Army Chapel-Schools



With the threat from Napoleon in Europe, and conflicts in other parts of the world, Britain at the beginning of the 19th Century had an urgent need for men to join the Army, so was not too concerned where they came from.


Considering that recruits included a mixture of agricultural labourers, absconding apprentices, drunkards, criminals, paupers, and men from the very poor areas in Scotland and Ireland, it is not surprising that a large percentage of them were illiterate and  ‘X’ ‘his mark’ appears regularly in records from that time.


The bulk of the population had few opportunities to obtain any education and often by the time that they were six years old many children were needed to work with their parents to bring in a little extra money for the family.


With improvements in the Army’s administration and new tactics on the battlefield, the Army needed its Non-Commissioned Officers to have some basic education, but had no alternative other than to provide it themselves. The soldiers’ children could also be taught so that the Army would have a source of future recruits already able to read and write.


A few isolated examples of Regimental Schools had been established before 1800, but these were due to the efforts of individual Regimental Officers. It was not until 1811 when the Duke of York officially recognised the need for such schools that they became established throughout the British Army. He wrote to the Secretary at War, Viscount Palmerston, on the subject, who issued War Office Circular No.79 on 27th December 1811, which was sent to the Colonel of every regiment.


It ordered them to establish a Regimental School for the instruction of young soldiers and their children. It would be under the supervision of a Sergeant Schoolmaster, who would be a member of the regiment and receive the same pay and allowances as the Paymaster Sergeant. Also, in each barracks a room should be provided to be used as a schoolroom, with an allowance for fuel in the winter months.


This action permitted the Duke of York to issue a General Order to the Army which he did on 1st January 1812. It was clearly stated that the tuition should be given to girls as well as boys, and included the following instructions:


‘....It is extremely essential that children’s minds should be impressed with early habits of order, regularity, and discipline, derived from a well-grounded respect and veneration for the Established religion of the Country. With this view, the Commander-in-Chief directs that the Regimental Schools shall be conduced on Military principles; and that as far as circumstances will permit, their establishment shall be assimilated to that of a Regiment, and formed on a system invented by the Rev. Dr. Bell, which has been adopted with the most complete success at the Royal Military Asylum.’


Selected sergeants were sent to the Royal Military Asylum at Chelsea for training, and by the end of March 1812, eighty-seven had completed the course. They were to teach reading, writing and arithmetic, as well as morality and religion. The Chaplain in each regiment was given the responsibility to supervise the schools and the conduct of the Sergeant Schoolmasters. As an additional aid to help improve the education of soldiers, Libraries and Reading Rooms were set up in the principal barracks at home and abroad. 


Such were the origins of Army education, which it has to be said was available many years ahead of the civilian population in the Great Britain, but remained virtually unchanged for the first thirty odd years. However, the appointment of the Reverend George Robert Gleig, as Principal Chaplain to the Army in 1844 led to a number of major improvements.


Rev G R Gleig (1796-1888) Inspector-General of Army Schools, 1846-1857

A Scotsman born in 1796, the son of the Reverend George Gleig, he went to Oxford University in 1811, but after a short time quit the University and joined the Army. He saw much action with the 85th infantry regiment during the Peninsular War and in America, being wounded on several occasions. He left the Army in January 1816, went back to Oxford to complete his studies and took Holy Orders, being ordained in 1820.  


Having witnessed fighting in the front line as an 18-year-old officer, he possessed first hand knowledge of the conditions endured by the ordinary army private and did his best to improve their general welfare, but was convinced that education was the most important step to their advancement. Gleig held the opinion that the educational standards provided by the military schools were not good enough and he set out to change them for the better.


One result was a Royal Warrant dated 2nd July 1846, authorising the formation of the Corps of Army Schoolmasters, and another brought into being ‘Normal’ Schools for the training of teachers, and ‘Model’ Schools for the pupils. Queen Victoria had already granted permission for regiments to engage a schoolmistress to instruct the female children of serving soldiers.


Apart from his duties as Chaplain-General to the Army, the Reverend Gleig was also chosen to be the first Inspector General of Military Schools, and appointed on 2nd July 1846. He discovered that there were no books available from which adults could learn to read and write, so he produced a series of books with the general title of ‘Gleig’s School Primers’ which were published by Longmans in 1850. In the preface to ‘History of England’ he said:


‘It is neither edifying nor pleasant to watch a Grenadier putting letters together which, after he has succeeded in converting them into words inform him that ‘Tom is a good boy and spins his top’; or that ‘James does not know how to knit a pair of socks’, nor will children themselves advance less rapidly if they, like the Grenadier, begin with words which communicate truths more important than ‘the cat mews’ or ‘the dog barks’.


Apart from the quality of the teachers, he was also concerned with the inadequate facilities since education and religious instruction was nearly always held in rooms previously used as living quarters.


He conceived the idea of the Chapel-School, a dual purpose building, and in May 1848 submitted two detailed memoranda, the first concerned accommodation to be provided as a school room, and the second, accommodation providing a school room and a chapel.


In this dual-purpose building, the Chancel could be cut off by a moveable screen, and the Nave divided into six classrooms by baize curtains slung on wires, whilst small outbuildings could serve as vestry and school store. The Ordnance Department, which was responsible for planning and building approved his scheme.


Two such Chapel-Schools were destined to be built on Malta; the first at Santa Margherita Hill in Cospicua, and the other alongside the Barracca Gardens in Valletta.


In January 1857, Lieut-Colonel Lefroy of the Royal Artillery submitted to Gleig a long document with the title “On the Organisation of a Department of Military Education with an Outline of the Arrangements Proposed for the Education of Officers for the Army and Staff”. Gleig agreed with most Lefroy’s recommendations.


By 1857 Gleig had completed his reorganisation of Army Education, and submitted his resignation, but this also coincided with a decision by the War Office to take military education away from the clergy and place it under the control of a military officer. Lieut-Colonel J.H.Lefroy, who had worked with Gleig was appointed as Inspector General of Military Schools. The link with the military chaplains that had existed from the outset was severed.


Lt.  Col. J. H. Lefroy 1817-90, Inspector-General of Military Schools, 1857-60

In 1859 HMSO published a report by Lefroy entitled ‘Report on the Regimental and Garrison Schools of the Army, and on Military Libraries and Reading Rooms, which showed that about 21 percent of men could neither read nor write, another 19 percent said they could read but not write and could barely write their names, with about 60 percent claiming to be able to read and write but it is not clear to what standard. Using a classification of ‘Educated’ and ‘Uneducated’ and comparing the various regiments he found the best educated were the Royal Engineers with 97% as compared with 59% in the Royal Artillery, and 55% of the Infantry.


