Royal Caledonian Asylum

The Caledonian Asylum was established in 1815, initially to provide support for Scottish children orphaned in the Napoleonic Wars which ended in that year. The charity subsequently broadened its remit and its object was later stated as being "the support and education of the children of soldiers, sailors, and marines, natives of Scotland, who have died or been disabled in the service of their country; and also the children of indigent and deserving Scotch parents resident in London, upon whom poverty has fallen or by whose death they have been left unbefriended and helpless orphans."

From 1819 until 1828, the Asylum occupied premises at 16 Cross Street, Hatton Garden. It then moved to new purpose-built accommodation at Copenhagen Fields, Islington, on what is now the Caledonian Road, immediately to the north of what later became the Pentonville prison site. The Asylum could now occupy around 120 boys and girls. The building had an entrance and board-room at its centre, with a boys' school-room and dining-room at the left; at the right were similar facilities for the girls, with the addition of a play-room. Large boys' and girls' playgrounds lay at the rear of the building. At the far end of the boys' playground were an exercise shed and a band room where the boys' pipe band practised. The band occasionally gave performances at charitable and other events.

Royal Caledonian Asylum, Islington, 1828.

When Queen Victoria became patron of the establishment in 1852, it was renamed the Royal Caledonian Schools.

Children at Royal Caledonian Asylum, Islington, 1858.

By the end of the 19th century, the location of the Schools was becoming increasingly unsuitable and in 1902, a move was made to new purpose-built premises at Aldenham Road, Bushey, Hertfordshire. The new building was designed by William Emerson. At its centre was the main entrance hall with a concert hall behind. Girls were housed at the left of the building and boys at the right, with classrooms at each side of the centre and dormitories in the cross wings at each end. Other facilities included a swimming pool at the rear of the main building. The plans made provison for future extensions when funds allowed.

Royal Caledonian School, Bushey, c.1905. © Peter Higginbotham

Royal Caledonian School, Bushey, early 1900s. © Peter Higginbotham

Royal Caledonian School, Bushey, c.1902.

The majority of pupils at Bushey still came from military families, with one or both parents serving in the armed forces. After 1948, children continued to board at the school but were educated at local state schools.

Royal Caledonian School Pipe Band, Bushey, c.1905. © Peter Higginbotham

In 1995, the Directors of the charity decided that its aims would now be better met by its becoming a grant-making body. The Bushey site was then sold off and the proceeds used to fund educational grants.

In 2012, the charity was renamed the Royal Caledonian Education Trust, still supporting the educational needs of the children of Scots who are serving, or who have served, in the armed forces.

The Royal Caledonian's Islington building was replaced by the flats of the Caledonian Estate. Its Bushey premises are now home to the Purcell School for Young Musicians.


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  • None noted at present.