Turbulent times at Southampton

In 1823, the girls of the RMA, Chelsea, were moved to Southampton to form a separate branch of the Asylum exclusive to girls. Lt. Col. George Evatt was appointed commandant of Southampton and directed to report to Lt. Col. James Williamson at Chelsea.

The Southampton Branch occupied the former cavalry Barracks as they appeared in this 19th century photograph. To reduce operating costs of branches beyond Chelsea, the Infants branch begun by General Sir George Hewitt at Noke's Farm on the IOW was transferred to Southampton.

Male infants were transferred to Chelsea when they reached six years of age at which time they would still need the care of nurses who were therefore still employed on the staff of Chelsea. Under General George Hewitt and, later, the Board of Commissioners, the IOW orphanage accepted infant orphans as young as six months.

Southampton Commandant Evatt managed the female branch with a degree of autonomy, but with strict financial and disciplinary oversight from Chelsea.

Reproduced by kind permission of the Ordnance Survey © Crown Copyright

The Royal Military Asylum established in Southampton for the daughters
of soldiers in a building known as the Cavalry Barracks

In a letter dated in the year 1835 there is mention that it costs £10 per annum to keep a child at the RMA at age 13 to 14. For example, apprenticing Miss Rachael Corrigan of the Southampton Branch cost 4 x £15 + 4 * £5 and then + £5.5.0 for a total of £70.5/-. This was a considerable sum at a time when agricultural labourers, shepherds and farm servants were paid £5 per year in the 1830s and still had to find their own board and lodgings.

Following is a selection of letters exchanged in the business of the combined Southampton and Infants establishment when under the management of Lt. Col. Evatt of Southampton, beginning with the indentured apprenticeship of Miss Corrigan.


19th Jan 1832


With reference to your letter of the 15th August 1830. I have the honour to inform you that the Matron has selected Mrs Smith of this town (Southampton), a Mantua maker and a proper person to receive Rachael Corrigan as an apprentice, and that a fee of £15 per annum is the sum required for instruction, Board and lodging for the period of 4 years, there will also be required about £5 per annum for clothing.

The money part of the agreement, I can have nothing to do with as Commandant, as it must be arranged by the Trustees, but at the same time, I have no objection to forward  their [xxxxx undecipherable] where I am be serviceable.

I received the accompanying letter this morning from Major General Dalbraic

Geo Evatt


6 January 1832
Lt Col Williamson


I am sorry to report that I have been obliged to discharge Sergeant Sime, whose  conduct to me has been such as to demand the interference of some superior power to deter others from committing a similar offence.

When the enquiries were sent respecting  the duties of the Orderly Sergeant, and other members of the establishment, it struck me that similar enquiries may be made respecting the duties of the Hospital Sergeant and as I could not state in his favour any more than the common duties of the Hospital Sergeant, which are of course few from reduced numbers. I thought it right that he should take a part time (task) carrying on the duties performed by the Orderly Sergeant, those of instructing the Children in writing and ciphering, which was formerly done by the Hospital steward. The arrangement was put to Dr. Hennen, (he) made no objections, and I concluded that the arrangement was to go on.

On Monday last when Sergeant Sime was to commence those duties, Dr Hennen informed me that Sergeant Sime would not perform them, and would resign his situation, to which I could have no objection, but gave him 24 hours to reflect before I would accept his resignation.

On Tuesday he came to me, on the Parade, whilst I was in conversation with Dr Hennen, and desired that a person might be sent to take charge of the Hospital Furniture account, and added that he, Sergeant Sime, would expose me to every General Officer in the Army. Upon which I desired the Porter Sergeant  to be ready to receive the Hospital Furniture at 3 o' the clock pm.  It was the day of payment which prevented the Quartermaster Sergeant from attending at an earlier hour as I had then determined to discharge him, in consequence of his conduct on parade.

I enclose the statements of Dr Hennen and the Quartermaster Sergeant on the subject.

