Village Colleges

Cambridge District Scout Archive

A review of Scouting in Cambridgeshire Village Colleges.

In the 1920s, apart from Cambridge University, the provision of education in Cambridgeshire was among the poorest in the country.   There were no separate secondary schools in rural areas.   In 1922, Henry Morris became Secretary of Education for Cambridgeshire and in 1924 he published his Village College Memorandum that set out how things could be improved by the Village College concept, and not just in Cambridgeshire.

He wanted to create inspirational purpose-designed spaces that would be available to the whole community during their waking hours. The village colleges would be schools and community facilities at the same time.   This page reviews the provision made for Scouting within those Village Colleges. (Abridged from https://cambsvc.org.uk)

The Village Colleges of Cambridgeshire were built between 1930 and 1964.

  • Bassingbourne                        1954
  • Bottisham                    1937
  • Burwell                        (Primary school based on the Village College concept)
  • Comberton                  1960
  • Cottenham                  1963
  • Gamlingay                   (Based on the Village College concept)
  • Impington                    1939
  • Linton                          1937
  • Melbourne                  1959
  • Sawston                       1930
  • Soham                         1958
  • Swavesey                     1958
  • Witchford                    1964

Pathe film footage of the opening of Sawston Village College in 1930 can be seen on the Village College website – https://cambsvc.org.uk/sawston-pathe-video-01/.  Both Scouts and Guides are present.

There is scant evidence of Scout Groups working within the colleges.  We have clear knowledge of:

52nd Cambridge (Sawston College)   / (Sawston)    Founded in April 1932 as Sawston College the College part of the name was rarely used.  Sawston Village College was opened in 1930 by Prince of Wales and Scouts and Guides lined the route.  The Group moved to South Cambridgeshire in 1935 and at some point changed name to Sawston. 

1st Bottisham Village College, Scout Group (later 59th Cambridge) ran from 1937 – 1951, possibly with a break between 1946 and 1948.  The Group started within the newly formed but separate Mid Cambridgeshire District and records for this period are missing.

Impington Village College Scout Group (later 56th Cambridge) was formed in Mid Cambridgeshire District at some point after 1935 but the date is unknown.  Later on re joining Cambridge District it became the 56th Cambridge (Impington Village College) and closed in 1948/49.

and

51st Cambridge (Girton) met for a time on what was called Histon Village College grounds, presumably Impington Village College, and the 56th Impington amalgamated with the 51st Girton in 1948 or 1949.

No other Group is clearly shown to be based at a Village College despite the intention.  The reasons for this are nowhere stated but may fall into two categories.

From the Village College point of view Scouting may not have been considered an educational endeavour within the scope of the new expectations. 

From the existing Scout Group point of view the College only offered a restriction of activities, a borrowed space not, perhaps, amenable to camp fires and tent pitching.  As fine as they are presented on opening it would be remarkable if they anticipated the need for storage.  Why would an established group move from existing quarters?  Further, if Scouting reached some boys in ways that school did not, association with the school may initially have been deemed a handicap.

It may be that the 1st Bottisham, starting in the year the College opened, was a College based initiative.

It is recorded that in 1938 a Scout Group sought accommodation at Sawston and consideration was given by the education Committee to extend the ground man’s hut.  This did not go ahead.

From Village College History

JWR Archivist Jan 2023