Tuesday 18th Feb 2020

CCF Naval Cadet Museum Session




The Christ’s Hospital museum welcomed 14 naval CCF cadets on 13 February for a learning session about the illustrious history of CH’s Royal Mathematical School.

Starting in Dining Hall, they learned about the Verrio painting which commemorates the founding of the RMS in 1673 by Charles II with CH’s second royal charter; and how Isaac Newton, Samuel Pepys, Robert Hooke and Sir John Moore were all involved in the RMS.

It enabled 40 boys a year to have their education funded so they could train in the elements of navigation and ultimately follow careers in the Royal and merchant navies, exploring and navigating the world, discovering new countries and stars, emigrating or being captured by pirates, suffering shipwrecks and even campaigning to abolish the slave trade.

The cadets were surprised to learn that “mathematics” then meant navigation and that it involved lessons in astronomy, geography, geometry, calligraphy and drawing. They looked at the four marine paintings above the pulpit in Dining Hall marking sea battles in the Napoleonic wars of 1804, where our RMS boys fought alongside such heroes as Admiral Nelson. In the Court Room they discovered the portrait of William Wales, Master of the RMS (a title continued today with our Head of Maths!) who famously sailed as Captain James Cook’s astronomer and navigator on the Resolution ship when he made his second expedition (to the Antarctic). Wales taught ST Coleridge, the poet, inspiring him to write the Rime of the Ancient of Mariner.

Back at the museum, the pupils did a quiz on the RMS and handled objects related to naval history dating back to the 1800s. For example, log books hand written by CH pupils not much older than them on their travels to Jamaica, China and America; compasses and pocket watch prizes; sextant; badges, paintings; how Queen Victoria judged their drawings and gave out prizes to the best.

They were surprised to learn that CH had donated money to sponsor a dog (called Bluecoat!), a pony and a sledge for Captain Robert Scott’s expedition to the South Pole in 1912; that other pupils had links to finding David Livingstone in Africa; and that past pupils were signed up to sail on the famous Cutty Sark ship – an historic Tea Clipper now dry-docked as a heritage attraction at Greenwich, London.)