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1801-1901 Centenary celebration

The year 2003 was designated to celebrated the school's bicentenary year with a set programme of events. activities and production of commemorative memorabilia that lasted the entire year. The original charter granted for the creation and foundation of the Royal Military Asylum, a programme headed by Frederick Duke of York and Albany in 1801. The year 1803 was when the Asylum opened its doors to the first intake of orphans brought to to Chelsea from the Isle of Wight by Major General George E. B. Hewett with the assistance of one Nurse Bold and a sergeant. Hewett had operated a privately-financed orphanage at Noke Noke Farm on the northern edge of Parkhurst Forest, on the Isle of Wight, which opened about 1798 for the orphans of military units of the IOW garrison.

There is some question as to the correct year chosen to celebrate the bicentenary year of the school's foundation. Was it 2003 or should it have been 2001. That 1901 was chosen for the centenary year celebration is sufficient evidence that the hundred year intervals 1901, 2001, 2101 etc. is in the souvenir albums published for the 1901 centenary.


Front covers of the two centenary albums of views
published for the 1901 anniversary year of the school's foundation

Some might argue that 'the foundation of' and 'the opening of' are not the same thing, yet consistency would have served the military heritage of the school had the same sequential year been chosen for the bicentenary. This is a small point, but one worth considering for when the tercentenary year rolls around. Not many of us expect to be around when that occurs. Nevertheless, one or more of the present youngest generation might make it. If they do they might exercise what little influence they're able to exert on the tercentenary celebrations committee to get it right next time. Dismiss this as mere quibbling as one might wish, but in matters of historical importance opinion should not replace fact.

Following are some of the black and white images published between the covers of the centenary volume shown above. At the turn of the century, the school knew of the now famous painting Sons of the Brave by Philip R. Morris, by then the property of the City of Leeds Art Gallery (see 1880 Morris's painting). They also had a recently-composed march Sons of the Brave, thanks to Charles Bidgood (see 1898 Bidgood's March). By the close of the centenary year, the school had its own hymn, 'Oh Lord! Thy banner floateth 'oer us...'. The school song 'Play Up Dukies' was still some years away; it was written on the eve of the First World War by Commandant Colonel George Nugent, who returned to active duty in 1914, commanded the 141st Infantry Brigade and was killed in action.

A selection of views of school life at the Chelsea school follow, which give some idea of the lives boys led at the turn of the century.

The Album of

The Duke of York's (Chelsea) in 1901

By clicking above Link - see the album of Photos.

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