Cambridge University Mission’s

Scouting In Cambridge University and College Missions in London

Cambridge District Scout Archives

References in the archives to the 1st and 2nd Cambridge University Troops in University Scout documents did not tally with any District troops.  These troops were found to be started in the University Mission in Rotherhithe, London and not part of the Cambridge District.

Other Scout Troops attached to Missions and Settlements in London have been identified. The links to Cambridge, Cambridge University and Cambridge Scout District were not initially clear.

Little can be said about the details of these Troops and Groups from the Missions. Cambridge Colleges and Universities had established Missions and Settlements in the poor areas of London and some started Scout Troops.  These Troops were not part of Cambridge District or extensions of Cambridge Troops. No active involvement of Cambridge Troops in Cambridge University Missions in London has yet been identified.  Mission Troops in London did camp with Cambridge Troops (see Queen’s below). Whilst it is likely that leaders moved between Troops only two names have surfaced, Rev CT Wood of Queens and Rev Copestock (see below).

Missions also existed in Cambridge such as St John’s Mission York Street which did have a Troop, the 4th Cambridge St John’s Mission, that was part of Cambridge District.

Skyblue No 6 1954                  Clare College Mission – Rotherhithe…  ‘very anxious to restart the Senior Scout Troop.  If anyone is going to live in London…’  

Skyblue May 1955                   Help. A Scouter is needed to restart the 9th Rotherhithe (Clare College Mission) Troop.  It is the only troop in the district that has not been restarted since the war.

Skyblue No. 17 1957   Cambridge University Mission in Bermondsey Jubilee year report covering 1st and 2nd Cambridge University Troops 1916 – 1919      (An historical report).

From the numbers of the known Troops the Settlements were among the first to bring Scouting to these parts.

(Skyblue was the University Scouting periodical)

Background: the Mission and Settlement Movement

In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, public concern about the poverty and deprivation in parts of Britain’s inner cities increased.  The concept of a University Settlement was a development of a Mission.  It was a place located in a deprived area, where rich (volunteer students from the university) and poor would live and socialise together, and learn from each other.   Cambridge University and Colleges worked mainly south of the Thames, in the deprived areas in and around Bermondsey.   Oxford University and Colleges worked mainly in the East End of London (with a few exceptions).

Map showing Cambridge House and College Missions

Cambridge House, the first, had its origins in 1889.  By 1910 St John’s, Clare, Trinity, Pembroke, Corpus Christi, and Caius were listed as having Missions in south London, with Queens’, Magdalene, Christ’s and Trinity Hall having clubs or homes there.

Activities which volunteers might get involved with included mothers’ meetings, Sunday Schools, boys’ and girls’ clubs, savings banks, sports teams, cadet corps, drum and fife bands, boys’ brigades and, later, scout or guides.

Cambridge House      Trinity College Cambridge and Magdalene College Cambridge

Cambridge House began life in 1889 as part of the Settlement Movement.

Caius Mission In 1932/33 J G Coates of Caius College visited the mission and reported in the Log Book that the Troop was still running. As yet this is the only record we have of this troop.

Queens’ House Mission:                    In 1901 Queens’ College adopted Rev. J.W. Maunders Boys’ Club and formed the Queens’ House Mission.  It hosted a Boy Scout troop the 7th Bermondsey and Rotherhithe.  This Troop camped in Cambridge and visited Lingay Fen near Trumpington. It was later known as Queens’ House.

The following is taken from The Dial, the Queens’ College periodical, of May 1921

In the Spring of 1918 Mr. Selwyn accepted the charge of our College Mission in Rotherhithe, and started to build up the splendid organization and spirit which now characterizes Queens’ House. A tentative effort had already been made to establish Scouting, but only amongst the younger boys, the seniors being catered for as an ordinary men’s club. The Missioner quickly realized the drawbacks of a dual organization and set to work to re-establish the entire Mission on purely Scouting lines. The wisdom of his decision is proved by the existence to-day of a regular membership of 140 boys. These Scouts are divided up into Wolf Cubs (8–12 years), Scouts (12–17 years), and Rovers (17 and over); and the fact that Mr. Selwyn has not lost a single boy through failure to interest the older lads, speaks volumes for his keenness and capability. Many of the senior boys of 1918 are now themselves officers of the Troop into which the Missioner formerly enrolled them as Scouts.

Rev V H Copestoke ran the mission from c. 1927. He had been involved in an early 28th Cambridge.

‘The annual Whitsun visit of the scouts from Queens’ House, Rotherhithe, passed off very successfully. Rain on the first two days made camping in the Grove an unpleasant business, but these early sorrows were soon forgotten in the glorious sunshine of Whit Monday. On the Monday afternoon a fleet of scandalously overloaded cars carried the entire party to Lingay Fen, where, under the auspices of the Senior Tutor, a programme of bathing, mud-fighting and eating was successfully carried through.’
[The Cambridge Review, Vol. LII, No. 1289, 1931 June 5, p. 466] 

(Dist Minutes 17/6/1938        CC Business (CC. Rev C T Wood) ‘brought a piece of land next to Abington Campsite…and has promised £10 per year on the condition that we invite a Troop from the slums of London to camp at Abington and pay their fares’

Disrupted by the bombing of London ‘Queens House, the college Mission in Rotherhithe, London … was re-opened under a new management in 1941. Before the war the emphasis had been on Scouting, but it is now a mixed Youth club of boys and girls…’

St John’s Mission: Walworth                                    The Mission of St. John’s College, the first such mission of its kind to be undertaken by any Cambridge College

Easter 1914

.. Both the Senior and Junior Missioner have been up to visit us this Term: the latter must be congratulated… , upon taking his M.A. degree. Mr Jack Kidd brought up a Troop of the Mission Boy Scouts (the “Foxes”), who much enjoyed their visit and the kind hospitality of those who entertained them. It did not mar their enjoyment to be beaten at cricket by the College Choir School.

‘The Lady Margaret Troop B.-P Scouts (94th South London) was first started in September 1913. The Scout Masters (J.C &R.C Kidd)…’ ‘A small flat of two rooms has now been acquired as headquarters, which is open every night’. They built a trek cart and bookshelves; camped three times in the first year – being guests of the Chaplain of St John’s and of the Master of Downing when they camped for three days at Easter.

From ‘The Eagle’ St John’s Periodical, 1914

“By permission of the Master and Fellows of St John’s College, Cambridge”. 

Cambridge University Mission: Bermondsey          Colin Kerr, founder of Campaigners, joined the Staff of Cambridge University Mission in 1919 where he ran the Scout Troop.

Clare College Mission: Rotherhithe                         Also known as Rotherhithe, The Epithany

Trinity College Mission: Camberwell

Pembroke College Mission: Walworth                    1885

Corpus Christi College: Camberwell

Caius College: Cambridge House: Walworth             Caius College Mission continues to operate as a community education initiative.

Magdalene College Mission           Initially took over a boys club.

Missions Troops
St John’s94th South London (Lady Margaret Troop)
Clare9th Rotherhithe (Clare Archives ref)
9th Bermondsey (ref The Scouter 1943)
Pembroke88th South London
Corpus Christi
Queens’7th Bermondsey and Rotherhithe
Christ’sA troop ‘still running’ 1932
Magdalene Boys Club
Trinity Hall
Cambridge University
1st and 2nd Cambridge University Troops

Note    Roland House was the Scout Settlement in East London.  It was not directly connected to Cambridge University but based at the home of Roland Phillips a very active Scouter who died in the First World War.  He bequeathed his house to the Scout Association.

Two late photographs of Queens’ House Mission

JWR Archivist June 2019