I’ll get back to you with some information and maybe a few ideas where you might want to look in the course of your research.
      Best wishes,
      Carole

  18. Sharon Priestley 25th February 2011 at 5:34 am

    Hi Carole,
    Thanks for a very interesting and informative article.
    I am doing some family research and came across some records for the RMA, which then led me to more research and your article.

    My gt gt gt grandmother Louisa Wishlaid(Wishlade) and her sister Mary, were admitted to RMA Chelsea in 1819. Their father was John Wishlade, Royal Sappers and Miners.

    I am trying to find out what happened to John, where he was posted etc. I do know that he was married in 1807, Eastbourne.

    Would Loiusa and Mary only be admitted after his death? I am trying to pinpoint John’s death but cannot find any record.

    Do you know where i could get any information or his army records from? I would greatly appreciate any help or advice.
    Kind Regards
    Sharon

    • Carole Divall 25th February 2011 at 8:42 am

      Hi Sharon,
      I am constantly amazed at the number of comments and enquiries I have had following the article on the RMA; it is good to hear from fellow researchers and people who read my pages. Right now I am on holiday but I shall be home at the weekend and in the next few days I’ll get back to you with some information and maybe a few ideas where you might want to look in the course of your research.
      Best wishes,
      Carole

  19. Carol Davies 4th March 2011 at 3:52 pm

    Hi Carole

    Just typed a great long message and it never sent!!!!

    Oh well in short

    Love the article Just found my g g g granda was in the RMA at Chelsea

    John William Tucker parents John and Mary dont know what happened to them.

    Admitted aged 9 in 1837 discharged to 20th rgmt of foot in 1842 aged 14.

    If you can offer any further info it would be gratefully received

    Regards

    Carol Davies nee Tucker

  20. Diane Smith 25th April 2011 at 4:50 am

    Hi Carole, I’ve just come across your most interesting article following the recent discovery of an ancestor on the rma-searcher website.

    My gt gt gt grandfather Samuel Winstanley served in the 1st Foot Guards from 1798 and was medically discharged Aug 1816. Although he lived and was on a muster roll for Westminster, I know he went with the regiment to Sicily in 1807.

    His eldest son John Thomas attended the RMA between 1810-1816 (so I presume his father’s discharge date was significant). He was placed in the hands of a Hugh Leonard – would this be an employer?

    I Know John was born c1803 but have been unable to discover his actual birth date as many of the parish records for St Martin in the Field, Westminster were damaged by water in the Blitz.

    Would the RMA records hold John Thomas Winstanley’s birth date and can you help with any further information.

    Regards
    Diane Smith

  21. Diane Smith 25th April 2011 at 4:50 am

    Hi Carole, I’ve just come across your most interesting article following the recent discovery of an ancestor on the rma-searcher website.

    My gt gt gt grandfather Samuel Winstanley served in the 1st Foot Guards from 1798 and was medically discharged Aug 1816. Although he lived and was on a muster roll for Westminster, I know he went with the regiment to Sicily in 1807.

    His eldest son John Thomas attended the RMA between 1810-1816 (so I presume his father’s discharge date was significant). He was placed in the hands of a Hugh Leonard – would this be an employer?

    I Know John was born c1803 but have been unable to discover his actual birth date as many of the parish records for St Martin in the Field, Westminster were damaged by water in the Blitz.

    Would the RMA records hold John Thomas Winstanley’s birth date and can you help with any further information.

    Regards
    Diane Smith

  22. Charlotte Day 8th May 2011 at 3:32 pm

    Hi Carole

    Thanks for the fascinating article – really brought the lives these children must have lived to life.

    My GG Grandfather – Patrick Williams and his brother Michael were in RAM from 1849-54.

    I know that he left at 16 to volunteer for the 35th Regiment, and have found many mentions of both him and his (naughtier) brother in the disciplinary records at Kew (!) but I can’t find out the circumstances which led to them being placed in the RAM as their parents seem to both have been alive. Any suggestions as to where to look?

    Thanks
    Charlotte

  23. Charlotte Day 8th May 2011 at 3:32 pm

    Hi Carole

    Thanks for the fascinating article – really brought the lives these children must have lived to life.

    My GG Grandfather – Patrick Williams and his brother Michael were in RAM from 1849-54.

    I know that he left at 16 to volunteer for the 35th Regiment, and have found many mentions of both him and his (naughtier) brother in the disciplinary records at Kew (!) but I can’t find out the circumstances which led to them being placed in the RAM as their parents seem to both have been alive. Any suggestions as to where to look?

