Peter: I am writing in the hope that you can help me further my research into my great great grandfather who was an army schoolmaster and my g g grandmother who was an army schoolmistress. This is the information I have;
Amos Herbert Parsons, born about 1827, Little Snoring, Norfolk
1841 - Pupil Teacher, Normal School, Battersea
1851 - Student in the school for training regimental schoolmasters, RMA froom the archives at Kew; he was mentioned in a letter as one of only 5 candidates for the 16 vacancies at RMA; He must have started sometime between Jan and March 1950 because although there was no date of admission the previous entry was Jan 28 1850 and the next March 20 1850; I discovered his report e.g. Scrip History - fair, Ancient History - meagre Eng History - good.....
1852 - married Isabella Hawes, residing Glasgow, Normal Schoolmaster [nine children listed]
1861 - could not find on the census
1871 - District Camp (1), Cheriton, Kent; Amos schoolmaster (soldier), Isabella schoolmistress
1874 - 4/12 recommended for Good Conduct Medal, Coldstream Regiment of Foot Guards 2nd Battn. Rank Army Schoolmaster (from archives at Kew)
1881 - schoolmaster, boarder, 13 Rectory Road, Dicklebury, Norfolk
1891 - aged 64, retired army schoolmaster, Isabella retired army schoolmistress
1894 - on son's marriage certificate, Inspector of Army Schools
I need his regiment or service number to find out more information. Do you know if army schoolmasters changed regiments frequently? I tried to work out the regiment from where the children were born but nothing fits. I could not find any information at Kew on which regiment he joined first. Does being in Glasgow suggest anything? Do you have any suggestions? Would Isabella have a service number if she was an army schoolmistress? I am also especially interested in information about the army in Bermuda as Charles, born in Bermuda, is my g-grandfather. Finally do you know anything about Army School Inspectors?
9 June 2008
Geraldine: Thanks for the contact re the schoolmasters, they are proving extremely rare. Before 1849, regimental schoolmasters were sent to the RMA for a training course lasting several weeks, returning to their Regiment to teach the soldiers. In 1849, the first training course for future Army schoolmasters began at the Normal School, RMA. Details of the students are entered in WO143/49. This is possibly the source you quote. Could you please let me have the reference of the letter.
There were three stages of training at the Normal School, each of two years: 1, Monitor; 2, Assistant schoolmaster, posted to a school and under the direct supervision of a schoolmaster; 3, Returning to the RMA as a Student Schoolmaster. On completing the 2 years training, he enlisted into the Corps of Army Schoolmasters and was posted to a Regimental School, Garrison School etc. Unfortunately, Amos slips into an unrecorded period. As his entry is towards the end of this ledger, and undated, an assumption that he was there in 1851 + two years training = 1853. Dates of completion seem to favour July Aug and Sept. The next ledger in sequence is WO143/47. A Normal School Letter Book. started 07/10/1853. He is not entered into this ledger. I consider that many entries are missing, a sort of hit and miss affair, but a useful addition to the ledger are the reports of the Punishment ledger, Names do appear in this that do not appear in the actual letters; therefore, the trail at the RMA is cold. A further source is the Adjutant General Corps Museum's Data Base, This has but one PARSONS A E, but not your Amos. The next step is finding his attestation papers for the period 1850-1853. Copies of these are held at the National Archives, Kew.
I am also passing you over to my research partner in Canada, he will fill in the missing detail re Inspector of Army Schools. I am quite sure that this position was carried out by a Commissioned Office rather that a Warrant Office. If I am right, then discovering additional detail may prove easier. I also have a ref for the 1881 census for an Isabella PARSONS, a Schoolteacher born 1833 Schoolteacher at 8 MASWELL could be MUSWELL Park. Isleworth. As Amos is noted as being a boarder in Norfolk, was he out and about on his duties as Inspector of Army Schools? Please keep us informed of your progress, and I will see If I can discover any other details.
