The Royal Hospital School (usually shortened as "RHS" and historically nicknamed "The Cradle of the Navy"[1]) is a British co-educational fee-charging international boarding and day 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 Royal Hospital School, Holbrook
, ,

Coordinates51°58′20″N 1°08′59″E / 51.9723°N 1.1497°E / 51.9723; 1.1497
School typePublic School
Independent boarding and day
Royal Foundation
Royal Navy Heritage
Mottoes 'Celebrating Britain's seafaring heritage through educating for the future'

"The Cradle of the Navy"
"Fear God and Honour the King"

"Otia Tuta" - motto of Greenwich Hospital
(Latin: Ease after Toil)
Religious affiliation(s)Christian
Established1694 royal charter
1712 Greenwich
1933 Holbrook
FoundersWilliam III and Mary II
Sister schoolCollege of William and Mary
Local authoritySuffolk
TrustGreenwich Hospital
Department for Education URN124889 Tables
ChairChair of Governors
Mr. Trevor Rowell
DirectorDirector of Greenwich Hospital
Mrs. Deirdre Mills
HeadmasterMr. Simon Lockyer
ChaplainRev. L Mumford
Age11 to 18
Enrolmentc. 733
Campus typeRural


  • Blake (Junior House)
  • Anson (F)
  • Collingwood (M)
  • Hawke (M)
  • Hood (F)
  • Howe (F)
  • St. Vincent (M)
  • Raleigh (Day House)
  • Cornwallis (Day house)
  • Drake (Day House)
  • Nelson (Upper Sixth)

School Scarf

SloganNavigating success
Song"Eternal Father, Strong to Save" - Royal Navy Hymn
SportsAthletics, Cricket, Hockey, Rugby, Netball, Basketball, Climbing, Cross Country, Fitness, Golf, Football, Horse Riding, Kickboxing, Sailing, Swimming, Tennis.
Publication"The Magazine"
"The Gidge" - Alumni Magazine
Feeder toHistorically: Royal Navy
British Army
Royal Air Force
Royal Military Academy Sandhurst
Britannia Royal Naval College
AffiliationHMC (The Heads' Conference)
AlumniRoyal Hospital School Association
Charitable AssociationGreenwich Hospital

The school is located in the village of Holbrook, near Ipswich, Suffolk, England.[3] The school's campus is of Queen Anne style and set in 200 acres (0.81 km2) of countryside. It overlooks the River Stour, Suffolk on the Shotley Peninsula in an area known as Constable Country.[citation needed]

The Royal Hospital School was established by a royal charter in 1712.[4] It was originally located at Greenwich Hospital, but then moved in 1933 to East Anglia.[5]

During World War One, 1,000 former RHS pupils served on Royal Navy ships at the Battle of Jutland (31 May – 1 June 1916) at least 101 former RHS pupils died in that battle. "The Royal Hospital School lost more pupils in one 24-hour period than any other British school in one day."[6]

The school is the only United Kingdom independent boarding school to be continuously granted the Queen's Banner. It also 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.[citation needed]

The school is affiliated to the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC).[7]

Bernard de Neumann, a former pupil, described the school's significance as such: "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."[5]



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.[8]

The school also emphasises leadership development. Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Army and Royal Air Force 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 also includes a Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers Section.[9] HMS Illustrious is affiliated with the Royal Navy CCF.[10] The Army Section is affiliated with Army Air Corps.[11]

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.[12]

The Royal Hospital School is a boarding and day school with weekly boarding, three-night boarding, and 'flexi' or ad hoc boarding options.[13]



As of June 2024, between 620 and 690 pupils were enrolled at the school.[14][15][16] Approximately 450 students board on a full-time, weekly or 3-night basis.[15] It is one of the largest boarding schools in East Anglia.[citation needed]

There are around 100 international students[citation needed] from 28 countries.[17] The school has specialist staff for international students and provides English as an Additional Language.[18]



The school uses the National Curriculum Key Stages 3 (Years 7–9), 4 (Years 10–11), and 5 (Years 12–13), and provides a large choice of subjects for study.[19]