The return for the Malta Garrison shows school attendance as:


Number of men on the School’s Books  Daily attendance by men  Attendance by Children
3rd Foot 2nd Battalion  121 35 21
14th Foot 1st Battalion 157 49 52
21st Foot 1st Battalion 122  35 42
28th Foot 258 91 49
57th Foot 132 24 39
71st Foot  156 62 No figure
Malta Fencibles 153 30 9
Royal Artillery  184 119 57


Each man generally received about four hours tuition per week, and did so in very poor conditions. Major Porter of the Royal Engineers described the schoolrooms in 1858:


“Upper St.Elmo: Two places in this barrack are now used as schoolrooms, the one a barrack room very unsuited for the purpose, narrow and confined, and not capable of containing more than 14 or 16 men. The other is the old chapel of the fort, lately turned into a gymnasium and used as a school when the attendance is too large for the ordinary room. This room though large and cool is very dark, and not suitable for a school.


Lower St.Elmo: Is a large casemated room amply sufficient for the purpose and I have no improvements to suggest beyond a better class of fitments in the way of desks etc.


St.Francis Barracks: The school for this barracks is one of the new chapel schools recently erected and is in every way admirable.


Floriana Barracks: The accommodation for a school in this barrack is miserable in the extreme. It consists of a small barrack room not suitable for more than a dozen men, and I have seen from forty to fifty men crowded into it, unable to do anything and suffocated with heat. It is impossible to expect a school to thrive under such circumstances.


Fort Ricasoli: A large room originally intended as a store is used as the schoolroom for this post. It is not well lighted but sufficiently capacious and might be made a very fair schoolroom by the erection and judicious arrangements of proper fitments.


Isola Gate: The room used as a schoolroom in this barrack is a long low casemate, very dark, except at the entrance, and altogether badly adapted for school purposes.


Verdala Barracks: The school for this barrack is one of the new chapel schools recently erected, and is in every way admirable.


Fort Manoel: The old chapel of this fort is used as a schoolroom and answers the purpose very fairly.


There was clearly a call for education by the NCO’s and Privates, since Porter continues:


“I may add that with the sanction of the Lieut-General commanding, I have established a garrison class for instruction in algebra, geometry and surveying. The algebra is taught by Mr. Bell the schoolmaster of the 28th regiment: the geometry by Mr. Clarke, the schoolmaster of the 14th regiment; and the surveying I take myself. Each subject is taught one night in the week, and the attendance averages between 10 and 14. The men like the plan much, and some of them show great signs of talent. I trust to keep these classes at work for a long time.”


No greater proof of the thirst for education can be shown than this piece from the Malta Times of 21st December 1858:


“A scene of quite a novel character occurred on Saturday the 18th inst. at the Garrison School, Vittoriosa. Colonel Adams C.B., 28th Regiment, at the request of the non-commissioned officers and men attending the school presented Mr. Robert Bell the Schoolmaster attached to the Regiment with a silver cup, saucer and cover, as a testimonial of their esteem. The Garrison School was crowded with the non-commissioned officers and men who desired to testify by their presence how highly they appreciated the zeal and ability displayed by Mr. Bell in his endeavours to forward their education.

This is the first time since the introduction of the school system of instruction into the British Army that the zealous exertions of the Schoolmaster have been publicly recognised by those who have benefited by them and the manner in which is was done in the 28th Regiment reflects the highest credit on all parties concerned.”


A Report published in 1862 supported the continuation of Regimental Schools, though Garrison Schools were now in existence. The latter were larger, better staffed and attained higher standards but lacked the regimental connection. By 1870 Gleig’s idea of chapel-schools were discontinued, and separate school accommodation was favoured. 




The first Chapel-School for Malta was to be located in Cospicua as part of the new barracks being planned as Fort Verdala. The decision to proceed was made in a letter dated 9th January 1851 sent from The War Office in London to Lieut-Colonel Anthony Emmett, the Commanding Royal Engineer at Malta, which included the information that:


“….. the Secretary of War has decided that a Chapel School of 120 by 50 and 18 feet high with suitable quarters for the schoolmaster should be erected at Fort Verdala.……….

The Church including the Vestry on the one side and Closet for Books etc. on the other should not occupy more than 10 feet in the length of the apartment. The Pulpit and Desk to be neat and small and well thrown back and the Rail of the Communion to run across from Vestry to Closet’


In the Valletta District the erection of a Chapel-School of similar dimensions in the St.James’s Barracks if the men at the Floriana and St.Elmo Barracks would attend such a school would be the most convenient arrangement”.


Accordingly a Memorandum was drawn up in April showing the estimated expense at £ 2527.4.5¼d. By August a ‘Demand for Materials’ listing each item with its description and quantities required was sent to England, but the estimated cost had increased to £ 2628.1.3¾d. It states:


“Chapel School Verdala


The walls to be built of 1st quality Malta Soft Stone; Span roof, the scantlings deduced from Treadgold’s Elementary Principles of Carpentry. Slated with Welsh Queens on battens painted on the underside with lime and hair mortar, nailed with copper nails, Davey’s Patent Slate Ridge bedded in cement and screwed with copper screws.


Floor and raised platforms Malta Hard Stone, Ceiling and Cornice Deal, ventilation to be formed in ceiling and between it and the Cornice. Centre portion of Sashes with Pivots, and the Windows to be provided with Venetian Blinds. Inside Porch at principle entrance to be formed with 3” Deal framing, a neat Pulpit, Reading Desk and Chancel Railing etc. complete of Oak, Communion Table, Cover, etc., Master’s Desk with Platform and Stool, the raised platforms to be fitted.


Moveable forms for use on Sundays between the platforms. Cupboard and Shelves for Book Room also Cupboard for Vestry. Cast Iron Rainwater pipes to convey water from roof. Crimson baize curtains to separate classes and Screen Chancel carpet, and hassocks for Communion, also hassocks for the set of platforms on both sides next Chancel.


The building to be completed in a neat and substantial manner. It has been restricted to 18 feet in height as directed in the Secretary of War’s letter above referred to but in a warm climate as that of Malta a greater is very desirable and if approved would in execution amount to £ 25 for every additional foot in height.”


Meanwhile the 4th Company of the Sappers & Miners under the command of Captain Anthony David Craigie, R.E., arrived at Malta from Southampton on 17th January 1851. Their headquarters was set up in Valletta, but a large detachment was sent to St.Clement’s. This caused some opposition by local working people, and even some violence.


As regards a building for Valletta, Lieut-Colonel Emmett replied to London on 22nd April 1851 as follows:


“…..For Valletta and Floriana the most eligible arrangement I apprehend would be to obtain from the Civil Government a part of the Auberge d’Angleterre, near St.James’s Cavalier. … The Schools proposed by the Secretary of War being of the same dimension the Estimate for the second would be the same in amount as that for Cottonera.”


However, on 26th November that year Lieut-Colonel Emmett was ordered to return to England, and his successor as C.R.E. named as Lieut-Colonel Francis Ringler Thomson.


In January 1852 Thomson sailed from Southampton on the P.&O. Steamer Bentinck, with his wife, eight children and two female servants.  They arrived in Grand Harbour during the evening of the 30th, and the following week on the 7th February he wrote to England saying “... this day assumed command of R.E. at Malta.”  The family took up residence at No.74 Strada Britannica, Valletta.


He found only a small group of Royal Engineer officers stationed on Malta; Captains Henry Servanté, Anthony David Craigie, and James Swayne Baker, plus three Lieutenants, Philip Ravenhill, James Murray and Alexander Stephen Creyke. This small team was responsible to oversee all the military fortifications and new constructions.