    Thanks
    Charlotte

  24. Diane Smith 11th May 2011 at 7:56 am

    Hi Carole, further to my email dated 25 April, I have returned to the rma-searcher website and realised that in my excitement at finding John Thomas Winstanley, I overlooked his younger brother Samuel from whom my family descend.

    All the census records imply a birth for Samuel c1811 but the RMA entry suggests a date about 1807. Would the RMA records provide a definitive date and is this data available online?

    Regards,
    Diane Smith

  25. Diane Smith 11th May 2011 at 7:56 am

    Hi Carole, further to my email dated 25 April, I have returned to the rma-searcher website and realised that in my excitement at finding John Thomas Winstanley, I overlooked his younger brother Samuel from whom my family descend.

    All the census records imply a birth for Samuel c1811 but the RMA entry suggests a date about 1807. Would the RMA records provide a definitive date and is this data available online?

    Regards,
    Diane Smith

  26. Pauline Poustie 21st July 2011 at 8:15 am

    Carole,

    On my grandfathers Army Record it states that he was educated at the Royal Chelsea and the Hibernian, he served in two Dragoon Regiments as well as the East Yorkshires and I would love to know how I can find any of his record in the Chelsea Asylum.

    Pauline.

  27. Prof Bernard de Neumann 6th October 2011 at 9:44 am

    I have been researching the origins of the Naval Asylum/Royal Naval Asylum, and have discovered in the National Archives at Kew the Minute Book of the Naval Asylum (ADM 67/278). It makes it clear that both Asylums (Military and Naval) were spawned by the “British National Endeavour” orphanage: ‘The British National Endeavour for Educating, Victualling, Clothing and Apprenticing the Orphans of Those Brave Soldiers and Sailors Who Fall in Defence of Their King and Country”, which was begun by Mr Andrew Thompson in late 1799/early 1800. Its official founding date was 1st January 1800. Although Mr Thompson was indicted for deception and fraud by a group led by various royal princes, he was cleared of deception and I can find no evidence that he was even tried for fraud. It seems to me that Thompson’s only mistake was to conceive ofd an idea that was so good that the royal princes wanted him ousted so they could take the credit!

    To avoid inconveniencing early soldiers’ orphans, those admitted to BNE continued there after it became the Naval Asylum!.

  28. Prof Bernard de Neumann 6th October 2011 at 9:44 am

    I have been researching the origins of the Naval Asylum/Royal Naval Asylum, and have discovered in the National Archives at Kew the Minute Book of the Naval Asylum (ADM 67/278). It makes it clear that both Asylums (Military and Naval) were spawned by the “British National Endeavour” orphanage: ‘The British National Endeavour for Educating, Victualling, Clothing and Apprenticing the Orphans of Those Brave Soldiers and Sailors Who Fall in Defence of Their King and Country”, which was begun by Mr Andrew Thompson in late 1799/early 1800. Its official founding date was 1st January 1800. Although Mr Thompson was indicted for deception and fraud by a group led by various royal princes, he was cleared of deception and I can find no evidence that he was even tried for fraud. It seems to me that Thompson’s only mistake was to conceive ofd an idea that was so good that the royal princes wanted him ousted so they could take the credit!

    To avoid inconveniencing early soldiers’ orphans, those admitted to BNE continued there after it became the Naval Asylum!.

  29. Leeann Tanner 19th October 2011 at 3:40 pm

    Hi Carole
    I too had an ancestor at the RMA. My mother has a relative strange maiden name of Keight, and in 2003 I started reasearching the family. I became stuck with my 4 x great grandad Richard Keight (sometimes listed as Kite or Kyte on census’) as the last census he’d been listed as “Born at Sea 1807”. For years I’d been stuck as to where to go next when I decided to take a trip to Shrewsbury to see if there were any earlier census results (I live in the South) and by chance they did and one of the parish census’ from 1814 had listed on the back Edward Kite and Sarah Kite’s eldest son sent to the RMA Jun 1814, which I didn’t know what it was, kindly one of the archivists searched the web and sold me his brother was listed on the attendance schedules for the RMA. This is led me back to the National Archives where I was able to find out that his father also Edward Kite was in the 32nd of Foot and died of his wounds 2 days after the battle of Salamanca.

    What I’m looking for now after some research is some paintings/prints of the RMA back in its day, and some of the ships the regiment travelled on HMS Peggy, HMS Sucess to buy as a present for my mother, so if anyone knows where I can obtain any please let me know.

