Origin of the Group
Lord Robert Baden-Powell formed the Scout Association after a camp on Brownsea Island in 1907 and his book “Scouting for Boys” in 1908.
Great Bookham Scout Troop (number 3436) was registered at Imperial Headquarters (now Gilwell) in June 1910. This makes our Scouts one of the oldest continually registered in the country, as many early Scout Troops closed in the post first world war years. 1st Bookham Scouts is the oldest continuously registered in Epsom and Leatherhead Districts. We are one of the eldest four still in existence in the Surrey Scouts area (others are 1st Claygate Oct 1909, 5th Farnham March 1910 and 2nd Reigate 1910).
We don’t yet know who founded the Scouts in Bookham, or exactly when, but the Great Bookham parish magazine April 1910 says “we are very pleased ..that a company of Boy Scouts has been started under the leadership of Mr Graham”. The Headquarters Gazette June 1910 reports the founding of Great Bookham Troop with Scoutmaster A Graham and 9 Scouts. Usually new Troops were mentioned quickly in the Gazette so with the information in the Parish magazine, it is likely that Bookham Scout Troop was formed in about March 1910. The Headquarters Gazette for September 1910 records a weekend camp at Woodcote House, Epsom, and Great Bookham were among the Troops attending. The first annual report (AGM) of Surrey Boy Scouts Association November 1911 records Bookham Scout Troop as one of eight Troops in the local area and mentions Miss Arnett as the Scoutmaster. So although it seems Mr Graham was the first Scoutmaster of Bookham Scouts, Miss Arnett had become Scoutmaster by November 1911.
The Troop re-registration paper in 1919 records F. M. Arnett, of Fairfield, Bookham as the Scoutmaster of ten Scouts. (The first initial looks like our J, but looking at the National Residential Census for 1901 and 1911 it is likely to be F. M. Arnett). Miss Frances Mary Arnett lived at Fairfield then,(aged 44 in 1911) which is the large house on the west side of Bookham High Street, next to the solicitors. Mrs Arnett (Mary Jane, Frances’ mother) and Miss L Arnett (probably her sister Elizabeth) are listed as District Visitors in the same St Nicolas church parish magazine for April 1910. This re-registration paper of 1919 states the Troop was registered in 1910. The postcard photo here is of Miss Arnett, and the Bookham Scouts, in approx 1917, outside the Barn Hall.
Mrs Mary Jane Arnett and her husband Charles are believed to have known the Baden-Powells through a family member, so it is likely that this influenced their involvement. The grave of Mary-Jane, Charles and their son is in the graveyard at St Nicolas’ church, Bookham. Terry Arnett, Frances’ great-nephew, advises us that Frances probably left Bookham in about 1921 when Fairfield was sold and she died in Brighton in about 1956.
1st Bookham Cub Pack (then called Wolf Cubs) was registered in June 1924, pack number 7044, with Lilian Burton of Fife Lodge, Bookham as the Cubmistress of 23 Cubs. They met then, at the Barn Hall, Bookham.
In November 1928 Gilwell re-registered the Cubs, Scouts and Rover Scouts (with a new 1st Bookham Scout Group no. 5908) with 20 Wolf Cubs, 30 Scouts and 19 Rover Scouts. The Scoutmaster was A Stent, living in High Street, Bookham.
Senior Scouts were formed nationally in 1917 as a section for over 18 year olds. They were re-named Rover Scouts, then Venture Scouts, and are now Explorer Scouts, with amended age ranges. Beaver Scouts started in the UK in the 1960’s.
In October 1960 the 2nd Bookham Scout Group (Baptist) was registered (35269)with 5 leaders, 6 Boy Scouts and 6 Wolf cubs, but this Group closed in 1986. In April 1963 the 3rd Bookham Scout Group was registered (36512)with 9 leaders, 30 Wolf cubs,28 Scouts and 9 Senior Scouts. Please see the photos, articles, registration papers and other historical documents from 1917 to the 1950’s in the Gallery. With thanks to the Fuller family in particular for the photos.
With thanks to many who have helped with this research including Terry Staffe – Parish archivist, Peter Tarplee and Roy Mellick of the Leatherhead and District Local History society, Geoff Rhodes – Surrey Scouts Archivist, Terry Arnett- Frances’ great-nephew in Canada, Pat Styles – Gilwell.
1st and 3rd Bookham Groups continue and are still thriving. We continue to share premises with 3rd Bookham, having moved from our old huts in Lower Rd, Bookham to our fantastic new Scouting Centre and grounds off Eastwick Park Avenue in 2009. Our new premises were officially opened by Peter Duncan, then Chief Scout, who had also helped us at a cut the turf ceremony before construction started.
1st Bookham Scout Group continues to offer a wide range of activities to young people, leaders and helpers in our two Beaver Colonies, two Cub Packs, two Scout Troops and our Explorer Scout Unit, which has many joint activities with the Ranger Guide Unit.
Recollections of my time in Cubs and Scouts in the 1930’s by Charlie Finch
Charlie has a photo taken on camp with the Cubs and Scouts of 1st Bookham Group on the Isle of Wight in about 1934. Charlie is in the front row, third in from the left. In the back row is Mr Hutchison, Scout Troop leader. Marked on the photo are some names. Please let us know if you know of any more! Charlie recalls raiding the tuck shop on camp – boys eh?! Charlie remembers having a swim in the sea,wearing some trunks that his sister had knitted, only they didn’t keep their shape very well!
Their cub leader was Miss Attewell who also taught at a local school. Charlie enjoyed activities such as firelighting, cooking eggs and bacon in the field near the present Art Gallery in Church Road . They also practised knots such as bowline, reef, sheepshank, waggoners hitch (which Charlie’s Dad would also use to tighten the hayloads on the carts); a knot which Charlie has often used since. Less enjoyable were nights when the leader made them walk ten paces then run ten paces from the Scout Hut in Lower Road to Bookham Common.
Being an inventive chap, Charlie tried to make a woggle out of a stoat skin but it didn’t work very well.
Back in the 1930’s the boys had to pay one old penny at each meeting and they had to save up for the uniform which included a hat, scarf, shirt, yellow or green sock garters. The uniform extras included a “Bushman’s Thong”, earned after a few worthwhile tasks which apparently was a chunky string which was secured on the front pocket button and went over and round the shoulder.
Charlie says that Scouting taught him many valuable skills such as how to work well in a team, getting on with others from all backgrounds and interests, being independent and to listen to and value the opinions of others. From his time in Scouting he has made lifelong friendships.
Charlie’s family firm, Finch’s, still operates in Eastwick Road.
From a conversation with Charlie, Claire Thomas and John Humphreys 2009.