The same week he received a letter from England saying that the Chapel-School building at Valletta would be postponed until 1853, and that the Chapel-School at Verdala should only be 100 feet long instead of 120 feet as originally designed. In July 1852 Thomson was told that the Secretary of War could not sanction the large expenditure for the Verdala Chapel-School, and asked for a revised estimate.


Thomson met this request and was able to make a reduction in the estimate from £ 2501 to £ 2157. The saving was achieved by reducing the thickness of the external walls, as well as replacing the oak wood by fir for the chancel, pulpit and other internal fitments, and installing ordinary blinds instead of Venetian blinds over the windows.


The number of men belonging to the Royal Sappers & Miners in Malta employed mainly on the construction of Verdala Barracks was five sergeants, two drummers, and 90 rank and file throughout the whole of 1852.


Approval for Verdala was finally given on 15th January 1853 with the instructions that work was to commence as soon as possible, at the estimated price of £ 2157. Digging for the foundations was put in hand but very quickly ran into a problem, which was immediately referred to London.


“Royal Engineers Office Malta - 23rd May 1853

I have the honour to report that having desired the foundation of the Verdala Chapel School to be commenced it was found on excavating to the depth of 20 feet that there was nothing but loose rubble which from the appearance of the Valley extended probably to a depth of 60 feet. I have therefore suspended the further progress of the work and would recommend that the building should be erected within the Margherita Lines in the spot shown on the accompanying.”


The new site was outside Fort Verdala, but within the Margherita Lines, close to the border between Cospicua and Vittoriosa. Wisely, Lieut-Colonel Thomson’s advice was accepted and the building went ahead. The barracks themselves were completed by October and since it was the custom for the infantry regiments to regularly change quarters, the 47th (Lancashire) Regiment, under the command of Lieut-Colonel Haly, moved into the newly constructed barracks at Fort Verdala on 11th October 1853.


By the 21st February 1854 the building of the Verdala Chapel School had been progressing well, and was now five feet above ground level, so the C.R.E. was in touch with England complaining about the delay in sending out the timber. However, in reply he was told that the timber was now on its way on board the freight ship “Abram”. It duly arrived and work continued on the project.


In the meantime there had been no communication from London about the Chapel-School for Valletta and it was not until 26th July 1854 that the go ahead was given, when the War Office informed the Board of Ordnance:


“.......As there is no suitable room at Fort St.Elmo that could be fitted up as a School room for the Valetta District the C.R.E. proposes to erect a Chapel School at the Upper Barracca St.Peter’s Bastion similar to the one at Fort Verdala, and at the same expense which he states to be £ 2367 but which on reference to the Board’s Order of 19th January 1853 authorising the building at Verdala should be £ 2157 only.”


The site was alongside the entrance to the Upper Barracca Gardens in Piazza Regina, and therefore the building became known as the Barracca Chapel.


In September 1854, the Office of Ordnance in Pall Mall, London, submitted a ‘Demand for Materials’ for construction of the Barracca Chapel-School, commenting that the sooner they are provided the better, since that would allow the C.R.E. to complete the building before the end of 1855. They also confirmed that the total value of the items being sent from England amounted to £ 697.6.11d. and therefore only £ 1459.13.1d. would be needed in Malta to meet expenses on the spot.


The new Chapel-School was a very plain rectangular building, and similar to the Santa Margherita Chapel-School in Cospicua. Both of the longitudinal walls contained seven windows sized 9’6” high by 5’9” wide, each window being composed of twelve small glass panes, which provided natural light. Between the windows were Tuscan Order Pilasters, with double Pilasters at each corner.  


A portico built on the front side facing Piazza Regina sheltered the double-door main entrance whilst at the rear two smaller doors also porticoed gave access into the Vestry and Robing Room from the Barracca Gardens. The trussed-pitched roof was constructed from Memel Fir from the Eastern Baltic area, and finished with Welsh Queen slates. Above the main entrance was a small belfry containing a single bell.


The Crimean War started in March 1854, and the small team of Royal Engineers was depleted when Captain Craigie, together with Lieutenants Ravenhill and Murray left for Turkey on 27th July. They had with them the 4th Company from the Corps of Sappers & Miners comprising 74 men.


However, the Chapel School in Cospicua was well advanced and by April 1855 a letter sent from the Royal Engineers Office, Malta, signed by Lieut-Colonel Thomson says:


“I have the honour to report that the Chapel School Margherita has been completed and at the request of the Lieutenant-General Commanding given over to the Barrack Master for the use of the Troops for Divine Service in the Cottonera District. The Reverend William Hare, Chaplain to the Forces, officiated in the building for the first time on Good Friday, and expressed himself highly satisfied with it”.


Besides the two Chapel-Schools Lieut-Colonel Thomson was responsible for more than fifty other construction works during his tour of duty. These included adapting old buildings for new purposes, improving the defensive fortifications, as well as new large and small building projects.


His most enduring and practical construction, which was seen, photographed, and remembered by thousands of Maltese and members of the British forces, was the ornate Porta Reale as the entrance to Valletta.



Porta Reale - Valletta


The Porta Reale was later re-named Kingsgate and retained this name until it was demolished in 1964 and replaced by the present City Gate.


Ever since the commencement of his service on Malta Lieut-Colonel Thomson had suffered from ill health, and this intensified in April 1855. A tall thickset man, he fell whilst going down a flight of stairs, dislocated his right ankle and sustained a Potts fracture of the fibula. Therefore a combination of ill health, a large work load and family bereavement no doubt caused him to write to London and ask to be relieved of his post. Now 62 years old, being in charge of the Royal Engineers had clearly taken its toll. It should also be taken into account that he served on Malta throughout the Crimean War, with all the extra pressure that this brought upon the Royal Engineers. 


He sailed from Malta on board the P.&.O. steamer ‘Pera’ on 24th April. His replacement, Lieut-Colonel Henry Drury Harness disembarked from the ‘Jura’ in Grand Harbour in early June.


The issue of the London Gazette dated 17th October 1856 carried the following announcement:


“The Queen has been graciously pleased to direct that the Corps of Royal Sappers & Miners shall hence forward be denominated the Corps of Royal Engineers and form one body with the existing Corps of Royal Engineers.”


Until this time only officers were members of the Royal Engineers, and accompanying this change was the abandonment of the rank ‘Private’ and its substitution by the more appropriate designation ‘Sapper’.


At the start of 1857 the Royal Engineer officers at Malta with Lieut-Colonel Harness, were Lieut-Colonel Archibald Patrick G. Ross, Captain Whitworth Porter, Captain Augustus Meyer Lochner, Lieutenant Anthony William Durnford, Lieutenant Henry William Hart Davies Dumaresq, Lieutenant Steward, Lieutenant Edward Thomas Brooke, and Lieutenant Harrison. The strength of the Royal Engineers in January 1857 was 8 Sergeants and 201 Rank and File.


