Industrial Sponsorship in Cambridge

Cambridge District Scout Archive

Sponsorship of Scouting by large companies or industry was a potential, possibly an aspiration, in those eras when some larger organisations took pride in providing a wide package of benefits to their workforce. There is no clear evidence of this happening in any direct way in Cambridge.

Past Industry in Cambridge

Cambridgeshire was not a centre of traditional industry and during the General Strike of 1923 a local paper wrote ‘There is probably no town in England where the effect of the strike has been felt less than Cambridge’.  The railway (LNER) was a significant employer, but no more so than any town at a lesser railway junction.  Some agricultural machinery works grew to significant size elsewhere in the Eastern Counties.  The Colleges were the core around which many smaller service industries formed.  The support given by individuals in the Colleges (not the University as a whole) is discussed elsewhere.

Support from landowners, now possibly deemed the Agricultural industry, are closely associated with the named owners.  One of note that has persisted is the support given by the Pemberton Family in Trumpington.

One significant employer grew from these service industries, Pye, which owned numerous associated companies and eventually employed 30,000 globally, but remained centred in Cambridge and the east of England.


Pye grew out of businesses providing laboratory equipment for the University.  It became a significant global manufacturer of telecommunications equipment before gradual decline and assimilation.  At its major works in Cambridge it provided a very full range of social and sports activities. There is no evidence of a direct sponsorship but rather indirect support largely through the link of a senior engineer Mackrow, SL and GSL of the 12th Cambridge.  Most of this support was to and through the 12th.

1936 Pye are thanked for the sound amplification at the 1936 County Rally at Ely

Terry Shaw of the 12th             14.1.20 interview Mackrow was ‘Chief Engineer at Pye’ and Terry recalls he was invited to join Pye because of the Link Trainer he built during the war for the troop.  He was in a position to recommend Boys (and Girls) to posts at Pye.  Terry himself worked at Pye and was one of the Scouts who were invited to man the Motor Barge at Earls Court Exhibition Radio Show.  Terry was also one of the Scouts who built a model Guillotine for a National Competition – model building being an apprentice skill given much worth at Pye.

Pye are listed amongst the middle of a list of those who donated to the initial Adventurer Fund; no figure is given. The Adventurer’s logbook (the converted landing craft owned by the 12th) has a marginal note in December 1948 records ‘Test of Maritime Radio Telephone Pye Ltd:’. Senior Scouts from the 12th later manned a motor launch at Earls Court for Pye.

Radio Dolphin During the 1951 National Radio Exhibition six sea scouts from the 12th Cambridge were asked by Pye Ltd. to man the Radio Dolphin a RAF seaplane tender.

The 12th accounts have notes of donations from Pye in the form of equipment which was sold on.  Their accounts list a donation of ‘Radio sets’ in 1961 later sold for £27.  Later the 12th also housed an elaborate radio set up of which details are lacking.  Pye is said to have part funded the building of the 12th HQ off Gilbert Road (opened in 1962) and were known to provide loud speaker equipment for District Scout events.

The 13th Cambridge hold a report of a fencing competition with Pye during WW2 and in 1980 Pye housed the Cambridge Scouts’ Boat Club equipment when they were forced to leave Banhams Yard.   ‘All the club’s equipment including eights, fours, sculling boats and tubs are stored in various parts of the Pye premises …’

Sheffield District         As a comparative note in 1950’s Sheffield the Master Cutler attended and hosted formal Scouting gatherings. The role was often held by Politicians, as in was for much of the 1950’s, which confuses the connection.  The role is as an ambassador for the whole of Sheffield industry.

In 1966 Pye transported 50 cubic feet of books to a National collection for the Commonwealth, via GSM Mackrow of the 12th.

In 1971 a donation of £50 from Pye Radio to County, and possibly the same donation described as ‘a very large donation from Pye Trust Fund in the same year.

In 1980 a £500 Pye Foundation fund is listed for Abington. No other details exist.

Ciba Geigy

This troop trophy from 54th Cambridge  is presumably supported by Ciba Geigy but does not indicate which competition is being awarded.   Ciba Geigy had a works near Duxford, South of Cambridge, since 1935.  Dated 1999, this was after the merger of Ciba Ceigy and Sandos.  It is a small example of sponsorship by industry in Cambridge. 

These two examples, Pye and Ciba Geigy, are the only references to support from major Industry in Cambridge District.


Despite being a major employer links with Marshalls have been hard to locate. IN 1936 a free flight was provided by Marshalls to Rover(s) at the Moot. They, or a worker from Marshalls, was involved in producing Go Karts for the National Scout Soap Box Derby with 1st Sawston (then in Granta District). They raced in Blackpool.

Present Industry in Cambridge

The modern flourishing of business built on the intellectual overspill of the University is technology rich with low numbers of employees.  Their view tends to be a global one and small local charities are generally not prioritized when sponsorship is provided.

JWR Archivist Oct 2020