28th Cambridge (St John’s)

Cambridge District Scout Archive

This short history of the 28th is written ahead of the full version planned by G Oliver.

Introduction

The 28th Cambridge is based in the area around Cherry Hinton Road and Hills Road, SSE of Cambridge. The area of development, originally just outside the town boundary, was originally called New Cherry Hinton.  Whilst the Group remains within the Parish of Cherry Hinton it is no longer identified with Cherry Hinton, the village, or as New CH.   Occasionally, in the 21st Century, the 28th Cambridge Scout Group is still unhelpfully labeled ‘Cherry Hinton’.

This history of the 28th Cambridge Scout Group and scouting in the area starts with the Church of St John the Evangelist, Hills Road, an early sponsor of Scouting.

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St John the Evangelist, New Cherry Hinton, Cherry Hinton parish, Hills Road. 

1910                A new church in a growing suburb outside the town boundary they hosted the 1st Cambridge District (Col. Howard Marsh’s Own) between 1910 and 1912. 

1917                They were involved in supporting the 3rd Cambridge at Morley School (1913 – 1918)

1919               28th Cambridge Cherry Hinton Troop was formed in 1919 meeting in ‘the Church Rooms, Blinco Grove’. Now within the town boundary it did not last for more than two years.  The current 28th does not claim a start date of 1919. Little is known of the 1919 ‘28th’ other than its existence.  There is no connection between that Troop and the existing 28th other than the number.  Numbers were routinely re-issued to new Groups in the same part of town.

1928                The current 28th Cambridge (St John’s) started in 1928.  The Group has always been ‘Open’ and the then incumbent, Rev Morgan, was not on the Registration in any capacity.  The Church was willing to give its name and to offer rooms to host the Group.

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28th Cambridge (St John’s) Scout Group

The current 28th was formed in 1928 receiving an IHQ number, alongside several other local Groups, ahead of the formal renumbering of existing Pack/ Troop pairs into Groups later that year.  The number, 1990, has never been altered, something that happens at significant changes in names, sponsorship or amalgamation.  (See Home/ Archive/ IHQ Number)

The two founders were G R Gedge, ASM and S A V Roper, GSM, both from the 7th Cambridge, a School Troop that occasionally also met at St John’s Blinco Road Parish Hall. Both remained in Scouting within the District for many years. They were joined in 1930 by Miss Florence Isaacson as Lady CM, a local school teacher who lived in Blinco Grove, taught at the local Morley School almost directly opposite her house and attended St John’s Church. The church rooms were opposite the school on the corner of Blinco and Baldock Way.

The Troop started with 11 Scouts but did not flourish and Gedge and Roper resigned in 1931.  The Group remained as a single section for the next 19 years, with F E Isaacson, the first Akela, as the core leader.  She took the Cub name Iki (not as Kipling spelt it Ikki) and was soon spelt and known as Ikey (Eye Key).  The pack started with seven Wolf Cubs in 1930.   She ran the pack from St John’s church rooms (under several names – Parish Hall, Church Meeting Rooms etc.) and in summer from her garden and kept records for the next 39 years. She was joined by R H Cook, briefly as SM, later GSM, and by a number of ACM’s, some from Homerton College. 

In 1935 a District report notes several boys at St John’s Church wished to start a Troop but no SM was available.  Pack numbers were ‘three sixes’ in 1938, a fair reflection of numbers until WW2 when numbers grew to 37.  Only one evacuee is reported at the time, but reporting was intermittent and this may be unrepresentative; some other packs had closed.

From as early as 1932 Ikey had been involved in the District and the pack was regularly represented in District events and camped.  She received a Medal of Merit in 1943, an early date for this recognition. 

1949                A Troop was started with GSM L Pearce and ASM Rev P V R Pennant from St John’s Church.  It is rare that a single section Group survives as long as the 28th did under Ikey.  Ikey should be given great credit for her prolonged Service.

1951    Colours of the 28th Troop were dedicated by Curate of St John’s P V R Pennant and an address given by the Rev John Needham.  Cubs, Scouts, District Officers, families totaled 400.

