Cambridge Scout Shop – The Equipment Store

Cambridge District Scout Archives

1926 – 2018

A letter of November 15th 1926 informed Scoutmasters of the proposal to District (next Friday) to open an Equipment Store and asked if they were likely to support and use a store.

In July that year the District Executive had recommended that a Scout Shop ‘should not run at present’.

First opened in 13th December 1926 as the Equipment Store

The first store was ‘in the cramped rifle range half the way up the stairs at Grafton Street HQ where the shop was first situated.  It was a very good thing that when the original office at the top of the stairs was converted into the shop about 1930.   I officially joined the scout shop in January 1934 and since then it has been my Scout job (Fred Feary kept things ticking over for about two years when I was in the Services).  In the mid 1940’s I expanded to take on some Girl Guide goods, commencing to sell uniforms when clothes rationing ended.  In 1956 we went to a temporary home in Russell Street for about 4 months until our present shop was ready in September 1956.  Now after 20 years at Perne Road, we have completed out half century.  I am proud to have been responsible for 43 years of this period.’ Ken North Hon Manager from Cambridge Scout Gazette 12/1976

Behind the Counter     Shop workers whose names have been identified

  • S. W. ‘Waggles’ Edwards        11th
  • Arthur Ruse                 c. 1930 (a University Assistant – a job advertised at 25/- week)
  • Cyril Flack 1932 – 33 (son of caretaker at Grafton Street)
  • Mr Jack Flack Caretaker – early assistant (as named by Roger Woollard)
  • Ken North                    1934 – 1977    (National Service 1940 – 43)
  • Don Mann                   1934 – 1938    (Rover 7th)
  • Walter Miller              c. 1935 (Dusty)
  • Roland Thompson     c. 1935
  • Bill Silk                        1938 – 1944    (father of Scout not liable for National Service)
  • Fred Feary                   1939 – 1943    involved in anticipation of Ken’s call up
  • Mrs R Hunt                  1946 –
  • Edgar Tilley                 1947 – 1973    Initially at 5/- night
  • David Farran with Edgar (as named by Roger Woollard) 7th
  • Colin Taylor with Edgar (as named by Roger Woollard)
  • Sally Chaplin               c. 1956
  • Roger Woollard          1966 – c 2000
  • John Chambers           c. 1967 – 2016
  • Snowy Oliver
  • Ted Russell
  • Phyllis Mills
  • Dave Mills
  • Bob Benton – end
  • ‘But when it was busy and it used to get very busy, so the queue was out the door into the car park, and there would be cars parked everywhere, people would leave the queue and go in and help serve.  I’ve done it many times’.            Pam Butler 2018

A separate list of Badge Officers can be found under Officers of the Association.

Others clearly supported the shop in many ways

The Equipment Store

1926    Headquarters move into Grafton Street

Opened 13th December 1926

Initially it was a paid role Mr Ruse receiving 25/- a week and Ken North 2/6 per evening. Edgar Tilley was paid on nights worked basis in 1947. By 1928 the Equipment Store was contributing £5 to the costs of the HQ.

Whilst it was referred to as the Equipment Store, probably being an amalgamation of the District equipment to loan and a shop, it was advertised as the Scout Shop from December 1926 in the Cambridge and District Boys Scouts Gazette.

1929 ‘The Equipment staff reported that they had started with no capital at all, but they now had £89 in hand which nearly covered the amount of their stock’. From Cambridge Daily News of the AGM in November

1931    The usefulness of the store was questioned.  It did not make money for several years, accounting was poor. 

1931    Nov      Equipment store able to pay the wages not the Local Association.

1932    Future of the shop not very secure

1931    Mr Flack (caretaker at Grafton Street) to be Assistant QM

1934    Ken North ASM (43rd) 2/6 per night took over with Don Mann (7th). The shop was open 5 nights a week 16.30 – 21.30.  Ken was asked to make it a financial success for the first time.

1934    AGM    Store to be run for one year experimentally.  An experienced accountant was asked to look over the running and made several observations with regard to ordering stock that had no market, opening every night and that the wages were equivalent to the deficit.  Advice taken and purchase of stock with no market checked.

1935    Small profit

            Walter Miller, Roland Thompson behind the counter – open most nights

1935    QM staff no longer paid for holidays.  (Wages equalled annual losses)

1937    ‘Received for the first time a sum from the Equipment Store, in this case £44, which was extraordinarily good’.  AGM

1938    Stocked up in anticipation of war. Don Mann finishes, Bill Silk started.

1939    Reduced to three evenings a week

1940    1000 black arm bands ordered on strictly confidential basis as HQ knew ‘the Chiefs time was drawing to a close’.

