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Royal Hospital School

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Title: Royal Hospital School  
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Subject: College of William & Mary, Herbert Tudor Buckland, Greenwich, Culford School, Royal Naval College, Greenwich
Collection: 1694 Establishments in England, 1712 Establishments in England, Blue Ensigns, Boarding Schools in Suffolk, Buildings and Structures in Ipswich, Charities Based in Suffolk, College of William & Mary, Educational Institutions Established in the 1690S, Former Buildings and Structures in Greenwich, Grade II Listed Buildings in Suffolk, Grade II Listed Educational Buildings, Grade II* Listed Buildings in Suffolk, Grade II* Listed Educational Buildings, History of Greenwich, History of the Royal Navy, Independent Schools in Suffolk, Maritime History, Member Schools of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference, Military Academies of the United Kingdom, Military History of London, Military Veterans' Affairs in the United Kingdom, Military-Related Organizations, Naval Museums in England, Organisations Based in England with Royal Patronage, Royal Naval College, Greenwich, Royal Navy, Schools in Ipswich, Schools with a Royal Charter
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Royal Hospital School

The Royal Hospital School, Holbrook

Reg Hosp Gren
'Celebrating Britain's seafaring heritage through educating for the future'
"The Cradle of the Navy"
"Fear God and Honour the King" (Greenwich)
Association: Otia Tuta

(Latin: Ease after Toil)
Established 1694 Royal Charter
1712 Greenwich
1933 Holbrook
Type Public School
Independent day and boarding School
Royal Foundation
Religion Christian
Headmaster James Lockwood
Chaplain J. W. P. McConnell
Founders William and Mary
Location Holbrook
England, United Kingdom
Local authority Suffolk
DfE number 935/6056
DfE URN 124889 Tables
Staff 72
Students c. 700
Gender Coeducational
Ages 11–18


Junior Houses:

Drake (Junior House)     
Blake (Junior House)     

Senior Houses:

Anson (F)          
Collingwood (M)          
Hawke (M)          
Hood (F)          
Howe (F)     
St. Vincent (M)     
Raleigh (Day House)     
Cornwallis (Day House)          

Upper Sixth House:


               School Scarf

Publication "The Magazine" or "LOBS"
School Visitor The Duke of York
Charitable Association Greenwich Hospital
Website .org.royalhospitalschoolwww

The Royal Hospital School (usually shortened as "RHS" and historically nicknamed "The Cradle of the Navy"[1]) is a British co-educational independent day and boarding school with naval traditions. The school admits pupils from age 11 to 18 (Years 7 to 13) through Common Entrance or the school's own exam. The school is regulated by Acts of Parliament.[2]

The school is located in the village of Holbrook, near Ipswich, Suffolk, England, United Kingdom. The school's campus is of Queen Anne style and set in 200 acres (0.81 km2) of countryside overlooking the River Stour on the Shotley Peninsula in an area known as Constable Country.

The Royal Hospital School was established by a Royal Charter in 1712. It was originally located at Greenwich Hospital in Greenwich. The school moved in 1933 to East Anglia.

The school is the only UK independent boarding school to have ever been continuously granted the Queen's Banner and it flies its own Admiralty-approved Royal Hospital School Blue Ensign. It is one of only two UK schools whose students have the privilege of wearing Royal Navy uniforms, the other being Pangbourne College in Berkshire.

The school is affiliated to the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC).

Bernard de Neumann notes the school's significance and impact in British history: "Just as, according to the Duke of Wellington, the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton, it may justifiably be claimed, that the establishment of... the British Empire, was charted and plotted in the classroom of... the Royal Hospital School."