However, Lieutenant Steward left for Corfu on 21st January, Lieut-Colonel Ross was ordered back to England for service at Chatham in June, and Lieutenant Harrison left Malta on 30th November with a party of men for Alexandria en route to Calcutta, so by December the number had been reduced to 7 Sergeants and 145 Sappers.


No records have yet been found to pinpoint when the building ceased to be used as a School, but since a Garrison School was opened in 1868 it is likely that it was around this time.


Methodism was practised particularly by men in the Royal Artillery and Royal Engineers so when the Wesleyans withdrew their Minister John Jenkins from Malta back in February 1844, it was kept alive by groups of soldiers holding their own meetings, plus a few laymen. The lack of a Minister caused a large number of complaints and eventually in 1868, after a gap of twenty-four years, a permanent Minister was appointed.


During December 1868 it was announced that the Reverend William Shaw Caldecott had arrived from Mauritius to serve the Wesleyan soldiers, seamen and marines, stationed on Malta. He conducted Divine Service in the Chapel-School, Upper Barracca at 8.30 a.m. then travelled over to Cottonera for another service at 11.30 a.m. at the Chapel-School on Santa Margherita Hill. The Marriage Register shows that twenty-two marriages took place in the “Methodist Chapel, in Barracca Chapel School, Valletta” from 1868 until a purpose built Methodist Church was opened in Floriana in 1883.


From July 1854 until May 1856 the Reverend John Edward Sabin, was the Senior Chaplain with the British troops in the Crimea and worked alongside Miss Florence Nightingale in the appalling conditions of Scutari Hospital. In 1854 she gave him a silver chalice, two silver patens and a silver flagon, to be used at Church Services for the men. The record of this gift is inscribed on the foot of the chalice. He left this very attractive Communion Set to the Senior Chaplain to the Forces in Malta when he departed in 1884, and it was kept at the Barracca Chapel.


After service in Egypt the Reverend Alfred Malim M.A., came to Malta and took control in November 1894 as Senior Chaplain to the Forces, he embarked upon a radical overhaul of the interior. It took him a couple of years to get things moving but once the changes were underway they moved rapidly and under his guidance and vision the building was transformed. The local newspaper for 23rd July 1898 says:


“The Barracca Church, which has been closed for some weeks for the purpose of decoration, though not completed will be opened for Divine Service on Sunday next. The ceiling has been painted and gilded, the latter being the work of Mr.Giovanni Bonello, and the effect is very good. When the mural decorations are finished it will add to the dignity of the Church, though of course, as it lacks ecclesiastical pretensions it can never be beautiful, but the barrack-like appearance for which it was in the past distinguished, has at length been removed”


At the opening of the New Year 1899, the congregation was looking forward to further embellishment of their Church. When the S.S. Jelunga docked from England she brought with her a carved oak pulpit and carved eagle lectern, which were produced in the Bloomsbury Art Carving Works, of Broad Street, Bloomsbury, London, who had also supplied the altar. The actual carving was done by Mr. Alfred Robinson.


The first section of a new tiled floor was being laid outside the Chancel at the time of the ship’s arrival, so although the lectern was placed in position immediately, and dedicated on the 8th January, the pulpit was not erected and dedicated until Sexagesima Sunday the 5th February. The oak panels on the pulpit were diapered, and the three centre ones contained emblematical figures of Faith, Hope and Charity, boldly carved against the diaper background.


At the 11.a.m. Service the Reverend Malim performed a blessing of the pulpit, which was followed by the congregation singing the 391st Hymn accompanied by the string band of the Border Regiment, under Bandmaster Robinson.


In addition to these improvements, Mrs. Blake, a resident of Valletta, presented a beautiful altar frontal, consisting of three violet panels. The centre one showed a cross with passion flowers twining round it and surmounted by the crown of thorns and the flanking ones very beautiful sprays of passion flowers.


A comment made at the time was: ‘The one regret is that this Church furniture did not arrive before the departure of Governor Sir Arthur Fremantle, during whose rule our Garrison Church has been transformed from a mere barn into a tastefully arranged and decorated building more worthy of the House of God’


At the 8 o’clock Service on Whit Sunday morning the Reverend Malim dedicated two memorial paintings which has been commissioned from the Maltese artist Giuseppe Cali, and had been fixed to the walls the previous afternoon. The first was St.Andrew, a gift from Lieut-General Baynes in memory of his uncle General Arthur Simcoe Baynes. The saint is shown gazing up to heaven, standing with his right arm resting on his cross decussate formed from two pieces of round timber still with the bark on.

 St.Andrew by Giuseppe Cali

The other was the Prophet Jeremiah, who was depicted as lamenting over the Holy City of Jerusalem which is seen in the background. In his right hand he holds a scroll on which is written ‘Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? behold and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, wherewith the Lord has afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger’


This was presented by the Reverend Malim in memory of all the officers and men from the Malta Garrison who had died since his appointment as Senior Chaplain to the Forces on the island. Over the next few years Giuseppe Cali was selected by other British patrons wishing to make the Barracca Chapel more attractive.


St Mark the Evangelist by  Giuseppe Cali


William Mifsud produced the large picture frames, which were white, and gold with an inner frame shaped as a gothic arch supported on gilded columns. Standing on top of each frame was a gilded crown with crossed palm leaves. The gilding and decoration was the work of Giovanni Bonello.


A few weeks later the transport s.s.Verona docked at Malta and safely landed crates containing the floor tiles, which had been specially made for the Barracca at Ruabon, near Wrexham. The Royal Engineers set to work immediately laying them on the centre and side aisles as well as a portion of the floor in front of the Chancel. Apart from the effect being pleasing to the eye, they were practical as the old stone floor shed much dust which settled on the pews.


Further improvement was made when a large marble font was installed. It was the work of Mr. Camilleri of Molo Pieta, Misida. The top was a solid block of red French marble standing on a base of the same, and supported on five round columns. The centre one, which was larger than the others, was of red marble, and the four outer ones of green marble. The design was a square with the corners cut off, thus forming a semi-octagonal shape, which gave a solid and bold appearance.


A special Form of Service was drawn up for its Dedication which took place on Sunday evening, 16th July. Quarter Master Sergeant Hickman acted as sidesman and had the congregation all seated as the Choir accompanied by the Reverend Malim and Reverend Pentreath CF emerged from the Vestry. With the Border Regiment away from Valletta the usual violins were absent but Captain Burnett of the Royal Artillery played the harmonium and was supported by a cornet player from the Derbyshire Regiment.


A painting of St.Matthias by Giuseppe Cali was presented by the 1st Battalion, The Border Regiment, and affixed in the Barracca church on 23rd June 1899. At the 9 a.m. Parade Service on Sunday 13th August 1899, two further paintings were dedicated. One by the 2nd Battalion the Lancashire Fusiliers and the other by the 1st Battalion the Derbyshire Regiment. The subjects were St.James the Great, and St.Simon. The painting of St.James bears a likeness to Christ whose kinsman he was. He wears a green tunic with a rich crimson mantle, and holds a pilgrim’s staff in one hand whilst the other carries a gourd of water by his side.