10 June 2008
Hello: I've used your RMA and RHMS websites several times and am pleased to have just found your webpage on 'Schoolmaster Training at the RMA Normal School, Chelsea'. I have William Basil ALDWELL in my family tree. He was born 21 Oct 1844 in the Cavalry Barracks, Hulme, Manchester (his father John ALDWELL was in the 5th Dragoon Guards) and is in your list of the RHMS in 1854. In the 1861 Census he's a 'Monitor of Classes' at the RMA. He had become an Army Schoolmaster in the 39th Regiment by the time of his marriage to Amelia CEMERY on 24 Sep 1869, since he is given as such on the marriage certificate. I assume he went with the 39th to India when they were posted there in October 1869. Children were born in India in 1872, 1875, 1877 and 1879. He must have died in India around 1879-80 since Amelia married again in 1881 (also in India); however, I have not yet found a record of his death.
I was interested to see the catalogue of his misdemeanours in your 'Normal School Offences' document! Amelia's first son was born in August 1869. Her younger brother John Benjamin CEMERY was also at the RMA, but was not an Army Schoolmaster as far as I know. Their father Benjamin CEMERY had served in the Scots Fusilier Guards, dying in 1862. He was my g.g.grandfather (I'm descended from Amelia's and John's sister Phoebe Martha CEMERY). Incidentally, James Robert PITHER, also on your list, married WBA's elder sister Anne ALDWELL. He also became an Army Schoolmaster -
11 June 2008
David: Thank you for details of your family history. It is a letter I've waited a long time for. Despite the No. of Army Schoolmasters that passed through the RMA, yours is the first that has so much detail, sufficient for a follow-up and, hopefully, an item for our RMA History site. I'll pass on the details to Art Cockerill, who might want to write a mini bio on him. If it is at all possible, copies of any photos memorabilia etc re the family and the CASM, would be of immense help in the construction of the bio. This will remain under your control, no publication on the web without your approval. Meanwhile, I will scour the two letter books I have for all details re WBA, and the RHMS ledgers for his father.
11 June 2008
Peter: Thanks for your quick reply. I'm afraid I don't have any memorabilia or photos on WBA or the CASM. It was interesting to see him referred to as "B Aldwell", which suggests he was known as Basil rather than William. (Basil was a very popular name in the Aldwell family.) I've checked the 1881 England census - James Robert Pither is in Alverstoke, Hampshire. His occupation is given as 'Schoolmaster, 59th Regiment'. His wife Anne (nee Aldwell) is there together with their 8 children, some born in India. There's a wonderful picture of Anne and the children (plus one more, born in 1882) on Patty Pither's website, mentioned in my previous email. Patty may be able to give you more info on JRP's career - she lives in Illinois and her email address is (given).
I'd be delighted if you could find any more info on the Aldwells or Cemerys. I know that WBA's father John later became a warder in the Arbor Hill Military Prison in Dublin, and seems to have been active in local politics. He died in 1870. Another son, Thomas Heron Aldwell, became a clergyman. My California contact gave me a lengthy (and possibly somewhat inaccurate!) Aldwell genealogy, mostly from Ireland, written by one of THA's sons.
Ms Frazer: I am writing at the suggestion of Art Cockerill of Cobourg Ontario Canada, who has forwarded me your correspondence with him on the subject of illustrations for a forthcoming article in the Ancestor magazine on army families during the Napoleonic War. Art has explained that I am writing a history of the Royal Hibernian Military School (RHMS) and its origins in the Hibernian Society for soldiers in Dublin and that I may be able to be of some assistance. Art has already alerted you to one of the widespread and frequently quoted misconceptions about the origins of the RHMS, which I would suggest has implications for the selection of illustrations for the article.