  • Overview 1
  • Students 2
  • Academics 3
  • Faculty 4
  • History 5
  • Greenwich Hospital 6
  • Traditions 7
    • Naval uniforms 7.1
    • Music 7.2
    • School songs 7.3
    • William and Mary Scholars 7.4
    • Events 7.5
  • Chapel 8
  • Royal foundation 9
  • Houses 10
    • Boys 10.1
    • Girls 10.2
    • Upper Sixth 10.3
  • Sports 11
  • Holbrook Coastguard 12
  • Royal Hospital School Association 13
  • Notable former pupils 14
  • Notable staff 15
  • See also 16
  • References 17
  • Further reading 18
  • External links 19


Seafaring traditions are important and integral elements of school life and Royal Navy uniforms (sailor suits) are issued to all pupils and used for ceremonial and formal events. The school is owned by the Crown naval charity, Greenwich Hospital and as a result provides a number of means-tested bursaries for families with a seafaring background.

Leadership development is another distinctive feature of the Royal Hospital School derived from the naval background. Army, Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and Royal Marines Combined Cadet Force along with the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme are the most popular extracurricular activities at the Royal Hospital School. The Combined Cadet Force is unique, as it also includes a Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers Section, Pioneers, Her Majesty's Coastguard and St. John's Ambulance. HMS Illustrious is affiliated with the Royal Navy CCF.[3] The Army Section is affiliated with Army Air Corps.[4]

The front of the main building, overlooking the sports pitches

The Royal Hospital School has a partnership with America's second-oldest institution of higher education and "sister institution", The College of William and Mary in Virginia.[5]

The Royal Hospital School is a full boarding school and operates seven days a week.


There are a little over 700 students at the school; of those, 140 are day students and 560 are boarders. It is the largest boarding school in East Anglia. The students are separated by gender until the upper sixth, where they move into a multi-gender boarding house. As of the beginning of the 2013 - 2014 academic year, pupils in the Junior boarding houses Blake and Drake will also be in multi gender houses, with each year rotating through. There are international students from about 20 countries. The school has specialist staff for international students and has an English as a Foreign Language course.


The school uses the National Curriculum Key Stages 3, 4, and 5, and provides a large choice of subjects for study. These include English, French, Spanish, German, physics, chemistry, biology, Latin, geography, history, mathematics, technology, art, music, IT, physical education, media studies, business studies, psychology, drama and theatre, art history, government and politics, textiles, law, Russian, Greek and religious studies.


All faculty live on site and participate in all aspects of school life.


Boys of The Royal Hospital School, Greenwich c.1900

The school was originally located at Greenwich Hospital, and was based in what is now the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London. The Hospital was founded in 1694, and the school in 1712, both by Royal Charter.[6][7] The original purpose of the school was to provide assistance and education to the orphans of seafarers in the Royal and Merchant Navies, and it was once the largest school for navigation and seamanship in the country.[8]

The school has been located in Holbrook since 1933. The Holbrook campus was designed by the Birmingham-based arts and crafts architect Herbert Tudor Buckland. Most of the buildings are now Grade II listed with the main range and chapel being Grade II*.

Until relatively recently, entry to the school was limited to the children or grandchildren of seafarers. Until the 1950s, boys of the school were also required to join the Royal or Merchant Navies, and as such the education was focused on maritime matters. Although this requirement has not been in force for some decades, the school has retained certain naval traditions such as Naval uniform, divisions (a formal parade and march past as practised in the armed forces) and an element of marching.

In 1991 the school became coeducational, with the girls first being introduced into Hood house, followed by Cornwallis, Howe and Blake. Girls initially had a different uniform from boys, but this was changed to match the boys' uniform, and subsequently followed the changes in dress as seen in the Royal Navy. The first female Head of School was appointed in 1992 to work alongside the male head of School.

In 1994 the entire school was bussed to Greenwich Hospital to parade in front of Queen Elizabeth II, in celebration of the tercentenary of the Hospital. The parade took place on the parade ground in front of the Queen's House.