St.Simon is portrayed according to tradition as an old man with a baldhead, and a long white beard. He wears a rich yellow tunic with purple mantle, and in his left hand holds the top of a long two-handled saw which rests on the ground, whilst his right hand is placed on his breast.


An additional three paintings depicting the Old Testament prophets,  Isaiah, Daniel and Ezekiel were placed in position on Saturday 30th December 1899, in time for them to be dedicated by the visiting Bishop of Gibraltar, Bishop Sandford. Isaiah is shown standing outside the temple of Jerusalem. Ezekiel is represented as in banishment with outstretched arms imploring his people to repent so God will allow them to return to their own land. Daniel, clothed in a blue robe is looking upward from the lion’s den.


Daniel by Giuseppe Cali

In May 1900 Mr. Walter S. Robinson, who had been the organist at St.Paul’s Anglican Cathedral since 1885, and sold musical instruments at his shop in Valletta, placed a small positive organ in the Barracca. It did not possess the full rich tones of an ordinary sized organ, nor did it need the use of pedals, but the absence of pedals was considered an advantage since it meant that the organ could be played by quite a number of people.


At the two Parade Services on Sunday 16th September, two further paintings by Giuseppe Cali were presented. At the 9.a.m. service Major General O’Callaghan, the C.R.A. unveiled a painting of St.Matthew, which had been presented by the Officers, Warrant Officers, NCO’s and Gunners of the Royal Artillery in memory of 36 of their comrades who had died between March 1897 and July 1900 whilst serving on Malta. The figure is clad in white and red robes, some money is on the table near his outstretched right hand, whilst he clutches a scroll in his left.


St Matthew by Giuseppe Cali

During the second service at 10.15 a.m. it was the turn of Colonel Jackson of the 3rd Royal Warwickshire Regiment to reveal their painting, St.James the Less. According to legend he was thrown from a parapet of the Temple, then beaten to death with a Fullers Club, which is shown in this painting to recall his martyrdom.


As part of his sermon the Reverend Malim referred to this painting saying: ‘These tokens of respect not only preserve the memory of our dead comrades but being works of art they serve to adorn God’s House and remind those who worship here what the Saints of old dared for the sake of their Master; counting it all honour even to lay down their lives for Him. St.James the Less was the first Bishop of Jerusalem and has always been revered for his Christian virtues of self-denial, piety, wisdom and charity.’


The paintings are all considered masterpieces, but so as to make the overall effect even more attractive during October 1900 the picture frames were improved. The spandrels were gilded, and the initial of each Saint was added entwined with the letter S, whilst the Prophets had an emblem, ‘Agnus Dei’ for Isaiah, the hearth with the burning scroll for Jeremiah, a tower for Ezekiel, and a lion for Daniel. The same week, the artist Giuseppe Cali, painted in the spandrels over the entrance to the Chancel, two Angels, as a gift to the Church for which he had carried out so much work recently.


St Simon by Giuseppe Cali

Worshippers had a better opportunity to view all the paintings since the church lighting system was improved by the installation of an additional fifteen electric lights.


Before the start of Holy Communion at 8 a.m. on Sunday 14th October, the Reverend Malim, dedicated a painting of St.Paul which he had placed in the church in memory of his mother, who had died the previous year on her 84th birthday. The Apostle is shown standing on the seashore, from his extended right hand the serpent has been dropped into a small fire, whilst his left hand holds the hilt of a sword.


A Malta newspaper issue of 10th November 1900, says:

“In April 1824 the 95th regiment arrived in Malta and stayed until December 1829. During that time the regiment lost three officers, among whom was the Colonel, 6 NCO’s and 29 Privates. In the Autumn of 1899 the same regiment, under a new name, viz. the 2nd Battalion Derbyshire Regiment arrived in Malta after a long period of foreign service and began to make inquiries about the graves of the Comrades of ‘Long Ago’.


They decided to raise another Memorial ......and some weeks ago gave an order for a Memorial picture to be painted and placed in the Barracca Church. The picture of St.Jude, will be next to the one given by the 1st Battalion.  The picture was placed in the Church on 8th November’


St Jude By Giuseppe Cali

After six years in Malta the time came for the Reverend Malim to leave for England, where he would take up a post at Devonport. He held his final services on Sunday 4th November 1900. At the 11 o’clock one after his sermon he continued:


 ‘speaking to the Royal Engineers and the Royal Warwickshire Regiment as I do for the last time, I must naturally ask my self whether I have been faithful to my charges and whether I have done my best to remind you of your calling........I have striven to place before you the whole truth as it is in Jesus Christ. I may have made mistakes – who is it in this life that does not do so ? but I have tried to do my best.  I have made strenuous efforts to improve our Garrison Church, which was in former days quite unworthy of the purpose to which it was devoted.’


At the 6 p.m. Evensong service before leaving the pulpit he addressed the large congregation with the following words:


‘I cannot close without making some allusion to my departure from the Garrison after holding the Office of Senior Chaplain to the Forces since 2nd November 1894. There is always a certain sadness when the time comes to say goodbye but it is especially trying to a clergyman who has been working for any length of time in a place.


There are so many links which bind him to his people. He has been drawn to some in the time of sickness, to others in the time of bereavement or to those who have required help in the spiritual life or assistance and advice to meet some special temptation. ..... Again many of his friends have been able to help him in his work by teaching in the Sunday School, by assisting in the Band of Hope, by ministering to the sick and those in need, by helping at our Mother’s Union meeting, at our Guild meetings both the Guild of the Holy Standard and the Guild of St.Helena, by playing the organ at our voluntary services and belonging to the Choir and so making the services more worthy as an offering to Almighty God, and manifesting before the Church that the Clergyman does not stand alone..’


At the conclusion of the Service he was invited into the Choir Vestry where Sergeant Roberts of the Royal Garrison Artillery, together with Mrs. Bird the voluntary organist, presented him with a framed photograph of the Choir. A silver plate was attached which bore the inscription: ‘The Rev.A.Malim S.C.F. from the Members of Barracca G.C.Choir Malta 1900’


With the departure of the Reverend Malim probably the most significant period in the life of the Barracca Chapel came to an end. His successor as S.C.F. was the Reverend Philip Foster Raymond.


The members of the congregation were thrilled when they heard that their popular Chaplain, the Reverend Lewis Hughes, a 33 year old Welshman from Milford Haven, intended to marry the pretty Miss. Aimee Hester Cleveland, the daughter of the late Colonel Cleveland of the 98th Regiment.


The big day was set for 1st January 1906 at St.Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, and all the principal male roles at the wedding were taken by Chaplains of the Armed Forces. The Service was conducted by the Reverend J.Hatton CF for the Cottonera District, with the assistance of the Reverend Gedge. The bride was given away by her brother-in-law, the Reverend Louis Walker, a Royal Navy Chaplain, and the Best Man was the Reverend J.H.Baynham CF. The Reverend Hatton’s young daughter was the bridesmaid, and the young pageboy in a sailor suit was Master C.Osburn.


Amongst the wedding presents were a silver inkstand from the Barracca Church Sunday School Teachers, silver tea spoons from the Barracca Church Choir, a silver cheese dish from the Sergeants Mess of the Royal West Kent Regiment and silver candlesticks from the Officers. 