    Kind Regards
    Leeann

  30. Leeann Tanner 19th October 2011 at 3:40 pm

    Hi Carole
    I too had an ancestor at the RMA. My mother has a relative strange maiden name of Keight, and in 2003 I started reasearching the family. I became stuck with my 4 x great grandad Richard Keight (sometimes listed as Kite or Kyte on census’) as the last census he’d been listed as “Born at Sea 1807”. For years I’d been stuck as to where to go next when I decided to take a trip to Shrewsbury to see if there were any earlier census results (I live in the South) and by chance they did and one of the parish census’ from 1814 had listed on the back Edward Kite and Sarah Kite’s eldest son sent to the RMA Jun 1814, which I didn’t know what it was, kindly one of the archivists searched the web and sold me his brother was listed on the attendance schedules for the RMA. This is led me back to the National Archives where I was able to find out that his father also Edward Kite was in the 32nd of Foot and died of his wounds 2 days after the battle of Salamanca.

    What I’m looking for now after some research is some paintings/prints of the RMA back in its day, and some of the ships the regiment travelled on HMS Peggy, HMS Sucess to buy as a present for my mother, so if anyone knows where I can obtain any please let me know.

    Kind Regards
    Leeann

  31. Prof Bernard de Neumann 28th October 2011 at 3:06 am

    Further to my previous message about a link between the naval asylum and the military asylum, I have now found the following in “The New Monthly Magazine”, Vol 1, Jan – June 1814, pp 54 – 55.

    “Dr. Clarke is considered justly as the author, having been the person who first suggested the establishment of a Naval Asylum for the Orphans and Children of his Majesty’s Seamen and Marines; and having devoted himself voluntarily and gratuitously to its success during many years. The first idea of this institution he owed to the mutiny at the Nore. Reflecting on all its circumstances, he conceived that some judicious means might be devised which would tend to prevent the recurrence of so awful an event. It occurred to him after much consideration, that if an institution was formed as an Asylum for the Orphans and Children of the King’s Seamen and Marines, and the conduct of the fathers were made an indispensable claim for the admission of the children, it might become almost a pledge for the future loyalty and good behaviour of both parent and son, and prove a measure of sound and most comprehensive policy in its results. The establishment of such an asylum might, he conceived, in the hour of battle tend to animate the sailor, knowing not only that if wounded he had a retreat at Greenwich for himself, but if he fell, his children had an asylum, and the nation became their parent.

    This asylum might ensure also to his Majesty’s Navy an annual supply of about 200 sailors, brought up in sentiments of gratitude and fidelity to their king and country; and when scattered throughout the navy, they would not only disseminate by their example, but enforce by their authority, good principles among others, over whom they would most certainly obtain influence and command, from their superior education, which must raise them to stations of rule over the sailors in the various parts of their ships. An opportunity presented itself to carry those views into execution in an extraordinary manner.

    A person named Andrew Thompson, formed a scheme for an institution under the title of ” British Endeavour,” the pretended object of which was to bring up the children of paupers for the commercial sea service. He had collected from the Royal Family and others, a sum of nearly £2,000. But some circumstances of a suspicious nature having come to the knowledge of his Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex, he sent for Dr. Clarke, and desired him to inquire into the character of this man, previous to an examination of his conduct in this “British National Endeavour.” The result was, that a public meeting of all subscribers to the “British National Endeavour” was convened by advertisement in the newspapers; and a full investigation having taken place, it was deemed expedient by the princes, noblemen, and gentlemen present at the meeting, to entrust all their concerns to the management of a committee, and deliver over Andrew Thompson to the just hand of the law.

    Dr. Clarke, finding this opportunity for carrying into practical effect his long meditated plan, proposed to the gentlemen with whom he acted, the utter extinction of this fraudulent scheme of the “British National Endeavour,” even to its very name, and the adoption of his plan for a Naval Asylum. He no sooner submitted to their consideration his views and objects than his plan was approved, and immediately adopted. A public meeting was consequently convened when the measure was fully resolved on, and a suitable address to the public was drawn up and circulated.
    The result was the establishment of the Naval Asylum at Paddington Green in 1801, and this institution soon gave birth to the Military Asylums not only by suggesting the idea of the latter, but by enabling it to commence with thirty soldiers’ children found in the “British National Endeavour,” and kept in the Naval Asylum in conformity to a request from his Royal Highness the Duke of York, until the Military Asylum could receive them. As soon as the plan of the naval asylum for the orphans of his Majesty’s seamen and marines was communicated to the public, donations flowed in from all parts: the army, the navy, public bodies, and private individuals, contributed generously to its support. Lord St. Vincent subscribed one thousand pounds, and signified that he had another at its service if wanted; and the two Messrs Goldsmid, to their honour be it known, threw into its treasury above three thousand pounds. Some objection was taken by Sir Charles Pole in Parliament against the Duke of Cumberland, who had been originally president of the institution, and as. through his means his Majesty had been pleased to fix it on a royal foundation, he graciously continued his Royal Highness in the office of president, although not a naval man. His Majesty also continued Dr. Clarke in the office of auditor of the institution; a situation however which he repeatedly requested permission to resign, but his resignation was refused by the president, and also prevented by the most efficient of his Majesty’s Commissioners.