Subjects Offered [20]
Subject Name Years taken Qualification Type
Compass Y7 - Y9 N/A
PSHE Y10 - Y13 N/A
English Language Y7 - Y11 (Compulsory) Y12 - Y13 GCSE, A-level
English Literature Y7 - Y11 (Compulsory) Y12 - Y13 GCSE, A-level
Mathematics Y7 - Y11 (Compulsory) Y12 - Y13 GCSE, A-level
Further Mathematics Y12 - Y13 A-level
French Y7 - Y9 (Compulsory OR Spanish) Y10 - Y13 GCSE, A-level
Spanish Y7 - Y9 (Compulsory OR French) Y10 - Y13 GCSE, A-level
Science (Combined) Y7 - Y9 (Compulsory) Y10 - 11 (Combined Science) GCSE
Geography Y7 - Y9 (Compulsory) Y10 - Y13 GCSE, A-level
History Y7 - Y9 (Compulsory) Y10 - Y13 GCSE, A-level
Design Technology Y7 - Y8 (Compulsory) Y9 - Y13 GCSE, A-level
Art Y7 - Y8 (Compulsory) Y9 - Y13 GCSE, A-level
Music Y7 - Y8 (Compulsory) Y9 - Y13 GCSE, A-level
Drama Y7 - Y8 (Compulsory) Y9 - Y13 GCSE, A-level
Computing Y7 - Y9 (Compulsory) Y10 - Y13 GCSE, A-level
Religious Studies Y7 - Y9 (Compulsory) Y10 - Y13 GCSE, A-level
Latin Y7 - Y8 (Compulsory) Y9 - Y13 GCSE, A-level
Biology Y10 - Y11 (Separate Science) Y12 - Y13 GCSE, A-level
Chemistry Y10 - Y11 (Separate Science) Y12 - Y13 GCSE, A-level
Physics Y10 - Y11 (Separate Science) Y12 - Y13 GCSE, A-level
Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Y12 - Y13 BTEC
Business Studies Y10 - Y13 GCSE, A-level
Media Studies Y10 - Y13 GCSE, BTEC
Physical Studies Y10 - Y13 GCSE, BTEC
Psychology Y12 - Y13 A-level
Politics Y12 - Y13 A-level



When a student reaches year 9, they are required to participate in Combined Cadet Force (CCF). CCF aims to enhance the qualities of responsibility, self-reliance, endurance and perseverance and to develop leadership and resourcefulness. In year 9, students are taught the basics of leadership and fieldcraft; when students reach year 10, they are able to pick a 'section' in which to go into. These are: Royal Navy (RN), Royal Marines (RM), Army and Royal Air Force (RAF).[21]

As part of CCF, pupils can participate in a wide range of activities including: first aid, navigation, shooting, field craft, and self-reliance; with opportunities for students to participate in section competitions against other schools/cadets. There are also opportunities for sailing, flying, rock-climbing, coasteering, power-boating and many other outdoor pursuits. Alongside air-rifle, small bore and Cadet GP Rifle shooting in the school's own shooting range.[22]



Similarly to CCF, all year 9 pupils are required to sign up the "Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme" as part of their Co-Curricular/CCF sessions. Expeditions for Bronze, Silver and Gold take place annually; with Bronze taking place locally, Silver taking place in the Peak District and with Gold taking place in Scotland (usually Rannoch Moor).[23]



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.[24][25] 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.[26]

The school relocated to Holbrook in 1933.[5] The Holbrook campus was designed by the Birmingham-based arts and crafts architect Herbert Tudor Buckland and built by J. Gerrard & Sons Ltd of Swinton. Most of the buildings are now Grade II listed with the main range and chapel also being Grade II*.[citation needed]

Historically, the Royal Hospital School exclusively admitted children or grandchildren of seafarers. This policy was in place until the mid-20th century. During this period, up until the 1950s, it was also mandatory for boys attending the school to pursue careers in the Royal or Merchant Navies. Consequently, the curriculum was heavily centered around maritime subjects. Although these requirements have been discontinued for several decades, the school continues to uphold certain naval traditions. These include wearing naval uniforms, conducting divisions (formal parades and march-pasts typical in the armed forces), and incorporating marching as part of the school's activities.[citation needed]

In 1991 the school became coeducational, with the girls first being introduced into Hood house, followed by Cornwallis, Howe and Blake (now co-educational) and Anson. Girls initially had a different naval 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.[citation needed]

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 2012 the school marked three hundred years since its foundation with the opening of a Heritage Centre, publication of a commemorative book and a formal dinner in the Painted Hall at Greenwich.[citation needed]