In the early years of the new Troop they were strongly engaged in District and County events, notably winning the County Stratton Ambulance Competition in 1954.

1958                GSM    A R McGlashan

1969                Ikey, the first Akela, finally retired after 39 years.  She continued on 28th Exec until 1973, and in District events for several more years – gaining a Silver Wolf in 1977.  She remained living in Blinco Grove, attending St John’s and is pictured in 2000 at Morley school where she was a pupil and teacher.  She died in 2002 aged 95.  She was replaced by Mike Lowe as the second Akela.

1970                GSL      Vic Barnes

1978                CSL      Mike Lowe      Medal of Merit

1979                ASL      Geoff Oliver    Geoff had been a Cub and Scout at the 28th before becoming a Venture at Sir John Cockcroft.  His father, Snowy Oliver, a lifelong scout, was on the Exec Team.  By 1981 he was SL, a role he held until 2010, when he formally became GSL.  In practice the move had occurred some years earlier as Dave Woollard became defacto SL, Geoff defacto GSL.

1981                GSL      M C Rolfe

1986                BSL      Gregory Ground was first Beaver leader

2000                CSL      Rosalind Potter          Third Akela  Stepped down in 2003 after 15 years in Scouting   Group numbers dropped to around 30 in 2001.

2002 (c)           BSL      Fiona Jacques

At this point the Group was at a low point in terms of numbers and finances.  The building was worn and most external income was from one dance school, barely covering costs.

2005                The Colony and Pack were run by a couple at Homerton College who moved from Cambridge.  The Beavers stopped for a while and Linda, an experienced CSL, moved into Cambridge and took on the pack.  Around this time Jeremy Racher, Tom Hartley and James Newton became Cub leaders, David Woollard and Robert Hubbard Scout Leaders. Ed Gillett was very active as an ASL establishing high expectations of the Troop.

                        CSL      Linda Jones                 Fifth Akela   

Geoff Oliver received a Silver Acorn in 2005 for his very significant work at Group, District and County events.  He had been greatly involved in Gang Shows, Jamborees and Jubilee events.

2007                CSL      Jeremy Racher            Sixth Akela

                        BSL      Denise Owen               Restated Beaver Colony which provides the Pack with significantly more engaged Tenderfoots; a significant part of the whole experience.

2015                Flamsteed Road HQ significantly rebuilt (new roof, walls, heating, windows, and expanded space) on the same footprint and metal framework.  The traditional ‘Scouty’ Hall of dust and damp, half finished projects, piles of tables and chairs and dusty thin curtains was replaced by modern toilets and neat storage space and a clear hall.  Not everyone appreciated change – the Council Grant required the hall to be hired – and the need to share the space.  The new ‘Scouting Centre’, however, is clearly still ‘The Scout Hut’ and the financial security that has come from the rent relieved the Sections of all need to fund raise for a time.

2017                A second Pack was started under CSL James Newton.  Waiting lists in all Sections were very high and in Colony and Pack were double the section size.  A nearby Group was without a Troop and the 28th generally attracted people from across Cambridge.  A solid online presence gained many enquiries. 

The Group was identified as a being ‘well run’ in being selected to receive a grant towards a hardship fund.  This was a timely donation as the larger group was now able to reach into wider catchment area which contained a larger proportion of struggling families.  The waiting lists had inevitably favoured settled families with an ability to plan ahead – and the list never dropped sufficiently to allow reasonable, short waits for late comers.

2018                A second Troop was started as numbers worked through from the new Pack. Initially lead in name by J Racher; it was effectively run by Elliot, Kaz and Edmund as ASLs.  An Explorer unit was started (Flamsteed Explorers) – high numbers of Young Leaders wished to remain attached to the Group.  The previous very strong connections with the Phoenix Explorers had stuttered and the Phoenix, itself a very active and successful Unit, was full.

2018                90th Anniversary of the Group – never having faltered, amalgamated, nor changed scarf, name or number.  At the Anniversary the Vicar of St John’s joined our celebrations; the Group retains its gentle attachment and attends the Remembrance Day yearly at the Church.

