Unexpected results… Polish Refugee Hospital on Portsea Island

In doing some research for my novel I came across the Polish Refugee Hospital which was on Portsea Island, Portsmouth in 1841; I don’t know when it was founded, in the 1830’s, I’m sure, but on the census of 1841, there were eighty-eight ‘residents’ all soldiers in ‘the late Polish Army’. For the purpose of my novel I have added an extra soldier, but ignoring him, the eighty-eight refugees (including one woman, Julia, wife Gregory Lastowieki) were soldiers, sergeants, bombardiers and three drummers. The oldest are fifty-five, most are in their thirties and forties, and the youngest is twenty-five (their ages have been rounded up or down to the nearest five.)

Apparently they had arrived in 1834, via Prussia from which they were sent into exile, probably because of the turbulent state of eastern Europe at the time (Poland as a country had vanished, divided between Prussia, Russia and Austria) Some of the soldiers were sent to America on board the Marianne; the ship  docked in Portsmouth and was kept in port because of bad weather. The soldiers then refused to board the ship again, and remained in England.

I am struggling to find out more about this group of men… did they manage to return to Poland? Did they remain in England and have wives and families? Did they move back to mainland Europe or continue their journey to America? The census return is completed in a beautiful neat hand, all the names, as far as I can tell are written with correct spelling… which is not always the case with nineteenth century enumerators! It would be possible, I guess to go through their names and try to trace them from other material,, marriage records, later censuses… I am sure someone will have done this,and there maybe descendants of these men who have traced their families back to their arrival in Portsmouth, I am sure there are! I would love to know more of their stories, fascinating, I’m sure.



  1. Janet

    If you saw Len Goodman’s “Who do you think you are?” programme you will know he is a descendent of one of these soldiers. Joseph Sosnowski married MARY ANN JAMES from Midhurst…interestingly Mary’s sister Sarah Jane AND her widowed mother RHODA also both married Polish soldiers. Many of them moved to the east end of London.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.