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Scouting in Northchurch

Updated: Apr 7, 2021

Scout activities have played an important part of youth life most Hertfordshire towns and villages, and Northchurch has been no exception. Scouting started here in Northchurch in 1908. It was very early days in the history of scouting when the troop was registered with Scouting Head Office as troop 51 or 52, one of the very oldest troops in the world.

1940 - Procession in front of Scout Hut on Southbank Road

Over the years leaders have come in all shapes and sizes, and backgrounds. The very first here in Northchurch was a Mr Rolfe, who was the coachman to the Blount family, the family who lived at the Rectory, and he was assisted by a Mr J Honour.

They ran the weekly activities and these included a bugle band which continued until 1911-12. Much the same as modern scouting the troop also used to go on camps. In fact one of the earliest camps remembered was held in a meadow along Hamberlins Lane in Dudswell.

Evidence of wall painting left behind by the scout troop at 7 New road.

As scouting began to spread, and the values being taught by Lord Baden Powell were being passed on to boys all around the country interest in the local area also grew. As a result a new troop in Berkhamsted was started in 1920. Mr Childes was the leader and he gathered some boys beginning the 1st Kitsbury troop.

In order to increase the numbers Mr Childes approached the head of Northchurch School, a Mr Mellor, in order to see whether any of the boys in the school would like to try scouting. As a result about 30 boys joined and so initially the numbers attending the 1st Kitsbury group grew and all was going well, unfortunately however, after a time the numbers began to drop off until only the boys from Northchurch were left attending. Because of this the troop relocated to Northchurch and in 1921 they made their headquarters in the wash house of number 7 New Road.

The attached photograph from those days shows the evidence of wall painting left behind by the scout troop at 7 New Road. The name of the troop was changed to 1st Northchurch with Mr Childes as Scoutmaster, Mr R Bates as Assistant Scout Master and Mr E Dell as Troop Secretary.

The troop held many meetings in the wash house, as well as under street lamps in the village or up on Northchurch common. However the troop proved so popular that they needed larger meeting space and so began a time of much moving and searching for a permanent troop headquarters.

The troop moved to the church room, (where the school is now), and then followed by meetings in a black barn or shed round at the back of the ‘anchorage’ in Northchurch High Street.

In 1924 the troop were given permission to meet in a disused brush factory on the main road opposite Lagley House on the way to Gossoms End. This was perfect for them, but shortly after this it was sold and so it was back to the church room again.

At last in 1926-1927, 1st Northchurch Scout Troop headquarters here in Southbank Road was built and opened. Finally a home of their own after 15 years of travelling from place to place. At the opening ceremony Mr R Bates was presented with an award for gallantry for his role in helping at a train accident at Berkhamsted Station. He had also taken over as Assistant Scoutmaster to assist Mr Dell, the Scout Master.

A purpose built scout headquarters, what an exciting moment! What we see as an old wooden hut, was for them the perfect place to gather for the activities of Scouting in Northchurch.

Northchurch Cubs was started in 1934-35 under the command of Norman and John Weedon, and in 1937 a Rover Scout crew began. This crew was closed down in 1939 as the majority of the boys were called up to national service for the war.

The Annual Troop Fete between 1933-39 was held in the grounds of the forementioned Lagley House. From 1939-44 the troop won the Brownlow cup which was a District Camping Competition.

The writer Mr Bert Hosier mentions that he was indebted to Mr Dell and Mr Smith for many of these recollections. Mr Dell remained involved in Scouting as Honourary Group Scoutmaster.

Mr Smith left the Northchurch troop in 1943. He was one of the boys invited by Mr Childes to join the Kitsbury Troop in the very earliest days. He left in order to begin the 1st Gossoms End Troop, which he led until 1951 when he took a short break from scouting activities. Then in 1956 he came back to rejoin the Northchurch troop as a leader.

When it was registered in 1943 1st Gossoms end troop was numbered at 22701. When you consider that 1st Northchurch troop was registered as number 51/52 it shows how much scouting had grown and how rapidly during the interwar years, and that it was increasing in influence locally and nationally and soon internationally also.

Bob Baker taking scouts up on the common

Many, many boys have grown up attending the 1st Northchurch Cubs and Scouts over the years. In fact too many to number. With its little wooden hut which backs onto the canal it is perfectly placed for lots of fun water activities, and with its proximity to Northchurch Common and Ivinghoe Beacon, Northchurch scout troop has over the years sought to embody the values of Scouting as laid down at its inception by Lord Baden Powell and that continues even to this day.

Not only that, but the Scout movement owes a lot to its committed and highly talented voluntary leaders. These volunteers here in Northchurch have meant that the activities held have enabled the weekly programme to contain both enjoyment, education and learning. The movement’s emphasis on responsibility and leadership have enabled many boys to have ‘a try’ at leading and many have then gone on into very important leadership roles in society.

Based upon memories and discussions from Mr Bert Hosier Southbank road, Northchurch 11th October 1967.

(revised 2015).


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