Church work and Parish Magazines

Cambridge District Scout Archive

The earliest relationships between individual churches and Scouting may be tracked through Parish Magazines. No evidence of a coherent central view has been uncovered in these local reports.

Before 1908 many instances of the proposed formation or existence of Boys Clubs or Lads Clubs may be found. St Paul’s started a Boys Life Brigade, distinct from the Boys Brigade because it actively did not include military drill, ‘stretcher (but not Military) drill’, St John’s a Church Lads Brigade. In 1912 St Matthews opened a Youth Club (draughts, boxing, running, pillow fights, bagatelle, ping pong) the Boy Scouts not starting here, in a very active church working with young people in many ways, for some years.

With the advent of Scouting Patrols started, sometimes alongside the Lads Clubs and occasionally only attached through the use of the Parish Rooms – accepted but not adopted. This can be seen in the All Saints (later 8th Cambridge) Parish magazine where the Scouts were never elevated to the list of Church organised bodies. However, the Vicar did write that the Scouts should be seen as part of Parish work.

The intermittent reports in the magazines suggest that the vicar was generally not engaged in scouting on a weekly basis. This rather assumes that the Vicar, if not himself the editor, would be sufficiently involved in the magazine to write some small piece. This became particularly evident during the Great War when leaders changed regularly. Nevertheless, some reports show an active enthusiasm for the success of the Troop by the parish.

The continuation of Lads Clubs, rather than more direct competition such as Boys Brigades or Church Lads Brigades suggests a very different approach that, not having a central scheme, is hard to identify. These clubs filled a need for those not willing to step into Scouts. BB and CLB are often found alongside Scouts, but in Cambridge did not last together for long.

The Parish of St Andrew the Less, comprising three centres, started a patrol within the existing Boys Brigade Company in one (St Andrew the Less, later Christ Church, St Andrew the Less), and new Scout Troop 7th Cambridge (Abbey) in another (Abbey Church, originally St Andrew the Less). These two organisations were nominally located at the third, St John’s Mission in Wellington Road. Although the Troop did not last the two bodies were equally reported.

Other information unpicked

The early records also show that in some patrols Scouts were not invested until they had the uniform, but that it was appreciated that not everyone would be able to find the money and external funding was solicited. In the 7th (Abbey) boys were expected to find two thirds of the 7/6 cost of a uniform. Requests for donations to fund the other third were published.

JWR Archivist Mar 2022