In 2005 RHS was one of 50 of the country's leading independent schools which were found guilty of running an illegal price-fixing cartel which had allowed them to drive up fees for thousands of parents.[27] 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.[28]

Greenwich Hospital

Greenwich Pensioner, 1845

The school was founded by royal charter and is maintained by Greenwich Hospital.[29] 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.[30]


Boys of The Royal Hospital School, Greenwich c.1900

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


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

The Royal Hospital School
Head of
Deputy head
of school
School Chief House
Petty officer



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.[31]

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. When the school forms up in divisions on the parade square, the band forms a separate division, larger than the others. 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, "Holbrook March" and Royal Salute.[citation needed]

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.[32]

The grand organ, a four-manual instrument, by William Hill & Son & Norman & Beard Ltd. was installed in the chapel in 1933.[33]

School songs



  • Burns Night
  • House Shout
  • School Plays and Musicals
  • Music Recitals and Concerts
  • Christmas Dinner
  • Alumni Reunion including Sporting Events
  • Trafalgar Dinner
  • Speech Day
  • Remembrance Sunday
  • Leavers Ball

School slang


RHS has developed a number of small traditions and practices over its 300 years of existence, with many still in use today. Many of these slang phrases have roots in the navy, but many are also unique to RHS and its traditions [34]

  • "Divis" or "Divvies" short for Divisions
  • "DH" short for Dining Hall
  • "Civvies" slang for civilian clothing
  • "Chiefs" slang for school prefects
  • "Congo" short for congregational practice
  • "Mess" naval slang for a meal



The chapel is central to RHS life. It is compulsory for pupils to attend a short service every Tuesday and Thursday morning. Congregational practice is also held within the chapel every Saturday morning. A service is held most Sundays, compulsory for any boarders on site. As part of the chapel service, it is common for a musician (usually a music scholar) to play a small piece as part of the service during the week. 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.[35]

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, Robert Blake (admiral), after whom a House is named.[citation needed]

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".[24]



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

  • Blake – co-educational boarding and day Year 7
  • St Vincent – boys' boarding Years 8–12
  • Hawke – boys' boarding Years 8–12
  • Collingwood – boys' boarding Years 8–12
  • Drake – co-educational day Year 8–12
  • Howe – girls' boarding Years 8–12
  • Anson – girls' boarding Years 8–12
  • Hood – girls' boarding Years 8–12
  • Raleigh – co-educational day Years 8–12
  • Cornwallis – co-educational day Years 8–12
  • Nelson – co-educational boarding and day Year 13



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.[citation needed]

The main sports at the school are as follows:

  • Michaelmas Term: Boys – rugby union and sailing, Girls – hockey and sailing
  • Lent Term: Boys – hockey, cross country, rugby 7s and sailing, Girls – netball, cross country and sailing
  • Summer Term: Boys – cricket, athletics, tennis and sailing, Girls – cricket, tennis, athletics and sailing

The school has 96 acres of sports fields, an all-weather pitch, tennis and netball courts, squash courts, a sports hall, fitness suite, strength and conditioning room, martial arts studio, climbing wall, indoor pool, golf course, nearby equestrian facilities (Bylam Livery Stables) and the majority of the sailing programme is delivered at Alton Water that neighbours the school.[citation needed]

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,[36] 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 Australia in 2017 and Greece in 2015.[citation needed]

Royal Hospital School Association


The Royal Hospital School Association (RHSA) is a collective of alumni and former staff from the Royal Hospital School. Initially established in 1925 as the Greenwich Royal Hospital School Old Boys Association, it adopted its current name in 1992 to inclusively represent both male and female former students. The association regularly connects its members and keeps them informed about recent developments and events through its newsletter, Otia Tuta, which is published on an irregular basis.[37]

The association holds an annual reunion at the school in June.[citation needed]

Notable former pupils


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].[39]
  • The Revd George Fisher, 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.
  • T/Sub-Lieut.John Herbert Babington, GC, OBE, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. Awarded George Cross for bomb disposal work 27 December 1940. Headmaster 1951–1955.
  • Andrew Doyle, Comedian and contributor to GB News. English teacher and tutor in Collingwood House
  • Simon Warr, television and radio presenter. French and Latin master, also managed the school plays and Football and Rugby teams

