HC Deb 16 July 1868 vol 193 cc1261-4

rose to move an humble Address to Her Majesty— That She will be graciously pleased to direct that an Institution shall be established to receive and educate the Orphan Daughters of Non-commissioned Officers and Soldiers of our Army. The hon. and gallant Member referred to the Chelsea Asylum, which was established by his Royal Highness the Duke of York in 1801. The rules laid down for the admission of children into that asylum, in accordance with the Royal Warrant of the 26th of April, 1805, were as follows:— In the selection of children preference shall be given in general—first, to orphans; secondly, to those whose fathers have been killed or have died on foreign service; thirdly, to those who have lost their mothers and whose fathers are absent on service abroad; fourthly, to those whose fathers are ordered on foreign service, or whose parents have other children. The next Warrant was that of 1809, which was to the following effect:— Whereas, from the extent of our army and the great proportion thereof usually employed on foreign service, it is become highly expedient to make a further provision for the maintenance and education of distressed children of non-commissioned officers and soldiers belonging to our regular forces, our will and pleasure is that the number to be admitted into our said asylums shall be extended to 792 boys and 348 girls, making in the whole 1,140 children. Now, at that time our army numbered 216,179 men, including, however, a large number of foreign subsidies, while our present force amounted to 204,037. The next Warrant was that of 1811, which said— By his Royal Highness the Prince Regent of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, our will and pleasure is, in the name and on behalf of His Majesty, that the number to be admitted into the said asylum shall be extended to 800 boys and 400 girls, making in all 1,200 children, exclusive of the infant establishment in the Isle of Wight. The question was brought before the House on the 4th of May, 1854, when the late Lord Herbert was Secretary for War. The complaint then made was that 120 orphan boys had been taken from Chelsea Asylum for the purpose of making room for the schoolmasters of the army, and the moment the House of Commons became aware that the fact was so he ordered the schoolmasters to be removed and the 120 boys restored to the asylum. He would read an extract from the speech which was made on that occasion by Lord Herbert. He said— About 350 children were now received within the walls of the asylum; while at a former period, when there was also a similar establishment at Southampton, it had accommodated 1,222. It had, however, been found, both here and at Greenwich, that the experiment of educating a large number of girls together had proved a complete failure, so far as regarded their future course of life. The experiment had consequently been abandoned, and he should feel great hesitation in renewing it. With regard to boys, the case was different."—(3 Hansard, cxxxii. 1280.] The answer which he had returned at the time to that statement was that he was not aware that soldiers' daughters were more likely to turn out ill-conducted in after-life than any other portion of Her Majesty's subjects, and that if they had turned out badly it must be owing to the grossest negligence on the part of those who had charge of them. Now, what he had then said he believed to be perfectly true, and he had himself for many years been a subscriber to an asylum the success of which corroborated that view, although his attention had never been sufficiently directed to the admirable manner in which it worked until this year. The establishment to which he referred was called the Soldiers' Daughters' Home. It was instituted in 1855 by Major the Hon. Powys Keck, at the termination of the Crimean war. General Boileau was Chairman of the Committee, 460 had been admitted; 176 were now in the house, and 146 had been placed in domestic service. A prize was given to girls who remained two years in the same situation; ninety-two entered service prior to 1866, of whom forty-seven, or nearly one in every two, have had prizes. Girls who had left the asylum since 1866 were not yet eligible to receive the prize. Besides the girls placed in service three had been trained as schoolmistresses, and two obtained Queen's Scholarships by competition. It was supported by voluntary contributions, and there were thirteen endowed scholarships—eight of the Royal Artillery Crimean Fund, two of the Crimean Endowment Fund, and three of the Havelock Memorial Fund, for one girl each from the 5th, 64th, and 84th Regiments. The first two were perpetual; the third expired in 1882. Was not the success of the Establishment, as shown by those figures, a proof, he would ask, of the justice of his reply to the statement of Lord Herbert that if the girls had turned out badly under the charge of the Government it was owing to some negligence on the part of those whose duty it was to look after them? He hoped that under these circumstances his right hon. Friend at the head of the War Department would be disposed to view the Motion which he was about to make with favour. Some time must of course elapse before the institution required could be satisfactorily established; but might it not, in the meantime, be possible to grant a sum of money to such an institution as that which he had just mentioned on the understanding that it should receive a certain number of children until another asylum for them could be provided? There were a great number of vacancies in the institution, because its funds did not permit of the admission of more girls. There was an amount of £29,000 of prize money Arising from the Crimean War which had not been distributed to the troops owing to the smallness of the sum; but it was as much their right as their pay, and he would suggest that part of this sum might be granted to this institution.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will be graciously pleased to direct that an Institution shall be established to receive and educate the Orphan Daughters of Non-commissioned Officers and Soldiers of our Army,"—(Colonel North.) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question.


said, he fully appreciated the excellent motives which induced the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel North) to make the present proposal; but he appeared to have forgotten the establishment at Wandsworth, in full operation under the Patriotic Fund Commissioners. Past experience threw doubts on the success of such experiments; but he had reason to suppose that the establishment at Hampstead was successful, and he believed also that the one at Wandsworth would prove successful. The Duke of York's School, which was removed to Southampton, was afterwards broken up, in consequence of the girls from it turning out badly; and they had similar experience in reference to a similar establishment in Ireland. In the establishment at Wandsworth 300 orphan daughters of soldiers and sailors were carefully brought up. Of course, the children of those engaged in the Crimean War had the first chance of admission; but their number was being rapidly diminished by the course of time, and he thought that the House, before acceding to the present Motion, had better wait to see whether the hopes entertained with regard to the two establishments he had just mentioned were confirmed before proceeding to further experiments.


said, he thought the Patriotic Fund had the best title to State assistance, and the Commissioners would be glad to extend their operations if possible.

An hon. MEMBER said, that there was a remarkably well-conducted institution for the orphan daughters of soldiers near Dublin, and he thought, if funds were given to such establishments by the Government, it would have a fair claim for assistance.


said, he would withdraw his Motion.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.