    The objections of Sir Charles Pole against persons on the establishment who were not naval men; led his Majesty’s Government into an extraordinary act; for by the operation. of a clause, proposed expressly by the minister for the purpose in the House, he was deprived of benefices worth £1200 per annum, because, he did not reside upon them. Such residence was physically impossible while as auditor of the asylum, his residence was required there; and on which account expressly he was exempted from all penalty for non-residence on his benefices by an act of Parliament, as well as by a most solemn instrument under his Majesty’s sign manual, which confirmed this official and vested right. Such however was the result of his having directed his time, his thoughts, and his purse during years, to the institution of an asylum for the orphans of seamen and marines.

    It is but just however to observe, that the minister had no knowledge of the right vested in Dr. Clarke by such high authorities, and such solemn instruments of public faith; and it is due to the honour of the late Mr. Perceval to add, that when he found the great public and private wrong done to Dr. Clarke, he assured him by letter under his hand, that he should receive adequate compensation from Government. This was in conformity to the opinions of the great law officers of the crown. Unfortunately, however, this virtuous minister fell soon afterwards by the hand of an assassin, and his promise was not fulfilled. We trust that the subject of this memoir will yet receive that justice to which his exertions for the benefit of his country and of society so richly entitle him.”

    This was written only a few years after the events, and strongly hints that the RMA was a spin-off from the British National Endeavour School..

  32. Jean Maynard 10th September 2012 at 4:24 am

    Dear Carole, I want to say thank you for posting this article. I have been doing some research about Catholic groups in London in the mid-19C which were campaigning for religious rights of children in Poor Law institutions, and was finding some helpful material in the two years’ issues of The Penny Catholic Magazine 1839-40 which had been made available on-line by Google Books. Then I came across a related campaign to get exemption from Anglican religious instruction in the Duke of York’s School in Chelsea. They were calling it the Duke of York’s School, so it took me a while to find out that the official name was Royal Military Asylum, but naturally I then wanted to find some background about the school, as I’d never heard of it, and then I found your article. Since a high proportion of enlisted men in the British forces were Catholics, the unwillingness of the school managers to exempt children from RE and church attendance (and let them attend non-Anglican religious services) was excluding a lot of deserving and needy applicants. That particular campaign won a quick victory: the MP Charles Langdale was going to move an address to Queen Victoria in the House of Commons, whereupon the Secretary of War intervened and pledged to sort it out with the school managers. They then agreed to allow a conscience clause for children of Catholic and Dissenting soldiers, not only for Chelsea but also for the other schools in Greenwich and Southampton.

  33. Jean Maynard 10th September 2012 at 4:24 am

    Dear Carole, I want to say thank you for posting this article. I have been doing some research about Catholic groups in London in the mid-19C which were campaigning for religious rights of children in Poor Law institutions, and was finding some helpful material in the two years’ issues of The Penny Catholic Magazine 1839-40 which had been made available on-line by Google Books. Then I came across a related campaign to get exemption from Anglican religious instruction in the Duke of York’s School in Chelsea. They were calling it the Duke of York’s School, so it took me a while to find out that the official name was Royal Military Asylum, but naturally I then wanted to find some background about the school, as I’d never heard of it, and then I found your article. Since a high proportion of enlisted men in the British forces were Catholics, the unwillingness of the school managers to exempt children from RE and church attendance (and let them attend non-Anglican religious services) was excluding a lot of deserving and needy applicants. That particular campaign won a quick victory: the MP Charles Langdale was going to move an address to Queen Victoria in the House of Commons, whereupon the Secretary of War intervened and pledged to sort it out with the school managers. They then agreed to allow a conscience clause for children of Catholic and Dissenting soldiers, not only for Chelsea but also for the other schools in Greenwich and Southampton.

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  38. T. Lussier 5th February 2014 at 7:20 pm

    Our gr grandfather George Alex Robertson was in the RMA in 1871. His parents names are listed but I was wondering if you could get more info in any records. I would also like to find him on the 1871 census. Thanks for your articles as it is stories like these that bring the family tree to life.