In 2005 RHS was one of 50 of the country's leading private schools which were found guilty of running an illegal price-fixing cartel which had allowed them to drive up fees for thousands of parents.[9] Each school was required to pay a nominal penalty of £10,000 and all agreed to make ex-gratia payments totalling three million pounds into a trust designed to benefit pupils who attended the schools during the period in respect of which fee information was shared.[10]

Greenwich Hospital

Greenwich Pensioner, 1845

The school was founded by Royal Charter, and is maintained by Greenwich Hospital. The hospital provides bursaries to a number of pupils. The school also awards academic, sports, music and sailing scholarships, as well as bursaries and discounts to the children of seafarers in the Royal Navy, Royal Marines or Merchant Navy.[11]


Many of the modern day Royal Hospital School traditions are associated with the Royal Navy or seafaring. For example, key naval events are celebrated, the school has provision for sailing, and has a ceremonial guard and marching band.

Naval uniforms

As well as standard school uniform, both boys and girls wear Naval uniforms for ceremonial occasions such as "Divisions", a ceremony in which each house forms into two squads, Junior and Senior, and perform a march past on the parade square, with music played by the marching band and the Guard of Honour holding a key role. All house petty officers (POs) wear a chevron on their left arm. The school chiefs, approximately 20 Upper 6th Formers, wear chief petty officer ranks and uniform, including canes. The deputy heads of school (one male and one female prefect) carry the rank of warrant officer (second class). The heads of school (one male and one female prefect) carry the rank of warrant officer (first class).


The Royal Hospital School has a distinctive musical tradition, with all pupils required to attend weekly congregation practice. The £3.6 million Reade Music School opened in 2008.[12]

The Royal Hospital School marching band is a perennial part of school life. The band is managed by a former member of the Royal Marines Band Service, and the band's style is modelled on the Royal Marines. The band forms a separate division and is the largest division. It has travelled abroad for tours including to Sri Lanka and the USA. Some of the marches played include Heart of Oak, A Life on the Ocean Wave and "Holbrook March".

Band members were part of the orchestra for the premier performance of Benjamin Britten's Noye's Fludde on 18 June 1958 in Orford Church, Suffolk, as part of the Aldeburgh Festival, with the English Opera Group and a local cast.[13]

The grand organ, a four-manual instrument, by William Hill & Son & Norman & Beard Ltd. was installed in 1933.[14]

School songs

William and Mary Scholars

William and Mary Scholars is an intercultural exchange programme, celebrating the heritage of the founders. It is for upper sixth formers to study a semester at The College of William and Mary and for a William and Mary graduate to teach at The Royal Hospital School for a year.


  • Burns Night
  • House Shout
  • Drama Festival
  • School Plays and Musicals
  • Music Recitals and Concerts
  • Christmas Dinner
  • Alumni Reunion including Sporting Events
  • Trafalgar Dinner
  • Speech Day
  • Remembrance Sunday
  • Snow Ball
  • Leavers Ball
  • The Great Grease Up


The chapel programme is central to the RHS education. It is compulsory for pupils to attend a short service every morning before lessons from Tuesdays until Thursdays. Congregational practice is also held within the chapel every Saturday. A service is held every Sunday, also compulsory, with the exception of leave-out weekends. The mosaics in the apse are by Eric Newton, later to become art critic to The Guardian. The chapel is a Grade II* listed building.[15]

Royal foundation

The Royal Hospital School has connections with the British Royal Family. These connections are principally The Royal Charter, School Visitor, and King's & Queen's Banners. The school's political breadth is shown by both its acknowledgement of its royal connections and its honouring the great republican hero, Admiral Blake, after whom a House is named.

Many members of the Royal Family have involved themselves with the development of the school. Mary II's involvement with the Royal Hospital School is noted as "the darling object of her life".[6]


All 11 Houses at the Royal Hospital School are named in honour of a famous seafarer.


West Side

East Side

Junior House


West Side

East Side

  • Anson - light blue and navy
  • Hood - yellow and navy

Junior House

Upper Sixth


The school has inter-house sporting events and there are opportunities to enter inter-school competitions. Some school alumni have also gone on to be professional athletes.