The Hibernian Society for Soldiers' Children was founded by public subscription in the parish of St Paul's Dublin in 1765. It opened its first school in rented accommodation in that parish in the same year and with the assistance of grants from the Crown and the Irish Parliament it erected a hospital for the orphans and children of soldiers in Phoenix [Park, Dublin] to which the children were transferred in 1770. The Hospital subsequently during the 18 century became referred to as the Hibernian School and from 1812 as the Hibernian Military School. The process by which the Hibernian Society and the building and School in Phoenix Park became the Royal Hibernian Military School in 1846 is a somewhat complicated, but there is a short summary in the Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research Spring 2007, Vol. 85, No.341 pp 85-87. (I can send you a copy if it would be useful.)
Now the badge which Art has copied to you does contain the date 1769 but this is the date when the Hibernian Society was first incorporated by Royal Charter. Shortly after it adopted the motto:"Fear God. Honour the King". Art refers to the badge as the school cap badge - but this certainly was not the case for the years 1793-1815 that encompass your article. Until 1848 the School admitted both boys and girls (roughly one girl for every three boys). The boys wore a black leather cap without a badge until the middle years of the 19th C. when this was replaced by a white moleskin cap again without badge and a black cap with ball on top and company and number in brass on the front. These were replaced by the Glengarry cap with short tail ribbon in 1881 - but with the Prince of Wales Plumb (three feathers) as a cap badge. I am not sure whether Art's badge was worn by the boys in the final years of the School - but it certainly was the badge worn by the assistant masters and pupil teachers in the 1870s - but these posts did not exist until after 1846. (see Hibernia - the School's magazine - July 1924 pp166-168.)
In 1808 a decision was taken to change the internal organisation of the School and make it as similar as possible to that of the Royal Military Asylum at Chelsea. This included changing the boys' uniform from blue to red, which was the colour at Chelsea. I have not been able to locate a painting or a detailed description of the boys' and girls' dress during your period but it would have been very similar to that at Chelsea - as depicted in Charles Hamilton Smith's plate of 1812-4, which you are probably using already (if not see Philip. J. Haythornthwaite, Wellington's Army the Uniforms of the British Army 1812-15 (2002) plate 55)
If you use Art's badge, I would not refer to it as a cap badge of the Napoleonic period -- but you could get away with saying it was the RHMS badge and motto that first appeared, to my knowledge, on the initial stand of Colours that was presented to the RHMS by Edward Prince of Wales in September 1853 (they hang today in the chapel of the DYRMS Dover). It was subsequently used on the Hibernian School's letter headings and other printed material (I own an original metal embossed wooden block used for this purpose from which it should be possible to reproduce an image in the original colour used at the school).
I suspect that the badge was taken from the Corporation's Seal which was adopted in 1846 following the grant of the fourth and penultimate Royal Charter - which reincorporated the Hibernian Society as the RHMS. The motto was probably on the Seals adopted under the earlier charters - but I think that the badge became complete after 1846, because the Irish Harp and the Crown is very similar to that of the Royal Irish Constabulary which was founded in 1836.
The etching of the building in Phoenix Park was certainly made after the extensions to the building by the famous Architect Francis Johnson, which were completed around 1812. The new West and East Wings of the building are clearly identified. These extensions enabled the Hibernian Society with the aid of grants made by the UK Parliament under the Irish Civil Estimates to increase the number of children from 260 in 1800 to almost 600 by 1816 (these numbers are taken from the audited accounts of the Hibernian Society presented to the House of Commons). The building on the southern edge of Phoenix Park still exists and is now houses St. Mary's Hospital - I have colour photographs of the building and the Chapel if you are interested.
I have completed first drafts of the chapters on the history of the Hibernian Society and the Hibernian School during the period 1793-1816 and these include material on the particular problems of military families in Ireland during these years - including the movement of units overseas and the absence of a general poor law in Ireland. Unfortunately I am unable to help with any other visual material on your period but I have a good deal on the post 1860 period.
I do apologise for the length of this letter - and if it appears to be somewhat pedantic, but I am now in my fourth year of researching the story of this very unusual and interesting institution (in which my orphaned great grandfather was raised from 1849-1854) as a retirement project and I am especially anxious to ensure that there is an accurate account available for those with a particular historical or family interest.