Academies Burney and Westons

Barry is doing a little family history and writes with a question that is probably a bit beyond me – though I’ll bet it’s not beyond a few of you…

He is mainly concerned with the “Royal Hospital School, as I had four 19thC ancestors go there (with families living for many years in the Walnut Tree Road collection of streets).

I am trying to pinpoint two related institutions to the School – the Burney Academy in or close to Burney Street, and Weston’s Academy on or about the School’s infirmary facing King William Street.”

The Phantom is stumped on this one – apart from what I assume you mean is the Dreadnaught Hospital which is on King William Walk and which is now the library of the University of Greenwich, if memory serves me right (and which is open on Open House Weekend this year if you’re interested…)

And that’s one of the problems with living in a place that is dripping with royal connections, monuments of national (and international) importance and glorious, glamorous history. The ‘ordinary’ story of everyday folk seems to get lost in between the floorboards of sumptuous tales involving kings and queens, famous people, influential events and naval heroes.

Where other towns would carefully preserve the day to day life of ordinary buildings, we have such a plethora of grandness that we take for granted – and happily forget – a part of our history that is just as valid.

Looking at my bookshelves I have umpteen volumes about Greenwich’s pomp and grandeur; just a few books (mainly out of print) about what the rest of us would have been doing – and let’s face it – most of us would have been looking to the docks for our livings. Mary Mills especially has made several very decent fists at charting the industrial history of our town and there are other even more obscure books (someone very kindly copied a book for me by Barbara Ludlow – long out of print – for which I am very grateful indeed) but, perhaps understandably, most people choose to look at our gilded history rather than our rusted one…

The Heritage Centre in Woolwich goes some way to helping, but space is increasingly tight (whenever I go there it’s absolutely heaving with family history researchers) and although they do document the lives of ordinary people, the focus is on the arsenal, given its location.

I guess what I’m saying, Barry, in a very roundabout way, is that I haven’t got a clue. But I’ll betcha someone here does.


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