District Headquarters

Cambridge District Scout Archive

Guildhall Place           1909

Notes from the first minute book state on the 28th July 1909 it was decided to take a room in Guildhall Place to serve as a HQ and that each Troop was to pay 8d. per month as a share of maintenance costs. 

The initial Headquarters was generally referred to as Guildhall Place, the specific location assumed.   The current Guildhall dates from the 1930s. Guildhall Place linked the yards and rows behind Petty Curry since at least the C19th century before its line was changed with the building of Lion Yard in 1975.

Grafton Street           1926

Previously as ‘The Albert’ (Institute) it was used by Scouts and other clubs before this date.  The 9th from 1917 and the District from c. 1920 at ₤5 rent per year.

Built in 1877 by Jesus Lane Sunday School as a special building for its Youth Club it backed onto Paradise Street which was later also purchased by the Scouts. It included two reading rooms, three classrooms and a gymnasium. It was names the Albert Institute very early on and the frontage was engraved Jubilate Deo J L S S AD 1827 – 1877. The Higher Grade school had inhabited the Paradise Road building for a time.

‘Mr. Murrish is also going to run a Senior Scout Troop at the Albert for those who do not belong to any other Troop. They must be at least 15 years old, or have left school. We hope that it will be a great success and that the Albert may become a real Scoutcraft Centre for Cambridge’. Reveille 1920    A club initiated by H Mallet which encouraged but was not exclusively for Old Scouts also used the Albert.

There are (three particular) things we owe to C.T.Wood:  On his proposal the Association in 1926 took up the lease of Grafton Street as an Association Headquarters; .. WTT Archaeology of Scouting 1978

Grafton Street was opened as the Headquarters on Thursday October 14th 1926.  Initially it was hired from the JLSS at £7/10/0 a quarter. This large building was let for use and storage to individual Scout Troops and other bodies.  Ken North gives a date of ‘hired from’ 29th September 1926 and they were requesting first refusal if sold in the same year.

It contained a Basement with kitchen, Ground floor with two meeting rooms that could be joined and seat 90 or 140 on the floor.  In addition a gymnasium, changing room, lavatory, wash room and shower bath.  The first floor had two rooms initially let to the 7th as their HQ.                                                                               See Gazette Vol. 2 No. 7 Dec 1926

1926    The old Albert Institute, Grafton Street, Cambridge was the scene of great enthusiasm on the opening of new headquarters for the Cambridge Boy Scouts’ Association which will supply a much-felt want. Afterwards the presentation of medals for athletics and swimming took place.  An enjoyable sing-song followed and then a meeting of leaders who discussed the uses to which the headquarters could be put. Meanwhile refreshments were served to allay the pangs of hunger caused by such enthusiasm. Lantern slides on India and China were shown by Assistant Commissioner W.B. Gourlay and the evening closed with everybody in the best of spirits          (The old Albert Institute closed in 1921) Oct 1926 Cambridge Evening News Mike Petty

1927 The whole building was wired for electric lights – 12 60 watt bulbs. At a later date a further 30/- were spent on a light in the lavatory.

A separate HQ account was maintained and the cost was supported by donations from General Bainbridge DC (£25/-) and a less clear £5 from the Scout shop which was in the building at that time.

1936    Jesus Lane Sunday School in Paradise St was sold to the Scouts (JLSS formed in 1827 and once had 600 on its books.  Dealt a blow by 1914 -18 war and eventually wound up in 1952.)  This building backed on to the Grafton Street building.  C T Wood was also involved in the planning and financial purchase of this building.

The two buildings were connected by a passageway which stepped into a neighbouring back yard.  No.34 Grafton Street, immediately next door to the Grafton Street building, was also owned by the Association as a Caretakers house.

See ‘Plan of Grafton Street’

1938 A list of Groups gives the 9th meeting in Paradise St, 30th and occasionally 31st Rovers, 42nd, and 53rd all meeting at Grafton Street.

1941    The Military came and inspected the building again.  ‘Grafton Street residents proposed to petition for the use of the cellars in raids.’

1943    Home Guard to use Mr Wood’s room Sunday AM and evenings @ 5/- per week.

1943    Arranged with fire watching authorities Mr Flack (caretaker?) be appointed street captain.  That a room in HQ (9th portion)  be used as Sec HQ (as written, possibly ‘Sector HQ’) and that two 50 gallon tanks be installed in the building.

1945    Groups using space 29/42 ₤1/1/-, 42nd cubs ₤1/1/-,1st Sea Scouts ₤2/2/-

1950’s Grafton Street was described by John Woolfenden in 2019 as being ‘The black hole of Calcutta’ during the last years. The lack of money for maintenance had resulted in a steady decline in the building.

Perne Road                1965

‘About 1954 thoughts were turned to improvements at the Grafton Street H.Q. Plans were even drawn up, but after a careful survey of the building by the D.C. and other practical members of the House Committee, it was decided to sell the building and have a new Headquarters building erected. After much consideration, the present site at Perne Road was bought from the City Council. As with buying Grafton Street H.Q., the selling was not without problems, but there is obviously no need to set these out here. Also, 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. In planning the present building our design and set up had to be modest, finance being limited. In fact, I can remember at one meeting of the New Buildings Sub-Committee we spent a long time to decide if we could afford to have the walls plastered or not. As it was we needed a small mortgage to complete the payments. Fortunately during the period between the commencement of building and the actual opening, the shop had a good period of trade, (for some months we operated from an old shop in Russell Street as the Co-op, who bought the buildings, wanted to get on with alterations).’From ‘70 years of Scouting in and around Cambridge’. 1908-1978   Ken North

Proposed plans (a very faint ‘blue print’)

1956    Open for use in September prior to official opening (below) 11th May 1957 at 18.00

Cambridge Daily News held by Cambridge Dailly News

1957    ‘In the early days in Cambridge a scout would buy a broomstick, which cost 2d, and a billy-can and spend weekends in the woods and country places round the city. Later such boys became scoutmasters but during the Great War troops had to run themselves. Then in 1925 they secured headquarters in Grafton Street which they’d sold to the Co-operative Society. Now the new Scout Headquarters in Perne Road was opened’. Cambridge News Mike Petty 57 05 13d  [Misc.4.5, 1.12]

It was this Scout Headquarters that was used as a rehearsal space for Dave Gilmour’s band the Newcomers (later a member of Pink Floyd).

The Guide headquarters was opposite the Scout Headquarters in Perne Road.

1965    ‘Guide headquarters in Perne Road opened by Chief Guide, Lady Baden-Powell’ – Cambridge News Mike Petty 65 04 26a

1968    HQ costs above income         

1976    ‘The Cambridge Scouts’ shop in Perne Road celebrated 50 years of existence. Known first as the Equipment Store it opened in a rifle range half way up the stairs at the old Grafton Street headquarters on 13th December 1926. The shop’s manager, Mr Kenneth North, took over in 1934. He remained when the shop moved temporarily to Russell Street and then to the new Scout headquarters in 1956. Mr John Chambers has been associated with it since he joined as a boy in 1940 & Roger Woollard, Scout leader running the 13th Cambridge Scouts Group, also helps out’.   Cambridge News Mike Petty c76 12 13

54th Old Chesterton

            From 2017 the 54th Old Chesterton Scout building attached to the old Shirley school was increasingly used as District Headquarters.  Having more rooms and modern facilities it provided greater opportunities than the small and worn buildings of Perne Road.

Perne Road was offered for sale in September 2018 by the joint owners Crafts Hill District and Cambridge District.

JWR Archivist Jan 2019