Historical Pensions Part 2- Greenwich Pensions

Greenwich Hospital operated from 1692 to 1869. It was built on the instructions of Queen Mary II and designed by John Webb. Right from the start, there was a bit of controversy surrounding the hospital as it blocked the view of the Riverside from the Queen’s House. So, the building was split in two so that the view from the Queen’s House remained.

Greenwich Hospital London-
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Pensioners were first admitted to the Hospital in 1705 and later the pensions of the Chatham Chest were transferred to the Greenwich Hospital to be maintained as outpatients of the hospital. As well as the hospital and administering the Greenwich pensions the hospital also had a school opened up in the grounds. The school was to educate the orphans of seafarers of both the Royal Navy and the Merchant Navy.

As many sailors, over the years, died at the hospital some of the grounds were given over to a cemetery. The hospital was closed in 1869 and a few years later in 1875 all soldiers who had been interred at the hospital were moved and reinterred in Pleasuance Park.

Pensioners who lived at Greenwich were given a blue uniform and a tricorn hat. However, if any of the mariners did anything that was against the rules they were given a yellow coat to wear. While wearing the yellow coat they were required to do menial tasks around the hospital. The bright colour of the coats led to the nickname- the canaries. Continued poor behaviour could result in expulsion from the hospital, like the mariner who sired nine illegitimate children while a resident.

A Greenwich Pensioner with a wooden leg, standing in a lands

Accommodation at the hospital was basic but good quality. It was certainly better than many of the sailors would be able to pay for anywhere else. However, this did not ensure the behaviour of the pensioners. The poor behaviour and the blue uniform resulted in the pensioners being given the nickname the ‘Greenwich Geese’.

I have two ancestors who received Greenwich pensions.

George Lockwood- Greenwich Pensioner

In the 1841 census, a 16-year-old George Lockwood was found at Greenwich with a lot of pensioners in their 40-60’s. Even though he was there in the census with a bunch of pensioners it didn’t at first cross my mind that George Lockwood was a pensioner himself. My 21st-century brain wasn’t really on-board with a 16-year-old boy being a pensioner. I think my assumption was that George was working at the hospital, particularly as I knew that later he worked as a barber.

Class: HO107; Piece: 489; Book: 17; Civil Parish: Greenwich; County: Kent; Enumeration District: Greenwich Royal Hospital For Seamen; Folio: 13; Page: 5; Line: 1; GSU roll: 306881

Once I started to do some research into the Greenwich Hospital I realised that George was probably there due to an injury. So, on researching through the Greenwich Pension records I finally found details about George being admitted to the hospital. These records told me that George had lost his left leg. George had been training and had last served on the William and Mary, a yacht built in 1807 and broken up in 1849.

George remained at the Greenwich Hospital for 6 years from 1841, the year of his injury, until 1847 when he was discharged. During this time George put his time, his youth and his access to a different way of life to use and became a barber. By the next census George was living outside of the hospital with his wife Louisa, he had become a hairdresser a profession that he continued, with some additions, until his death in 1900.

George became a well-loved and respected member of his community as shown by the obituary that I eventually found for him. One that I had struggled to find prior to knowing about George’s life as a pensioner as I had been unable to be sure that I had the correct obituary for George Lockwood.



A remarkable man- a man who, in his time, has played many parts indeed- has just passed away in the person of Mr. George Lockwood of Claremont street Greenwich. Entering the Navy as a boy, he was only 16 when an accident on shipboard in Dublin Bay resulted in the loss of his leg, and he became an inmate of Greenwich Hospital. But although his active connexion with the Navy ceased at so early a period he did as much in his time to deserve the appellation of “handy man” as the handiest of them all. At the hospital he was appointed barber and such an artist did he become with the brush, and so apt with the razor, that it occurred to him that he could earn a living by their means outside the hospital walls, and left the institution on a pension of 14s per week. But a man on his diversity of gifts could not long be content with barbering alone, and Mr. Lockwood soon added to his accomplishments a fair knowledge of simple and ordinary ailments and to his barber’s stock in trade an assortment of drubs. Then he came to vend drapery, then stationary then hardware and shoemaking sundries, and so on, until his establishment became a local Whitley’s, and he himself the recognised authority on all manner of subjects. He was, in a way, the people’s trusted banker too, for during upwards of forty years he was the treasurer of the “Star of Kent” Foresters Court. The inside of his shop in Claremont Street was something of a wonder. There were there, exposed for sale, side by side on the counter and on shelves, cod-liver oil, and corsets, Kentish Mercury’s and cobbler’s wax, sewing cotton and sarsaparilla, paper collars and baby’s comforters, senna and stockings- Mr. Lockwood did a rattling trade in these garments on a Sunday morning at 1 2/3d per pair; who could afford to wash and darn at that price?- corn plasters and jam, tobacco and toffee, neckties and envelopes, boot soles and sausages- goodness knows what else. Standing at his shop door, with his wooden leg peeping from under his white apron, his was the most familiar figure for a wide area, as his personality was the most respected people roundabout had dealings with him from the time their mothers brought them in their arms for advice as to their little ailments, and medicine to cure them and lollipops to keep them good, and that they felt for him real love and held him in genuine respect was proved on Saturday, for when he was borne out in his coffin to be carried to the grave the mourning population of the neighbouring streets, tiny children and old folk stood about the door in ranks scores deep to see the last of their old friend. Mr Lockwood, who was 76 years of age, had in the course of his industrious life amassed a nice little fortune and has appointed as his executors Messrs. Andrew Holmes, of London-street, Greenwich, and W. E. Whitehouse, of Lewisham High-road.

The Kentish Mercury, June 1 1900

FindMyPast The Kentish Mercury, June 1 1900

FindMyPast British Royal Navy & Royal Marines Service And Pension Records, 1704-1919

Greenwich Hospital out-pensioner candidate registers 1737-1859 ADM 6/303, George Lockwood

FindMyPast British Royal Navy & Royal Marines Service And Pension Records, 1704-1919

Entry Book of Pensioners ADM 73/069 George Lockwood

FindMyPast British Royal Navy & Royal Marines Service And Pension Records, 1704-1919 Rough Entry Book of Pensioners ADM 73/060 George Lockwood

Class: HO107; Piece: 489; Book: 17; Civil Parish: Greenwich; County: Kent; Enumeration District: Greenwich Royal Hospital For Seamen; Folio: 13; Page: 5; Line: 3; GSU roll: 306881

Ancestry.com. 1851 England Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2005.

Ancestry.com. 1861 England Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2005.

Ancestry.com. 1871 England Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2004.

Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1881 England Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2004.

Ancestry.com. 1891 England Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2005.

FreeBMD. England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1837-1915 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2006.

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