Friday, 17 August 2018

Raleigh far and wide: The Royal Hospital School, Suffolk


The Royal Hospital School, proud of its Raleigh House

Not surprisingly Sir Walter’s name is remembered in his home territory of East Devon.

On street signs such as this one in Budleigh Salterton there does seem to have been an attempt at a standard spelling of Sir Walter's surname. Not that he would care one way or the other.

I thought I’d look further afield to find out how he’s remembered. This is the first in a series of blog posts which looks at places where his name has been used. So how have they remembered him and what will they be doing in 2018 to mark the 400th anniversary of his death?

After more than 30 years in teaching I concluded that instilling a sense of adventure was one of the most important elements of any education system. I was keen to find out more about schools which use the name of one of Britain’s great adventurers.

I’ve never visited The Royal Hospital School in Suffolk, and knew very little about it until Google led me to discover its Raleigh House.  The School’s website told me that it was an 18th century foundation, part of Greenwich Hospital in London.

Originally located in the spectacular buildings which now house the National Maritime Museum – which I must visit one day – it was a 'charitable institution for the aged, infirm or young', and was established to provide boys from seafaring backgrounds with the rare privilege of learning arithmetic and navigation.

The School’s Head of Ceremonial, retired naval officer Lt Cdr Nigel Griffiths QGM, was clearly delighted to learn that we were remembering Raleigh in the great Elizabethan’s home county of Devon.

‘I was not aware this year was the 400th Anniversary and we had no plans to celebrate at the Royal Hospital School,’ he confessed.  ‘However, now this has been brought to our attention I will investigate how we can celebrate this momentous occasion of such a prolific English Adventurer.’

Set in 200 acres of Suffolk countryside the Royal Hospital School overlooks the Stour Estuary 

I learnt that The Royal Hospital School was founded in 1712 to ‘improve navigation’ through education and, as it prepared boys for a life at sea, many went on to become explorers and pioneers of their time. ‘Discovery, exploration and challenge have been the bedrock of our education for over 300 years and continue to shape our ethos,’ is the School's proud boast.

A strong naval tradition is maintained at the Royal Hospital School

Today, as its website reads, the School ‘provides an outstanding, full and broad education fit for the modern world and enriched by this unique naval heritage.’

A visit from HRH Prince Andrew in 2011

The House system is at the heart of school life at the Royal Hospital School, and its eleven Houses are named after celebrated British seafarers. Raleigh House - official motto: ‘Work hard: play hard’ - was re-opened in September 2010 as the Royal Hospital School’s first co-educational day house.

‘The staff of Raleigh House and I are keen to be involved in celebrating Sir Walter’s life,’ Nigel Griffiths told me. ‘I would be honoured if we could be considered for an invitation to the commemorative service at St Margaret’s Church, Westminster.’

You can find out more about the School at

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