54th Cambridge: Outline History

Cambridge District Scout Archive

Only one Group has been allocated the 54th Cambridge number and name, St George’s based in Chesterton.

  • 54th Cambridge St George’s                1932 – 2018    (in abeyance 1946 – 1947)

54th Cambridge St George’s                          1932 – 2018                            14762

St George’s Church was newly built and a curate Rev. Herbert Wise was appointed in 1932. He had been curate at St Matthew’s, Cambridge since 1923 and was a member of the very strong 23rd Cambridge (St Matthews) Rover Crew, related by marriage to two other Rovers. No vicar was in place at that early date and the inspiration for the foundation of the Scout Group is very likely to have been his. He moved in 1936.

  • Rev H G Wise                          GSM
  • J Gilbert                                   SM
  • W Bone                                   CM
  • Miss Hilda Summerlin             ACM

They started with six scouts and eleven Cubs, the scarf, which remained unchanged, was red with a white border.  It is noted that the group moved to purchasing made scarves in 1955, that is, with the borders sewn in place.  The in-house addition of the white strip may have been a war time measure or the thrifty use of a friendly seamstress.  

1936 County Gazette list gives 26 scouts and 12 Cubs

  • S V James                                SM
  • J H Livingston                          ASM
  • W J C Bone                              CM
  • T G Craske                               ACM
  • Miss B M Gawthrop                ACM   

In 1936 The St Andrews (Chesterton) and St George Parish magazine record the 54th St George was struggling for (troop?) leaders and ‘at present the few who remain in the troop are meeting in with the Harvey Goodwin Troop at their HQ’. The appeal for SM’s having failed it was announced later that year that the 8th Cambridge (Harvey Goodwin Home) would join the 54th and be known as the 54th.

  • J Palmer                                  GSM
  • A Eades                                   SM
  • Mr. Boast                                ASM
  • W J C Bone                              CM
  • Miss B M Gawthrop                ACM    later CM

By 1937 Mr Palmer previously of the 8th was running the 54th troop and the Cubs were under the care first of Mr. Bone and later of Miss Gawthrop. This archive source including St George’s and the 54th only runs from 1 Jan 1936 and ends in December 1937.

1940    The pack closed ‘at the start of the war’ but was quickly running again and the Scouts reported 3 evacuees in a troop of 15 in 1939 and 1940 (the only years recorded).

The group is recorded as being in abeyance in 1946 – 1947 but there is no break in the census returns and the IHQ number is unchanged.  We can see from the Census returns that it is possible that the troop stuttered and halted in the same year that the cubs restarted.  District reported that scouts moved to the 1st and 12th.

Census returns

  • Cubs                1933 – 1945, 1948 – 1983 (end of records)
  • Scouts              1933 – 1947, 1953, 1955 – 1983
  • War Service Scouts     1942 (3 No.)
  • Senior Scouts   1959 – 1965
  • Rovers             1947 and 1964
  • Ventures          1969 – 1981

The 1947 Rover was possibly a Rover acting as leader; this appears to be the case in several Groups around this date.  The 1964 date is less clear.  

The 54th ran on after the 1946/47 period in abeyance and was deemed to have retained its identity.

The Troop was running a successful Troop of Honour at this point, building Trek Carts and expanding their building.  The Trek carts and the Patrol den were to be given a floor.  The Court of Honour debated the change of headgear, woggle colours to identify experienced campers, troop librarian and the purchase of books and the expectation of PL training and behaviour.  They Camped at the Sandringham Coronation Jamboree and held a daily CoH on site.

1964   The connections with St George’s Church remained strong.  The Group held regular church parades and in 1964 the appointment of a new Cub Master, who was a Roman Catholic, only went ahead after a discussion with Father Thomas of St George’s.

Flourishing for long periods it ran two packs from 1970 called Chesterton and Arbury (on the flags) and elsewhere ‘St George’s’ and ‘King’s Hedges’. 

The Group moved to Cambridge North in the 1983 division of the District and records largely cease at this point.

The Group suffered a major setback when the hut was burned down in 1988 (suspected arson). Selling the land at the height of property boom they benefited by the crash that occurred shortly afterwards and built the new 54th. They ran on in Chesterton until 2018 when they finally closed. The building became the new District HQ.

JWR Archivist Sept 2022