The Reverend Hughes encouraged the youngsters in the choir to form a football team, which was enthusiastically supported. The matches were played at Tigne Barracks, or on Manoel Island. In April 1906 the Barracca team line up was:


2                           3

S.Cover                A.Erskin


  4                          5                        6

 Hully                   Wailt                Watson


   7                8                 9                 10           11

 Pearson   T.Griffiths   D.Gribble   W.Gribble     Green



The Royal West Kent Regiment’s connection with the Barracca Chapel was strengthened when they decided to commission a painting of St.Luke from Giuseppe Cali, to add to his earlier works. They wanted to honour the memory of their comrades who died in Malta during 1902, and 1904 to 1906. The Service took place on 1st November 1906,and was led by the S.C.F. the Reverend Gedge, assisted by three other Military Chaplains, the Reverends Hughes, Haines and Baynham.


After the Nicene Creed and whilst the congregation were singing the hymn ‘What are these which are arrayed in white robes; and whence came they ?’ Lieut-Colonel C.W.Maunsell left his seat and joined the clergy for the unveiling. After a short speech he lowered the Union Jack, which revealed the painting of St.Luke. The Battalion buglers then sounded the ‘Last Post’, which was appropriate since below the painting was a plate bearing these names:


No.3503   Pte.P.Sullivan No.7503 Pte.J.H.Boylett
No.6148 Pte.C.W.Jones No.6626 Pte.E.Gazzard
No.4008  Bdm.F.A.Barfoot No.6317  Corp.F.Russell
No.740 Cr.Sgt.H.G.Eldred No.6105 Pte.H.Knight
No.6716  Pte.F.Smith No.6523 Pte.J.Chalk
No.2592  Bdm.W.J.Roffe No.7783 Pte.W.J.Richards


Chaplain Gedge then ascended the Pulpit and gave a short address suitable for the occasion and for All Saints Day. This was followed by another hymn and final prayers before the Battalion Band commenced playing ‘The Hallelujah Chorus’ which brought the service to an end.


In his notes made during this visit to Malta, the Bishop of Gibraltar recorded that the Barracca had the air of a church which people used and cared for, whereas St.Paul’s Anglican Cathedral though architecturally a much grander building was cold and bare in comparison. There was much discussion at this time as to whether two Anglican Churches were needed in Valletta, or should all services be held at St. Paul’s. It does seem that the soldiers and their families felt some affection for the Barracca Chapel, but whether or not the Military Chaplains shared this affection they were clearly not going to be pressured into using St.Paul’s unless they had full control.


At the same time as these discussions were taking place, the Reverend Walker S.C.F., put in hand some alterations to make the interior of the Barracca Chapel even more attractive. So began the second important period in the history of the building’s enhancement.


The large painted and gilded wooden structure with its solid panel front surrounding the choir was removed, and the semicircular wall around the altar demolished. New straight walls were built giving more space around the altar,  and at the same time lengthening the Vestry and Robing Room which were on either side. These were provided with new panelled doors. The pulpit was slightly moved at an angle so that the preacher would be facing diagonally across the church and could see the entire congregation. The overall effect of these changes gave the interior a more dignified appearance.


In 1927 the Reverend Edmonds-Smith wrote:

‘The Barracca Church is a valuable centre of Church life. Its topographical position is always in its favour and in the winter season it commands good congregations. It seems to possess an atmosphere of its own. It serves a floating population - but there are not a few who have worshipped within its walls for many years and entertain for it a great affection. No one can minister in the Barracca Church for a period of years without retaining a memory which will stand out in the whole course of his ministry’.


Some names associated with the church in recent years must be mentioned. The first name must be the Reverend Philip Foster Raymond, Hon. Chaplain to the King, whom many of us recall, who retired from Aldershot just before the War and who was one of the outstanding personalities in the Department in recent years. With him in a choir photograph appears also the Reverend Charles Frederick Baines, the late Dr. Arthur Godolphin Pentreath, the Reverend Jacob Blackbourne CMG, the Reverend Robert Edward Vernon Hanson, now Chaplain-in-Chief Royal Air Force, the Reverend Matthew Tobias, the Reverend F.J.Walker CBE have, amongst others been in charge of the Barracca Church in recent years.”


A scheme for the comfort of the congregation was put into effect in 1933 by the addition of more pews. At that time half the worshippers had to use chairs, since pews only covered the front half of the Nave. The 2nd battalion of the Cheshire Regiment, the 2nd Battalion of The Worcestershire Regiment, and the Command Headquarters all presented new pews, which were most welcome.


By 1933 a new organ was very urgently needed but was expected to cost around £ 500. Although the first £ 100 had already been raised it was not until 1935 that over £ 600 had been collected, and a firm order could be placed. Mr. A.H. Stanton, an organ builder of Corporation Street, Walsall, Staffordshire, was given the contract. After spending some five months making it at his works in England, Mr.Stanton came out to Malta and erected it with the aid of two Sappers from the Royal Engineers.


It was known that the Barracca Church had never been dedicated as a Garrison Church, and therefore it was decided to proceed with such a dedication on Sunday 29th March 1936. The new organ having just been installed was dedicated at the same time.


A brass plate was fixed on the wall near the sanctuary duly recording this event:










It seems that from this date the name ‘St.George’s Church’ was given to the Barracca Garrison Church, but little if ever used.



Being close to the Naval Dockyard the Santa Margherita Chapel was so badly damaged by bombs during the Second World War, that the ruined building was demolished, and the site levelled.


The Barracca Chapel also sustained some damage during WWII, and after the war with the expansion of St.Georges Barracks, St.Andrews Barracks and St.Patricks Barracks at Pembroke, the number of British soldiers billeted in Floriana was drastically reduced. By April 1950 only around 200 British troops were housed in Lintorn and Casemate Barracks, of which about one third were ‘Other Denominations’ or ‘Roman Catholics’, so the Barracca Chapel closed its doors and was never used for religious purposes again.


Opposite the chapel in Castille Place was the Vernon United Services Club. This organisation was used by all ranks of the Navy, Army and Air Force below the rank of W.O. Class 1. After the chapel ceased its religious function, the Vernon Club used the building as an annexe for entertainment, such as film shows, badminton, etc.


Later the building was taken over by the Malta Post Office as the Central Mail Room and continued to be used for this purpose for several years until the middle of 1999.


Trading at the Malta Stock Exchange premises at 27 Pietro Floriani Street, Floriana, was officially inaugurated on Wednesday 8th January 1992, but by 1999 due to the growth in activity caused by the privatisation of several leading companies and the development of new computer based trading methods, the building proved unsuitable.


When considering new premises, the opportunity was taken to save part of Malta’s heritage by converting the Barracca Chapel. The outer walls of the building, the ‘shell’ was retained, and the inside transformed to supply adequate office space and other amenities to meet the needs of a modern Stock Exchange. An increased working area was achieved by lowering the ground floor and removing the soffit to expose the timber roof trusses, so permitting an extra floor level to be gained. The ‘new’ premises were officially opened on Saturday 6th October 2001.