On Wednesday Sergeant Sime attacked me in the Street in the most abusive manner, and stopped many persons to say everything degrading concerning me, both as an officer and a gentleman, and followed me into the Asylum, and continued his abuse and threatening language, on which I ordered the Sergeants present to turn him out, since which I have not seen him.

Geo Evatt


8 January 1832

PS Since the above letter was written, I have received the accompanying letter from Sergeant Sime. If the Commissioners require any explanation of the charges therein contained, I can give them that, which I trust will prove satisfactory to them.

Commissioners remarks

His explanation is satisfactory, and the Commissioners only regret is that Lt Colonel Evatt did not take this abusive man before the Magistrates and prosecute him for his bad conduct in the street.

If wants be right for Lt Colonel Evatt, to give every explanation relative to the abusive communication which this man has preferred on his being turned away, and not before


21 January 1832

Lt Colonel Williamson.


With reference to the observations of the Commissioners on my report of the 8th inst. respecting the charges implied in Sergeant Simes’s letter of the 5th inst. I have the honour to state that the money drawn from the private fund was in obedience to the minutes and warrants of the Commissioners, £39.7.6 under the dates of 15 July 1824, the 14 April and 15 July 1825, and for the purposes therein stated.

As to that part of the letter, of my having removed a mistress from her room, for the sleeping in it, was not the case, but I had a bed put up in a dormitory next to the mistress’s room, and where apart from my furniture was placed whilst my apartments were painting, and where I slept occasionally, and transacted business, when my family were lodging or with their friends. But, when the painting was finished

[1st & 2nd line missing]

My family and myself might eat in hers, as we could not make use of our own from the smell of paint, and whilst the furniture was removing back to its place. I paid the money charged and have the receipts for it.

As to Dr Hennen sleeping in the hospital, that he did by my desire, as I considered it necessary that he should be near his duty, as well as that an officer he should be on the spot during my occasional absence with my family.

Dr Hennen had a lodging not 500 yards from the asylum for his family, and where he lived. Nor was this done with any other view, than for the good of the public. In my own case particularly, I found that the work did not go on as it ought in my absence, and that my presence was absolutely necessary to have the work completed in a proper time, but I could not live in my apartments whilst they were painting papering & etc. and yet it was necessary that my family should have lodgings.

I beg leave to also state that I did apply to a Magistrate to know if I could be protected from insult such as stated in my report of the 6th instant, but I was informed that I could not unless I was afraid of Sergeant Sims, this I could not make up my mind to acknowledge.

Geo Evatt

The whole of this explanation appears to the commissioners to being satisfactory.


21 January 1832

Sewell & Kearn


I am directed by the Commissioners of this establishment to call in your aid in arranging an apartment to be made for the Asylum, taking part in the common Sewer to which the enclosed letter and resolutions of the Committee for carrying the work into effect relate and which must be done without delay, as the commencement of the work now only awaits for this decision. I have therefore to request that will fix an early day for the purpose and communicate with Mr Beven on the subject, as I wish him to be present on the part of the government.

I give this notice through you that that will arrange with him on what day in the next week e can meet you and  of which you will suppose to acquaint me. That I may give the parties here, due notice accordingly

Geo Evatt


19 March 1832

Lt Col Williamson

Dear Sir,
The money for the payment of the bills this quarter may be sent in any way you find most convenient, if in Bank Post Bills, let there be one for £370 and one for £500. There will be something to pay for clothing of the Non-commissioned Officers, but I have not yet received the charge from the Ordnance Office.

I am glad that the commissioners are satisfied with my explanations on Sgt Sime’s letter which has not been returned, but I do feel that some punishment should follow outrages of this sort. I think the Officers of the Asylum, are the only ones where there is power in the Commandant to punish offenders, more than dismissal.

The Warrant regulating the Pensions of Soldiers has provided in some measure for the punishment of those who conduct themselves improperly, and I cannot see why it should not be extended to the Asylum. Not that I wish it in the present instance, but that it should be understood by those employed in the Asylum, that they were subject to the punishment of the loss of pension, for improper conduct.

Geo Evatt