Early Camp Sites

Cambridge District Scout Archives

The first known commercial camping site was opened in 1894, but for many years they were very few and far between.

The Owners

Before commercial or club camp sites Scouts relied on friendly landowners tolerating them in a field.  The Vicars field, Miss Mortlock at Abington 1929, Mr. Merry, Whittlesford 1936 (26th Cambridge) being local examples.

A list of sites offered by landowning supporters may be found below.

The facilities

The facilities of Miss Malden’s Field (2nd Cambridge Newnham c. 1932) were essentially the same as the Duke of Devonshire’s Chatworth (3rd Cambridge St Catherine’s College c.1913).  Water was from streams or wells, fuel from the woods and latrines required a spade and hessian screens.  The designation ‘Greenfield’ was not invented, there was no other kind.

The site

Sites change from day to day, year to year.  The length of the grass, activity of moles, cut hay, distance to water or paucity of wood are weekly and yearly variations.  Shelter from wind, rain or sun dictates the placing of tents within the grounds.  However, all these items are part of living in a field and only the extremes are worthy of note.  It may be seen that if the facilities get better with permanent sites the ground gets worse.  Permanent campsites are not generally set on the best land, but on scrub, gravel and marginal land.

The situation

The view at Chatsworth House may well warrant recording, and bucolic scenes reminiscent of Constable are captured on film.   The less picturesque are recalled more for the incidents on camp, as at Fortheringhay (header picture) where the weather and later the ‘flu’ epidemic dominated recollections.

C T Wood’s album No Harlech c.1921

Cambridge Archives

The following are local sites offered by leaders and supporters of Cambridge Scouting in the years before 1939.  Some are ‘green field’, some increasingly well provisioned campsites set aside for the purpose, such as West Runcton and Abington.

  • Toft Manor                  MacFarlane Grieve 5th
  • Longstowe Hall          Capt. W A Briscoe   (Scouts could neither cook, bathe or have a successful scheme) and in the 1950’s
  • Madingley Hall          Colonel Thomas Walter Harding
  • Abington                      Cambridgeshire County Scout site from 1932
  • Uplands Great Shelford          Miss Marguerite de Beaumont 61st
  • West Runcton              5th, 9th             5th Cambridge owned site (MG M MacFarlaen Grieve donated, c 1920’s – 1970)
  • East Runcton Church site?
  • Babraham Hall            Charles Adeane  Lord Lieutenant Cambridgeshire
  • Barrington                   Capt Bendyshe                       
  • Wimpole Hall              In 1919 the 8th, 12th and 25th camped at Wimpole Park ‘by permission of Viscount and Viscountess Clifden. Later that year St Luke’s boys (not clearly identified as Scouts) also camped there under the guidance of a Scoutmaster. In 1924 Hon G Aga Robartes (heir to the title and owner) had opened the ground for a ‘whole day scheme’ for the 5th Cambridge (Perse).  There is no record of this continuing at other dates.
  • Trumpington Road General Bainbridge’s grounds
  • Trumpington Hall     Pemberton family  Long time supporters of Scouting  In 1931 a local Wood Badge course was held at Trumpington Hall, spread over five weekends during May and June
  • Holkham Hall Norfolk 7th Cambridge permitted to camp ‘as they were a Grammar school’ 1950’s +

Capt. Briscoe being awarded the Medal for Gallantry; at this time he was S.M. of the Longstowe Scouts, also an M.P. He was always keenly interested in Scouting although there was a period when other duties such as Lord Lieutenant etc, meant he was not able to take an active part. Scouts were always welcomed to camp at Longstowe Hall.’                            Ken North 70 years (A report on a District competition camp on the site required no felling axes, hand axes only in the kitchen areas and no bathing, although pioneering projects on the ponds was permitted.)

In the early 1950’s one District competition had the Patrols dropped at an unknown location and obliged to find a campsite for themselves before returning to Abington the following day. They also required the landowner to confirm that they had left the campsite in a neat and tidy state.

JWR Archivist Jan 2019