  39. Pat Foskett 2nd April 2014 at 8:18 am

    Dear Carole
    Can you help please: My great-grandfather, George Arthur Pye was born in Chile, South America about 1851/2. His father was a surgeon? who I understand died in Buenos Aires about 1855.
    In 1861 my gt-grandfather is back in this country living with his widowed mother and two sisters in Lambeth, London. His mother commited suicide a couple of years later so he was therefore left an orphan. It looks like he is on the 1871 census for the Royal Horse Infirmary Military Camp Huts & Remount Establishment at Woolwich. Having looked at various websites I understand that it is possible that he attended the orphan school for above. Can you please advise how I can find out if he and any of his siblings attended there and the best way to find out further information about him. I would appreciate any help you can give as I
    Many thanks
    Pat Foskett

  40. Gruner 23rd January 2015 at 1:01 pm

    Hello Carole,

    Do you know if the Asylum took illegitimate children? My ancestor was an English-born officer in the Bengal Native Infantry, and fathered an illegitimate son to an Indian woman, in 1820. The son next appears in Edinburgh as a Tailor in 1846, when he is married.
    I am wondering if it would be likely this boy was sent from India to the Chelsea Asylum.
    Do you know if there are any lists of students/inmates that I could check.
    Thank you for all your research online.

    • Carole Divall 19th April 2015 at 9:53 am

      I seem to have answered your query in response to another comment! The rules of the asylum certainly don’t debar illegitimate children, so I can see no reason why such a child, acknowledged by his or her father, should not have been taken in by the Asylum. The National Archives holds the list of children who attended the Asylum. If you send me the names of father and son, I could look for you when I’m next there (29th April).

  41. Colin Ward 18th April 2015 at 9:22 pm

    My great grandfather was Thomas Bidgood who was bandmaster of the 4th Battalion Volunteers Essex Regiment who wrote a number of Military marches, the most famous of which was “Sons of the Brave” that he dedicated to the Duke of York’s Royal Military School and is the school’s signatory quick march. This march along with “British Legion” is regularly played on Remembrance Day and other military events. Thomas’s name is permanently connected with the school.

    • Carole Divall 19th April 2015 at 9:48 am

      This is a very interesting question to which, I have to admit, I don’t know the answer. As far as i can discover, there is nothing in the rules which debar illegitimate children who have been acknowledged by their soldier-father, so it may not have made any difference.

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  43. Carole Divall 2nd October 2010 at 6:35 am

    Dear Shirley,
    It is so pleasing to find somebody with a family connection to the RMA! I have had some very favourable responses to that article so I shall have to bear in mind for future pieces the global level of interest in family/social history. I don’t know about Australia, but in England researching one’s family history is the fastest growing hobby.

    I don’t know how far you have got with discovering more of your family’s history, if you need some pointers I may be able to help. There is a possibility that your ancestor at the RMA became a musician and/or schoolmaster sergeant in the army. Like me, you may have access to websites which hold this sort of information, but if not just let me have his full name, year of birth, and anything else you have on him and I’ll see what I can dig up.
    Sincerely,
    Carole (a Kentish Maid in Lincolnshire)

  44. Carole Divall 9th January 2011 at 9:31 am

    Hello Charlie,
    Your comments are very welcome – it’s good to hear from people who read my articles.
    My husband, who knows his way round the ancestry sites, cannot find a single trace of Nathan McCrow, and he is scratching his head in bewilderment. Was Nathan his real first name, or was he something else but used the “Nathan”? Or maybe his surname was spelled differently? John has tried all sorts of variants but without success.
    Do you know the names of his children at all, and where they lived? Given that information John might be able to work backwards along the records.
    All further details gratefully received, then we’ll see if we can get a “fix” on Nathan.
    Best wishes,
    Carole

  45. Carole Divall 24th February 2011 at 3:26 pm

    Hello Joanne,
    Very good of you to write, it is always a pleasure to hear from people who read my web pages. Right now I’m on holiday but I’ll be home in the next few days and then I shall see what I can find on your Mr Cartwright.
    Best wishes,
    Carole

  46. Hilary Davidson 26th May 2015 at 2:01 pm

    Hi,
    Have just found your very interesting article about the Duke of York’s Military Asylum. My gt gt grandmother was there, although presumably in Southampton branch, from 1827 (aged 5! ) until 1836 when she was apprenticed to Cressbrook Mill in Derbyshire. Do you have Ny access to records relating to the girls in Southampton branch please?

  47. Carole Divall 27th May 2015 at 5:07 pm

    I haven’t heard of a Southampton branch; in fact, the only royal military asylum was in Chelsea. The records are held at the national archives and give dates og admission and departure, as well as parental details, because the asylum was for the children of soldiers. Hope this helps.

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