Between 1832 and 1834 Gordon Mainwaring (1817 – 1872), one of my 3rd great grandfathers, was enrolled as a cadet at Addiscombe Military Seminary, military academy of the British East India Company. The Academy, in Surrey near Croydon, had been founded two decades previously, in 1809, occupying a 1702 mansion called Addiscombe Place.

Before his enrollment in the Academy, Gordon had been a pupil of a private master named Adam Thom in Tooting, some five miles distant. On 1 August 1832 Thom certified that:

“Mr Gordon Mainwaring has resided in my house during the last three months – that he has studied Caesar’s commentaries, Vulgar [common] and decimal fractions, and that he has displayed praiseworthy diligence and that his general conduct has been marked by exemplary propriety.”

Before they were admitted cadets were required to have a fair knowledge of Arithmetic, write a good hand, and possess a competent knowledge of English and Latin Grammar. They should also have learnt Drawing, and have some knowledge of French, Mathematics and Fortification.

In the 1830s there were two regular admissions to the Seminary, in January and in July. Cadets, aged 14 to 16 when they entered, normally remained for 2 years (4 terms), although it was possible to pass the final examination within a shorter period. The intake comprised about 75 cadets a year, with about 150 cadets in residence at any one time.

Cadets or their families were required to pay fees (£30 a year when the Seminary first opened; £50 a term by 1835), but these fees represented only a small proportion of the real costs of their education and were heavily subsidised by the East India Company to secure a satisfactory class of officers for their armies in India.

Besides the £30 tuition fee cadets were obliged to provide two sureties who signed a bond for this payment and “for the reimbursement to the Company of all expenses incurred upon his account which shall not be defrayed by the said sum in the event of his not proceeding to India.” By 1835 the fees were £50 a term. (The relative value of £50 from 1835 in 2020 ranges from £5,000 in simple purchasing power to £60,000 in income value.)

Addiscombe Military Academy, with 9 cadets posing in foreground. Photographed in about 1859 from Addiscombe, its heroes and men of note. The Academy’s motto “Non faciam vitio culpave minorem” (I will not lower myself by vice or fault) was the motto of the Draper family who built the mansion in 1702.

According to Colonel Vibart in Addiscombe, its heroes and men of note, necessaries to be provided by the cadet when he joined, were :

  • One military great-coat
  • One uniform jacket, waistcoat and pair of pantaloons
  • One military cap and feather, with plate in front embossed with the
    Company’s arms
  • Ten shirts
  • Six pairs of cotton socks
  • Six pairs of worsted socks
  • Two pairs of gaiters
  • Two pairs of military gloves
  • Two pairs of strong shoes
  • Six towels
  • Six night-caps
  • Six pocket-handkerchiefs
  • Two black silk handkerchiefs
  • Two combs and a brush
  • One tooth-brush
  • One foraging-cap

The Company supplied each cadet with the following clothing :

  • Half-yearly : Jacket, Waistcoat, Black silk handkerchief, Foraging-cap
  • Quarterly : Pantaloons and Gaiters
  • Shoes every 2 months

Medical attendance and washing were also provided.

Each cadet was provided with the necessary books, stationery, drawing and mathematical instruments; and the Seminary was supplied with philosophical instruments [in this context, probably surveying and laboratory equipment] and the requisite apparatus and materials to pursue the courses of chemical lectures.

The woollen clothes were of superfine cloth. The cadets were also supplied with linen when necessary in the opinion of the Head Master.

The cadets were in dormitories with framed partitions which formed separate sleeping places. These, 9′ by 6′ and 8′ high, were called “kennels”. Kennels had an iron bedstead which could be raised to rest against the wall during the day if required. Beside the bed was a fixed table and drawer. A wash-stand stood between the foot of the bed and the wooden partition. One chair was provided. The door was a curtain.

The Acadamy curriculum was “instruction in the sciences of Mathematics, Fortification, Natural Philosophy, and Chemistry; the Hindustani, Latin, and French languages; in the art of Civil, Military, and Lithographic Drawing and Surveying; and in the construction of the several gun-carriages and mortarbeds used in the Artillery service, from the most approved models”.

Examinations were held twice-yearly in June and December: they lasted about three weeks, and culminated in a Public Examination, a day-long affair of some ceremony before a distinguished invited audience. This included orchestrated demonstrations of book-learning and of military exercises such as swordsmanship and pontoon-building; an exhibition of drawings and models; a formal inspection; and the distribution of prizes.

According to their degree of talent, acquirements, and good conduct (and the number needed) some cadets were selected for the Engineers and Artillery corps. The remaining cadets were sent to the Infantry line of service.

In 1835 Gordon Mainwaring joined the 53rd Bengal Native Infantry Company of the Honourable East India Company Service.


  • Addiscombe, its heroes and men of note; by Colonel H. M. Vibart… With an introduction by Lord Roberts of Kandahar.. (1894) retrieved through

Wikitree: Gordon Mainwaring (1817 – 1872)