Royal Caledonian School

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New Caledonian Asylum, 1828.

The Royal Caledonian School was a residential home and school for Scottish orphans, initially in London and subsequently in Bushey, Hertfordshire.


The Caledonian Asylum was launched by members of the Highland Society of London in 1815 to provide a home and education for Scottish children in London who had been orphaned in the Napoleonic Wars. John Galt, the novelist, became secretary to the Asylum in 1815. The first Asylum was at 16 Cross Street,[1] Hatton Garden, London from December 1819 until 1828 when it relocated to Copenhagen Fields, Islington.[2] Its long residence in Islington resulted in the naming of Caledonian Market and the Caledonian Road.[3] In 1852 Queen Victoria became Patron and the Asylum was renamed the Royal Caledonian Schools, although legally it was and still is the "Caledonian Asylum".[3] At that time it catered for about 70 boys and 50 girls.[4] The Asylum's band occasionally played at charitable and other events.[4][5]

Buildings of the former Royal Caledonian School in Bushey, now housing the Purcell School.

By the late 19th century the Islington site, near to Pentonville Prison, was recognised as unsuitable, and a new boarding school was built in Bushey, Hertfordshire, from 1902. The Caledonian Estate was built on the school's site in Caledonian Road. The Royal Caledonian offered education until 1948, after which resident children received their education at local schools, in later years Queens' School which lies adjacent on Aldenham Road.[6]

In 1996 the premises were sold to the Purcell School. The proceeds of the sale were used to create the Royal Caledonian Schools Trust, which continues to provide support to "children (no age limit) of Scots who have served in the Armed Forces, or the children of poor Scots living in the London area". Another objective is to allow the children of Scots serving in the armed forces a level of continuity in their education despite the frequent re-posting of their parents.[7]

Notable alumni (Old Caleys)


  1. Nunn, JB (1987). The Book of Watford. Watford: Pageprint (Watford) Ltd. ISBN 0-9511777-1-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Last night the anniversary dinner of the Caledonian Asylum". The Times. 3 May 1838. p. 6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 Royal Caledonian Schools Trust. "History 1815-1903". Retrieved 2013-01-20.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 Weale, John (1854). The Pictorial Handbook of London. Covent Garden, London: Henry G. Bohn. p. 245. The Royal Caledonian Asylum, Copenhagen Fields, founded 1808, provides in like manner for 72 boys and 47 girls, children of Scotchmen. They are clad in what is called the Highland garb, and have a band of music and some pipers, who occasionally attend charitable festivals.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Lemon, Mark; Mayhew, Henry; Taylor, Tom; Brooks, Shirley; Burnand, Sir Francis Cowley; Seaman, Sir Owen (27 October 1855). "Cant and the Conjuror". Punch. London: Punch Publications Ltd. 28: 155. Retrieved 2008-08-06. MR. PUNCH presents his compliments to the Governors of the Caledonian Asylum, and begs to know what amount of contribution was paid to their funds by the juggler at the Lyceum for the loan of the "fourteen orphans in full Scottish costume," the orphans whose "fathers have recently perished while defending Sebastopol?" Mr. Punch learns from the printed puff, that the juggler himself "who was also attired in the dress of his native land, the MACGREGOR tartan — made a very touching speech concerning them, which enlisted the entire sympathy of the audience." It may be all very proper that these poor children should be occasionally regaled with wine and cakes; but, why for the profit of a juggler, should they — like the animals at the Park — have their feeding time in public ? The conjuror himself only carries out his trade. He, of course, would ply his gilt balls and shuffle his cards for the penny's-worth in a hospital; but Mr. Punch must, in conclusion, put it to the Governors of the Caledonian Asylum, whether they do not, at such a time, betray a sacred trust, when they suffer the orphans of their guardianship to be turned into the ready-money tools of the mountebank?<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Royal Caledonian Schools Trust. "History 1903-1996". Retrieved 2008-06-20.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[dead link]
  7. Royal Caledonian Schools Trust. "Who We Help". Retrieved 2008-06-20.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. American Heritage Dictionary (2004). The Riverside Dictionary of Biography. Houghton Mifflin Reference Books. p. 785. ISBN 978-0-618-49337-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links