Special Collections

Sold on 6 July 2004

1 part


Prize, Training Ship, Nursing & Other Medals from the James N. Spencer Collection

James N Spencer

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№ 943


6 July 2004

Hammer Price:

Greenwich Hospital School Prize Medal, bust of Nelson left by Halfhide, ‘Palmam Qvi Mervit Ferat’; reverse: inscription in raised letters (name and year engraved), ‘Greenwich Hospital School, to Reward Denton W. Speer 1844’, 35mm., silver, unmounted, good very fine £100-120

The School originated from King William III’s and Queen Mary II’s Royal Charter of 25 October 1694 for the building of a hospital at Greenwich, for the ‘reliefe and support of Seamen serving on board the Shipps or Vessells belonging to the Navy Royall ... who by reason of Age, Wounds or other disabilities shall be unable to maintain themselves. And for the Sustentation of the Widows and the Maintenance and Education of the Children of Seamen happening to be slain or disabled ... Also for the further reliefe and Encouragement of Seamen and Improvement of Navigation.’

Following from the establishment of the Hospital, consideration was given for the education of children of seamen, especially orphans. In 1712 the first Greenwich Hospital pupils, housed initially in the hospital attics, were sent to Weston’s Academy in Greenwich. The school proved to be a great success and with an increase in numbers it was found necessary to provide the school with its own building at Greenwich. At a time when a patchy educational system concentrated on the teaching of Greek and Latin, the teaching of mathematics, navigation and nautical astronomy, usefully fitted the boys for service in the Royal Navy as officers and navigators, and in the Merchant Navy where they entered directly as Master’s Mates. The school taught boys between the ages of 14 and 18.

Independent of the above, in 1798 the ‘British National Endeavour’, a boarding school in Paddington was established by public subscription for the children of Royal Naval seamen who had died in battle. Amongst its early patrons was a certain Lord Nelson. Following the victory at Trafalgar in 1805 the school was renamed by Royal Warrant, ‘The Royal Naval Asylum’ and was moved to Greenwich. The Asylum catered for children aged between 5 and 14.

The two schools operated independently of each other until 1821 when they were merged. The old Greenwich Hospital School became the ‘Upper School’ and the Asylum the ‘Lower School’; later, a third and higher ‘school’ was established called the ‘Nautical School’, instituted for the teaching of navigational science. The combined schools provided boys with an education suitable for a career in the navy and girls for employment as domestic servants. In 1841 the girls part of the school was closed.