            ‘Trade in this period good, the increase being partly due to the new orders of camouflage‘

1943    Shop ‘in debt’ with clothing coupons (Ken returns having been invalided out)

1943    Cash only, credit accounts closed.

1944 Communications with HQ about supplying nearby Counties.

1945    Started Guide side to shop 26/9/1945 to start Jan 1946

            ARP surplus ground sheets, whistles and knives

1946    Profit but most difficult year in the shop.  Small profit on ARP surplus but it made the difference.

1947    Ken North complained of standard of staff to district Exec.

1947    Losses attributed to one helper resulted in small loss over a season.   Characterised by poor accounting, he was paid off and a more rigorous oversight instigated.

1948    Significant improvement Mr. Tilleys wages increased to 7/6 per night.

1950    Opened one Saturday afternoon a month

1950    Supply situation easier but prices up

1950    Ken North reports contact by Messer Price concerning opening a scout Shop in Cambridge.  No more was heard of this proposal.

1951    Proposed Mr North and seconded P R Arthur – The Equipment Store be changed to Cambridge Scout Shop.  Agreed


 ‘About 1954…. it was decided to sell the building (Grafton Street H.Q..)  ‘..a few members of the Executive Committee were not in favour of moving to the then outskirts of the City in view of the fact the Shop was by this time a major source of income and it was argued that parents would not go so far from the town for uniforms. Time has told that our present location was for the best, there being no restrictions for car parking etc.’

‘Fortunately during the period between the commencement of building and the actual opening, the shop had a good period of trade…’ From ‘70 years of Scouting in and around Cambridge’ 1908-1978   Ken North

1956    May     Temporary shop at Russell Street (off Hills Road) prior to the move to Perne Road 1/9/56 (loan by the Coop who wanted to move into the Grafton Street building).  The shop was still intermittently known as The Equipment store when it moved to Perne Road.

1956    Set of drawers from Shepherds (clothing store) donated to Scout shop.

1957    Perne road HQ officially opened

1967    ‘The complete change of uniform hit us hard’

1968    Specifically referred to as The Scout Shop in District Minutes as it had been since 1951.  It was known as the Equipment Store in the AGM Accounts earlier in the year.   

1969    Honourarium paid to shop helpers increased from £151 to £196

1970    ‘Very busy in shop.’

1976    13th December            50 years of trading (42 under Ken North’s direction- see above) CSG Dec 1976

December 13th 1976. John Chambers and Ken North
Roger Woollard, then Scout Leader 13th Cambridge, is also named in the article as having helped out for some time.

At this date the shop is described as catering for Cambridgeshire and parts of Essex and Suffolk. The following is from a box of nametags retained at the shop. ‘With Abington’ is clearly cut.

1977    Ken North retired from ‘behind the counter’ after 44 years in charge.  See CSG October 1977

            Much of the above information has come from Ken North’s recollections which stop in 1978 and the collected District archives which end about this time. 

On the division of the District the shop moved into the joint ownership of Crafts Hill and Cambridge Districts.  The written minutes in the archive stop at this point.

2018    Perne Road is up for sale and the shop to move.

Original curtains purchased for Perne Road shop

Contributions to District

The shop has a fourfold benefit to the District

  • as a local specialist shop with cheap prices,  targeted goods and care
  • significant donations to District funds
  • latterly – maintenance of Perne Road
  • a centre of informal meeting

The table below shows shop donations, capitation fees and the districts portion to demonstrate the very significant work of the shop.  The first donation was in 1937 but the financial flow was disrupted by the war.  In a period of austerity it quickly returned to sufficient profit to make further donations in 1948.   The gaps are incomplete records, X indicates known records showing no donation.

* Loan and District a/c written off
1980District CountyHQTotal capitationScout ShopMembersProfit/Loss
198320 (10)35£3.50
198710p*45£5.25£550 (to S Cambs.)
198920p* 80£6.20£6.40
199020p*80£6.20£750 (to S Cambs.)
199220p*90£7.35£800 (to S Cambs.)
1994£800 (to S Cambs.)
1997Nil *£2.70£9.00
2001£850 check
* = Cambs South figures Discount for early payment offered
  • Plus £3 Group Insurance (via District?)

 The District’s capitation (amount paid to District for every Scout) was less in 1974 than in 1964 because of this support.   In 1974 the shop donated to the District 38p for every 5p received from the capitation.

17th October 2018

It responded to particular pressures with increased donations and supplied uniforms at even greater discount when full kit was required for special events.  They worried about the greater cost of new uniforms to scouts following the Advance Party Report although the change hit the shop hard.

The Scout shop formally closed on 12th February 2020. A final sale weekend was held on the 7th /8th March.

JWR Archivist Jan 2019