Today most of the paintings by Giuseppe Cali which were in the Barracca Chapel are in the Presidential Palace at San Anton.




Appendix No.1 – George Robert Gleig



George Robert Gleig was born in Stirling, Scotland, on 20th April 1796, the youngest son of George Gleig and his wife Janet, nee Hamilton, the widow of Dr.Fullton. He was educated at Stirling Grammar School and later in Leith and Glasgow University. In 1811 he went to Oxford University to study at Balliol College. By this time his father was the Bishop of Brechin.


After a short time he quit the University and on 13th August 1812 joined the Army as an Ensign with the 3rd Garrison Battalion then stationed in Ireland, but on 25th January 1813 exchanged with Ensign Robert Dutton of the 85th (Bucks Volunteers) Regiment of Foot. With this regiment in the Peninsular War he saw much action, being present at the Siege of San Sebastian, the Passage of the Bidassoa, the Battle of the Nivelle where he was wounded in the foot and arm, the Battle of the Nive in which he was slightly wounded, and the investment of Bayonne. He received the War Medal with three clasps.


He proceeded to America with the 85th and took part in the fighting at Bladensburg receiving wounds, then at Baltimore where he was also wounded, followed by New Orleans in which conflict he received a bayonet wound, and finally at Fort Bowyer.


From Ensign he was promoted to Lieutenant on 20th July 1813, and held this rank throughout his army career until he retired on half pay on 25th January 1816. He remained on the half pay list until 1825.


After leaving the Army he returned to Oxford and completed his studies at Magdalen Hall, and took Holy Orders. In 1819 he obtained his BA, and in the same year he was made a Deacon, and married a Miss Sarah Cameron, the daughter of the late Captain Cameron the Younger of Kinlocklieven. She was a ward of his father Bishop Gleig.


He received his MA in 1821, and was ordained by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Manners Sutton, in 1820 and appointed a Curate at Westwell, in Kent. From 1821 to 1834 he was Curate at Ash near Sandwich in Kent, and Rector of Ivychurch on Romney Marsh from 1822 to 1879.


Lord John Russell made him Chaplain of the Royal Hospital Chelsea in 1834, a position he retained until 1844 when he was appointed Principal Chaplain to the Forces.


Having been in front line action himself as a young man and experienced at first hand the living conditions of the ordinary army private, he set out to pursue a policy of improving their welfare and having devised a scheme for their education was appointed Inspector General of Military Schools from 1846 to 1857.


Whilst holding the position of Inspector of Military Schools, he was the author of a cheap and useful library of 45 titles, called ‘Gleig’s School Primers’ which were published by Longmans, and needless to say were on included the list of books for use in Army schools. They included:


History of England Part I and II

History of the Colonies

Sacred History Part I and II

History of British India

Hughes’s General Geography

Elements of Grammar

Hydrostatics, Hydraulics, Etc.

Astronomy and the use of the Globes


Euclid, First Three Books

Historical Questions


In recognition of his devotional work and ability he was presented with a prebental stall in St.Paul’s Cathedral, London, in 1850.


Throughout his lifetime he was a prolific author and his articles often appeared in leading magazines. His output of books include:  


1820 ‘Campaign at Washington and New Orleans’

1826 ‘The Subaltern’

1829 ‘The Chelsea Pensioners’

1829 ‘Sermons Doctrinal and Practical’ 

1830 ‘The Country Curate’

1830 ‘Life of Sir Thomas Munro’ 3 vols.

1831 ‘Lives of Military Commanders’ 3 vols.

1830 to 1832 ‘History of India’ 4 vols. ‘Story of the Battle of Waterloo’ ‘The Leipsic Campaign’  

‘History of the Bible’ 2 vols.

1833 ‘A Letter to the Bishop of London on Church Reform’

1834 ‘Alan Breck’

1835 ‘A Guide to the Holy Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper’

1838 ‘Chelsea Hospital’ 3 vols.

1844 ‘Sermons for the Seasons of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany’

1845 ‘Sketch of the Military History of Great Britain’

1847 ‘Sale’s Brigade in Afghanistan’

1851 ‘The Hussar’

1851 ‘The Light Dragoon’

1857 ‘Life of Lord Clive’ ‘Life of Warren Hastings’ 3 vols. ‘India and Its Army’

1858 ‘Historical, Biographical and Miscellaneous Essays’ 2 vols.

1864 ‘Life of Arthur, Duke of Wellington’

1868 ‘Letters on the Irish Church’

1876 ‘The Great Problem, Can it be Solved’



‘Chronicles of Waltham’

‘Things Old and New a Sequel to Waltham’

‘The Soldier’s Help to Divine Truth’

‘The Soldier’s Manual of Devotion’


He retired from being Chaplain in Chief in 1875 when he was 79 years old, and went to live at Stratfield Turgis, Hampshire. The household comprised his wife Sarah, his two daughters Mary Elizabeth and Alice Annetta both unmarried, and his granddaughter Annie Louisa. The couple had five sons, four of whom became Army officers. He died at Bylands, Winchfield, Hampshire three months after his 92nd birthday, on 9th July 1888.


Appendix No.2 – Francis Ringler Thomson


Francis Ringler Thomson

Francis Ringler Thomson was born 13th January 1794 according to the Baptism Register of the French Church in Threadneedle Street, London, where he was baptised on 14th February 1794. The records are in French so his christian name is shown as Francois, and his parents as Jean Thomson and Catherine Ringler. There are two male Godparents listed, the Hon.Francis Earl of Moira and Guillaume Ringer grandfather. The family were French Huguenots from Brittany.


He joined the Royal Engineers, and on 1st July 1812 was a 2nd Lieutenant, but was promoted on 21st July 1813 to Lieutenant. Whilst holding this rank he was stationed on the Channel Island of Guernsey from January 1815 until 20th June when he left for the Continent and by 1st July had joined the Army of the Duke of Wellington. He was attached to the Prussian Army, serving at Maubeuge, Landrecy, Phillipville  and Rocroi.


He remained in France until 1st August 1817 when he left Bocqinham and arrived at Dover on the 5th. He reported for duty at Chatham Barracks on the 22nd August and served there throughout 1818 and 1819 as well as the first three months of 1820.


Ordered to Ceylon he embarked on 14th March and spent five months on board ship, arriving on 21st August. This island was to be his home for the next three years. On 31st August 1823 he sailed from Trincomalee and with a return passage of just over five months landed at Deal on 6th February 1824.


His next posting was to Edinburgh, and whilst there he was promoted to 2nd Captain on 29th July 1825. The following year another foreign posting was made, this time to Corfu, where he arrived on 20th November 1826. His tour of duty lasted until 19th July 1831, but he was able to take a leave during this time from 28th January till 27th May 1830.


He returned to Edinburgh on 23rd November 1831 and from there on 20th June 1833 moved briefly to Devonport, then again briefly onto Woolwich before embarking for Gibraltar on the 23rd October aboard the transport ship Stentor. Whilst in the Gibraltar garrison promotion to Captain took place on 10th January 1837.