See also



  1. ^ "The Cradle of the Navy". Archived from the original on 23 January 2005. Retrieved 8 May 2008.
  2. ^ "Greenwich Hospital Act 1865". Archived from the original on 15 February 2009. Retrieved 27 February 2015.
  3. ^ "Home - Royal Hospital School". 22 June 2024. Retrieved 15 June 2024.
  4. ^ "OUR HERITAGE - Royal Hospital School". Retrieved 15 June 2024.
  5. ^ a b c "Greenwich Royal Hospital School 1". Retrieved 20 March 2024.
  6. ^ "NEWS ARCHIVE - Royal Hospital School". Retrieved 30 June 2024.
  7. ^ "Schools Directory | Page 7". The Heads' Conference. Retrieved 25 June 2024.
  8. ^ "Admissions – Awards and Bursaries". Royal Hospital School. Retrieved 26 June 2024.
  9. ^ "OUTDOOR EDUCATION – The Royal Hospital School". Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  10. ^ "HMS Illustrious". Archived from the original on 19 December 2010. Retrieved 13 January 2011.
  11. ^ [1] Archived 5 March 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ "Greenwich Hospital School: A Brief History of The Royal Hospital School". Mariners. 5 March 2003. Retrieved 9 February 2009.
  13. ^ "Boarding Options". Royal Hospital School. Retrieved 26 June 2024.
  14. ^ F., Coby (April 2024). "Royal Hospital School". Country & Town House. Archived from the original on 26 June 2024. Retrieved 26 June 2024.
  15. ^ a b "Houses". Royal Hospital School. Archived from the original on 26 June 2024. Retrieved 26 June 2024.
  16. ^ "Royal Hospital School". Department for Education UK – Get Information About Schools (GIAS) Database. Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 26 June 2024.
  17. ^ "International Admissions". The Royal Hospital School. Archived from the original on 26 June 2024. Retrieved 26 June 2024.
  18. ^ "Academics – Additional Support". The Royal Hospital School. Archived from the original on 26 June 2024. Retrieved 26 June 2024.
  19. ^ "SCHOOL CURRICULUM – The Royal Hospital School". Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  20. ^ "SCHOOL CURRICULUM - Royal Hospital School". 20 May 2024.
  21. ^ "Outdoor Education - CCF and DofE". Retrieved 9 November 2023.
  22. ^ "Outdoor Education - CCF and DofE". Retrieved 9 November 2023.
  23. ^ "Outdoor Education - CCF and DofE". Retrieved 9 November 2023.
  24. ^ a b "Greenwich Royal Hospital School 1". Retrieved 27 February 2015.
  25. ^ "Greenwich Palace circa 1650". Archived from the original on 10 October 2006. Retrieved 20 January 2007.
  26. ^ "The Royal Hospital School gallery". Archived from the original on 7 February 2009.
  27. ^ Halpin, Tony (10 November 2005). "Independent schools face huge fines over cartel to fix fees". The Times. London. Retrieved 22 May 2010.
  28. ^ "OFT names further trustees as part of the independent schools settlement". Archived from the original on 10 June 2008. Retrieved 30 August 2011.
  29. ^ "Royal Hospital School | Greenwich Hospital". Retrieved 15 June 2024.
  30. ^ [2] Archived 28 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  31. ^ "Dr John Rutter CBE". Archived from the original on 20 July 2011. Retrieved 13 January 2011.
  32. ^ Holst, Imogen. "Children's Voices at the Aldeburgh Festival" from Aldeburgh Anthology (ed. Ronald Blythe), 1972: p. 245
  33. ^ "Suffolk Organists' Association : Journal No.116" (PDF). March 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 March 2014. Retrieved 27 February 2015.
  34. ^ "RHS Slang". RHS Bubble. Retrieved 17 November 2023.
  35. ^ Historic England. "Chapel of the Royal Hospital School (Grade II*) (1036873)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 12 June 2014.
  36. ^ "Sailing Department". Retrieved 9 November 2023.
  37. ^ "RHSA Newsletter Spring 2011" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 March 2012. Retrieved 23 July 2011.
  38. ^ "Sir G. T. Gilbert-Carter". Obituaries. The Times. No. 44483. London. 19 January 1927. col B, p. 9.
  39. ^ Riddle, Edward (2 December 2023). A Treatise On Navigation, And Nautical Astronomy: Adapted To Practice, And To The Purposes Of Elementary Instruction. Retrieved 9 November 2023.

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.

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