The sports currently available at the school are as follows:

  • Michaelmas Term: rugby union, horse-riding, betball, soccer, "What's in my pocket", hockey.
  • Summer Term: athletics, rounders, canoeing, Shirtless Krav Maga, kayaking (Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Marathon), cricket, golf, tennis.

Sailing is available to students all year round and the school takes pride in its rank as one of the best sailing schools in the country, with many students representing their nations at world sailing events. As well as the possibility to sail in school, a biennial sailing trip is offered to the school's sailors - the most recent trip having been in Greece.

Holbrook Coastguard

The Holbrook Coastguard, founded in 1996, is no longer a fully operational watch station and CRV, affiliated with Her Majesty's Coastguard. The area the team covered stretched from the dry dock in Ipswich to Shotley, and then from Shotley to the White Bridge at Manningtree, and they often operated in the Wrabness area with the neighbouring team.

Holbrook Coastguard was unique since, in term-time, it was run entirely by students. While there are student-operated coastguards in Scotland and Wales, it was the only one of its kind in England. There was a student in charge elected every year, but there were adult team members who were in control during the school holidays. The members of the student team were aged fourteen to eighteen.

Royal Hospital School Association

The Royal Hospital School Association is an association of former students and staff of the school. Founded as the Greenwich Royal Hospital School Old Boys Association in 1925, it changed its name to the Royal Hospital School Association (RHSA) in 1992 in order to accommodate female ex-pupils. The Association publishes an irregular newsletter called Otia Tuta keeping members abreast of current events.[16]

The Association holds an annual reunion at the school in June.

Notable former pupils

  • Admiral Arthur Phillip (1738–1814) - founder of Sydney, Australia and the Governor of the first European colony on the continent (NSW)
  • Admiral Sir Philip King Enright, KBE, CB (1894–1960)
  • Major General Jasper Baker, CB, CBE (1877–1964) - Director of Ordnance Services and Commandant RAOC, 1932 - 1945.
  • Admiral Sir Henry Felix Woods, Pasha, (1843–1929) - Admiral in the Turkish Navy
  • Vice-Admiral Sir Benjamin C.S. Martin, KBE, DSO (1891–1957) - The first man promoted from the lower deck to become a Rear-Admiral on the active list in modern times.
  • Air Vice-Marshal Hubert Desmond Hall, CB, CMG, CBE, AFC (1925-?)
  • Rear-Admiral Stanley McArdle, GM (1922–2007)
  • Don Topley (1964-)- Essex CCC and coach of Zimbabwe.
  • Peter Richards (1978-) -Rugby, England, Gloucester and London Irish.
  • Captain Thomas Henry Tizard (1839–1924) - Oceanographer, Hydrographic surveyor and Navigator
  • Joseph van der Merwe - American Football Great Britain Lions International
  • Ernest Edward Mills Joyce, AM (1875–1940) - Antarctic Explorer, hero of the Ross Sea Party of Shackleton's ill-fated Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition.
  • John Deane (1800–1884) and Charles Deane - inventors of the diving helmet, and discoverers of the wreck of the Mary Rose in 1839, whilst clearing the wreck of the Royal George.
  • Professor Bernard de Neumann (1943- ) – Mathematician
  • Commander Harry Pursey MP (1891–1980) - Member of Parliament for Kingston upon Hull East 1945-70
  • Captain Oswald Tuck RN (1876–1950) – Naval Captain and Instructor in the Japanese language to British Second World War Codebreakers
  • Sir Gilbert Thomas Carter (1848-1927), Administrator and Governor in Africa and the Caribbean[17]
  • Malcolm Douglas Cooper (1947–2001) - British marksman who won Olympic gold medals at Los Angeles and Seoul and beat or equalled 15 world records
  • Henry Davenport Sarratt (1828–1899)- Navigator, Royal Navy, Command of the Royal Yacht which brought Princess Alexandra (later Queen Alexandra) from Denmark to marry the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII)
  • Zebedee Scaping (1833–1909) Esteemed headmaster of Hull Trinity House Navigation Schools (1854–1909).
  • Richard Todd QC (1965 - ). Judge, Queen's Counsel, author, historian.
  • Duncan Alexander Scott-Ford (1921–1942) attended 1933-37. Youngest person to be executed under the Treachery Act 1940.

