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Greenwich Hospital

A Royal Charter of King William and Queen Mary founded the Royal Naval Hospital for Seamen, known subsequently as Greenwich Hospital, in 1694 on the site of the royal palace at Greenwich. Its aims were:

'the relief and support of Seamen…belonging to the Navy Royal…who by reason of Age, Wounds or other disabilities shall be uncapable for further service…And for the Sustentation of Widows and the Maintenance and Education of the Children of Seamen happening to be slain or disabled. Also for the further relief and Encouragement of Seamen and Improvement of Navigation'. The first pensioners were admitted in 1705.

Greenwich Hospital. John AdamsIn addition to the in-pensioners, the Hospital also maintained out-pensioners and provided pensions and allowances for widows and orphans of seamen and marines. A school for the sons of seamen began at the Hospital in 1712, which absorbed the Royal Naval Asylum for the children of seamen in 1821 and became the Royal Hospital School in 1892.Greenwich Hospital ceased to house in-pensioners in 1869 and in 1873 the buildings became the home of the Royal Naval College and today house the University of Greenwich and Trinity School of Music. The Hospital continued to provide out-pensions and allowances of various kinds, and continued to administer the Royal Hospital School, which thanks to a generous endowment by Mr Gifford Sherman Reade moved to Holbrook near Ipswich in Suffolk in 1933.

Charitable Support in the 21st Century

Greenwich Hospital
Since the pensioners left Greenwich, the Hospital has developed as a substantial charitable organisation, with continuing welfare and educational roles appropriate to the 21st century.

Today Greenwich Hospital provides charitable support to serving and retired men and women of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines and their dependants. It does this through sheltered housing, pensions and grants to naval charities. The Hospital still owns the Royal Hospital School, a co-educational boarding school principally for the children and grandchildren of naval and other seafaring families. The Hospital also makes some other educational grants.

Some details of Greenwich Hospital’s charitable activities are given below.

The Royal Hospital School at Holbrook, near Ipswich, is a successful co-educational, HMC boarding school for around 680 pupils aged 11 to 18, who come from a wide range of backgrounds. In line with the Hospital’s aims, the School strives to develop a real sense of community and service to others and there is a strong emphasis on the care and welfare of pupils as well as academic achievement. The School, which still proudly celebrates its naval traditions and continuing links with the Royal Navy, has a strong musical tradition with a marching band, orchestra and a large choir, which regularly perform in public. It also offers a wide range of extra curricular activities, including the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme and naturally, excellent sailing facilities.

Pupils come from a wide range of seafaring and non-seafaring backgrounds. Priority is given to the children and grandchildren of seafaring families - namely children who have parents or grandparents who are serving or have served in the Royal Navy, Royal Marines and Merchant Navy, and some other seafaring categories. A limited number of bursaries are awarded each year to eligible seafaring children and grandchildren at the Hospital’s discretion. Also a limited number of scholarships may be awarded for excellence in academia, sports, sailing, music, drama or art. Details of eligibility for bursaries and scholarships are set out in the School's Admissions Policy.

The Hospital also continues to give substantial support to elderly ex-seafarers and their widows through a range of pensions, most of which are administered by the Royal Naval Benevolent Trust (RNBT). The Hospital has also helped to meet the cost of developing the RNBT’s residential and nursing accommodation at Gillingham in Kent, for elderly ex-Royal Navy and Royal Marines personnel.

Sheltered Housing
The Hospital's own support for the elderly has extended to the development of high quality sheltered housing, with 36 flats at Greenwich Court in Southsea, opened in 1989, and a second scheme, Greenwich Place at Saltash, Cornwall, opened in 1994 to mark the Hospital's 300th Anniversary. In Greenwich itself, the Georgian Trafalgar Quarters beside Wren's original buildings - once the offices for administering Hospital pensions - were converted to sheltered accommodation in 2001. These schemes are all administered for Greenwich Hospital on a day-to-day basis by the Church of England Soldiers', Sailors' and Airmen's Clubs (CESSAC).

For further information on:

Greenwich Hospital:
The Royal Hospital School:
Greenwich Hospital Sheltered Housing, e-mail to:


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