2020                Corona Virus: lock down and Zoom meetings.  Zoom meetings attracted 50 – 90% of sections; a few children opted out being  Zoomed dizzy by their schools, a few without the necessary equipment.  Following formal and approved Risk Assessments and following Government and HQ regulations the Packs and Troops returned to outdoor meetings as soon as possible.  Number limits required half size Pack and Troop nights.  Moving up ‘on line’ was difficult for some, but on return to face to face meetings over 90% returned.

2000 – 2020

Camping and Competitions  The Group has a long and full history of camping.  In the last 15 years the Troop has averaged around ten camps a year, the Pack four – Winter and Summer, hikes, training, activity and static camps.  The Group has yearly Family Camps hosting over 100 based on the volunteer involvement of parents.  D Woollard, SL, is also District Camp Adviser and the Troop has a long history of success at District Hike Competitions.  The Pack has an equally strong reputation at Tug of War. Group leaders are very well represented in District roles and have initiated a District Archery and Marksmanship Teams, leading camps at National events.  The Leaders have regularly participated in the University lead Marathon challenge, winning it on three occasions. At the 90th Anniversary the Group held eight District Trophies.

Camp Eagles: 2007 -2016, 2017 – date, and the next One ‘feather’ per camp

For many years Colony, Pack and Troop ran on the same evening.  This was busy at swop over but ensured a strong continuity between sections and leadership.  Leaders supported other Sections readily, parents knew leaders.  This was inevitably compromised by the new Pack and Troop which meet on a Monday but Packs and Troops share planning, resources and leaders; pack camps with pack, troop with troop.

Flamsteed Road Head Quarters

Between 1928 and the building of the 28th Headquarters in 1979 the Group meet in various incarnations of St John’s Church Hall (St John’s Institute, Parish Hall, etc.) in Blinco Grove. 

At some point after 1950 a fund was started to build a HQ for the Group.  Following the very successful paper collection by District in WW2 the Group continued the enterprise and a Hut was built on a small plot of land at the end of Flamsteed Road, once used as an allotment but then overgrown and inhabited by a ‘den’.  It was opened by CC Harry Mainwaring in November 1978. Paper collecting remained a money maker until 1982.

By 2012 the building was dated and worn.  Income from hiring the hall was minimal as it slipped behind new expectations.  Major rebuilding was funded by Section 106 money (from new development in the area) forwarded by the City Council following significant preliminary work by Justine Hartley who headed a team of fund raisers.  It was aided by the small but growing Group savings generated by increased numbers.  The Group met at the District HQ in Perne Road for a number of months during the rebuild.

The rebuilding created a larger and largely new building and rapidly generated rental income to pay for further facilities and improvements.  The hall is in use most mornings and evenings.  This fund removed much of the financial stress that the 2020 lockdown would have caused. 

Neighbours

The Group now has few neighbours who predate the building of the Scout Hut.  The immediate neighbour planted trees on the site when it was built – some of which were felled 40 years later.  This was repaid in recent years by the Scout maintenance of his hedges.  It has long served as a centre for neighbourhood meetings and more recently been a centre for the Street Parties held in the cul-de-sac, the first of which the Scouts organized.  The external appearance of the site has also improved with the increased finances generated by the rebuild.

Considerable attention has been given to responding to local concerns; monitoring parking on the road, noise from users, the request to hire to local users on bikes (not so easy) and limiting Sunday use.  A number of immediate neighbours are directly involved in the Group, children from the cul-de-sac being the only ones permitted to walk home alone, under leader supervision, as Cubs.

2021   

At this date the Group retains a direct link to the first leaders.  The current GSL Geoff Oliver knew Ikey in her last days as a Cub Scout Leader.  1930 – 2021. 

The strong Colony and Packs and Troops feed through one to the next to provide a very solid platform for youngsters to develop. The Group retains a clear sense of the 28th style, solidly reliant on Sixes and Patrols, constantly re inventing the content but not the underlying approach and giving room for Scouts of all ages to grow.  In the year before lockdown numbers reached over 130 young people.

JWR Archivist Jan 2021