Notable staff

  • Edward Riddle, FRAS (1786–1854), astronomer, mathematician and teacher of navigation. Highly esteemed teacher; senior mathematics master in the Upper School (1821–1840); headmaster of the Upper School (1840–1841); and then of the Nautical School (1841–1851). Author of an authoritative and important book: "Treatise on Navigation and Nautical Astronomy", that was used throughout the world and ran to eight editions. [1st edition 1821].
  • The Revd FRS, FRAS (1794–1873) Astronomer, Arctic explorer. Chaplain (1834–1863); Headmaster of the Upper School (1834–1840); Principal of the schools (1860–1863). Noted for his pioneering work in numerical educational attainment assessment.
  • John Riddle, FRAS (1816–1862), astronomer, mathematician and teacher of navigation. Only son of Edward Riddle and his successor as headmaster of the Nautical School (1851–1862). Many of his pupils followed him into teaching and headed highly influential nautical schools throughout the United Kingdom, such as Hull, Glasgow, Leith, Dublin, Belfast.
  • T/Sub-Lieut.John Herbert Babington, GC, OBE, George Cross for bomb disposal work 27 December 1940. Headmaster 1947-1955.

See also


  1. ^ [10]
  2. ^ "Greenwich Hospital Act 1865". Retrieved 2015-02-27. 
  3. ^ [11]
  4. ^ [12]
  5. ^ "Greenwich Hospital School: A Brief History of The Royal Hospital School". Mariners. 5 March 2003. Retrieved 9 February 2009. 
  6. ^ a b "Greenwich Royal Hospital School 1". Retrieved 2015-02-27. 
  7. ^ [13]
  8. ^ [14]
  9. ^ Halpin, Tony (10 November 2005). "Independent schools face huge fines over cartel to fix fees". The Times (London). Retrieved 22 May 2010. 
  10. ^ [15]
  11. ^ [16]
  12. ^ [17]
  13. ^ Holst, Imogen. "Children's Voices at the Aldeburgh Festival" from Aldeburgh Anthology (ed. Ronald Blythe), 1972: p. 245
  14. ^ "Suffolk Organists' Association : Journal No.116" (PDF). March 2011. Retrieved 2015-02-27. 
  15. ^  
  16. ^ [18]
  17. ^ "Sir G. T. Gilbert-Carter" (Obituaries). The Times (London). Wednesday, 19 January 1927. (44483), col B, p. 9.

Further reading

  • Desmond, Morris. "The Royal Hospital School Holbrook 1933-1993," United Kingdom.
  • McClean, David. "Education and Empire: Naval Tradition and England's Elite Society," British Academic Press, I. B. Tauris (15 January 1999), ISBN 1-86064-295-0
  • Newell, Phillip. "Greenwich Hospital: A Royal Foundation 1692-1983," United Kingdom.
  • Turner, H.D. The Cradle of the Navy: The Story of the Royal Hospital School at Greenwich and at Holbrook, 1694–1988, William Sessions Limited of York, United Kingdom, 1990, ISBN 1-85072-077-0
  • Waldie, Paul. "Ghosts and Kippers: Schoolboy Memories, from the Royal Hospital School, Greenwich," United Kingdom.

External links

  • Official School Website
  • Site for former pupils, parents etc
  • The Royal Hospital School Association
  • Profile on the Independent Schools Council website
  • Greenwich Hospital site
  • Holbrook Music Society site
  • UK Boarding Schools Guide Profile
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