In January the following year he left Gibraltar for England, and was stationed at Hythe until 1841 when he was ordered to Canada. Meanwhile another promotion had taken place. On 28th June 1838 he had been appointed a Major.


His spell in Canada was to make a significant change to his life.


After the war with America of 1812 - 1814, the British designed a waterway route to the St.Lawrence River as a safeguard against future invasion from America. This was the Rideau Canal, a fraction over 200 kilometres long, but incorporating over 45 locks.


The man sent out from England to command this undertaking was Lieutenant Colonel John By of the Royal Engineers. When he arrived in 1826 together with his wife Esther and two young daughters, there were only a few settlers in the area. He built a two-storey house on what became known as Colonel’s Hill, which had breathtaking views of the Ottawa River, and allowed a clear view of the military settlement on Barracks Hill. Colonel By was 43 years old when he arrived in 1826.


The Rideau Canal Project created employment for thousands of men, but encountered several difficulties. The main ones being overcoming the wilderness, the winter weather, swamp fever amongst the workers, and the high cost.


The job was finished in 1832 and the town that had grown up during those six years was called Bytown after the Colonel. It was in 1832 that a Cholera epidemic struck the whole area. He left with his family in 1832 and was never to return. Colonel By died in England in 1836 after completing one of the greatest engineering feats in the British Empire, but today he is not remembered.


With the completion of the canal the large labour force turned to the timber trade and Bytown became a fully-fledged town. There was a mixed population but mainly English, Scots and Irish, which is reflected in the churches that were erected. St.Andrews Presbyterian Church founded 1828, Christ Church for Anglicans in 1832, Notre-Dame Basilica in 1839, St.Patricks in 1855 and the Baptist Church in 1857. In May 1843 a District Grammar School was opened with Thomas Wardrope as the headmaster.


Thomson arrived in Canada during October 1841 and was based in Montreal until August 1843 when he moved to Bytown. There he met Caroline Buchanan and on 21st May 1844 they were married at Christ Church, Bytown, Canada-West. The service was performed by the Rector, the Reverend Samuel Spratt Strong, with Christopher Armstrong, S.Thomas Freed, Anne M.Powell, Susan Strong, and Francis C. Powell as witnesses.


His bride Caroline Buchanan was a widow with four children by her first husband George Buchanan. Her maiden name was Powell, and she was the daughter of Colonel James Powell.


The following year a daughter, Caroline Ann Ringler Thomson, was born on the 29th May 1845, and baptised on the 20th June in Christ Church, Bytown, with A.M.Powell, Francis C.Powell and Matilda Powell standing as Godparents.


On 1st March 1847 he was promoted from Major to Lieutenant-Colonel, but six months later the couple left Canada on 27th September, since he was ordered to take up duty in Limerick, Ireland.


After their departure Bytown continued to prosper, and in spite of the fluctuations of the lumber market, the area was the major supplier of commercial timber, and there was sufficient prosperity that in 1852 a report says most of the 387 women sent out from the Nenagh Workhouse in Tipperary went to Bytown and were engaged as domestic servants within 48 hours. By 1853 comprised sixty stores, a bank, local newspapers the Bytown Gazette and Bytown Independent, and schools. The population grew from around 8,000 in 1851 to around 25,000 in 1873. It was given a new name on the 1st January 1855,  Ottawa, and today is the capital city of Canada.


Service at Limerick commenced on the 5th November 1847. A son Francis Drummond Hay Ringler Thomson, was born 3rd October 1848 and baptised 13th June 1849 at St.John’s Parish Church in Limerick. He was followed in 1850 by a daughter Louisa Florence Ringler Thomson  born on 21st March. The Colonel took leave during April and May and whilst in England had Louisa baptised on 19th May at Ardleigh, Essex, by Henry Bishop, the Vicar of Ardleigh.


Another son was born in Ireland, Edward Charles Ringler Thomson on 17th March 1851 and baptised 11th June at St.Michael’s Church, Limerick, by the Reverend Pryce Peacock, the Perpetual Curate.


From Ireland Thomson was posted back to the Mediterranean again, this time to Malta, and arrived on the 30th January 1852. As the Commanding Royal Engineer on Malta, he was asked to be a witness at two weddings involving colleagues in the Royal Engineers. Lieutenant Philip Ravenhill R.E. married Jane Carter on 31st March 1853, and Miss Maria Servante the daughter of Lieut-Colonel Servante R.E. married Lieutenant Thomas Lethbridge of the Royal Navy on 4th May 1854. Both ceremonies took place at St.Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, Valletta.


His appointment as a full Colonel came through on 28th November 1854 whilst he was serving on Malta. He was responsible for a considerable amount of construction work of various categories during his time there.


Colonel Thomson’s family suffered a tragic loss during February 1856, when his youngest stepson the 14-year-old George Buchanan died on the 5th, followed four days later by his only stepdaughter Matilda Victoria Buchanan, who was aged 18 years. The two young people shared the same grave in the Msida Bastion Cemetery, Floriana. The local newspaper in carrying a report of this double tragedy, continued ‘.....typhus fever has cruelly visited his family....’


Due to his health problems he returned to England in 1856. Seven weeks later he received further promotion to the rank of Major General on 14th June 1856, on which date he retired from the Army on half pay.


He died at Epsom, Surrey, on the 10th October 1863, and when his wife died on 3rd January 1869 she was buried alongside her husband in Epsom Churchyard.


Appendix 3 – Reverend Alfred Malim



Alfred Malim was the eldest son of Alfred Malim and his wife Jane Elizabeth, nee Hodson, who had married during the last quarter of 1840 and recorded at Wellingborough, Northamptonshire. He was born on 7th November 1843 after the couple had moved to London and taken up residence at Gloucester Grove West, in the Brompton district of Kensington. His father was a Clerk, aged 31 years and his mother was 27 years old.


At 19 years of age on 20th July 1863, he went to Cambridge to enrol at Jesus College where he obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1866 and after further study Master of Arts in 1870.


He entered the Church of England and was made a Deacon in 1866, and ordained in 1867 by the Bishop of Chichester. His first post was as Curate of Rogate, Sussex, from 1866 to 1867, followed by Curate of Isfield, Sussex, from 1867 to 1869, and Curate at Dummer, Hampshire from 1869 to 1874. After spending eight years as a Curate he decided in 1874 to become a Chaplain to the Forces, and as such served at:    


Portsmouth 1874 to 1876

Bermuda 1876 to 1878

Colchester 1878 to 1879

Shorncliffe 1879

Aldershot 1879 to 1884

Shoeburyness 1884 to 1893

Egypt 1893 to 1894

Malta 1894 to 1900

Devonport 1900 to 1903 


Whilst in Malta he lived with his wife Edel Emilie Marie Elise Malim, at 61 Piazza Celsi,Valletta.


His mother died on 12th September 1899, her 84th birthday, a widow, at 88 Midland Road, Bedford. He had two brothers Charles Havey Malim, and George Warcup Malim, and two sisters Louisa and Mary Isabel.


He retired on half pay in 1903, and lived at Durnford Lodge, Somerset Place, Devonport. His death took place on 31st March 1920 at Moor House, Yelverton, near Plymouth, Devon.

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