1st Laindon Scout Group

I am trying to find out information about my scout group.   I only know we were formed in 1920 but if anyone has any information, it would be a great help.

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  • In the March 1931 edition of the “Laindon Advertiser” (a monthly publication printed by Bagent & Co, Laindon, and sold at one old penny a copy) there appears the following;

    On Friday (which particular one not specified) Mr. Basil Foster, the Assistant Scoutmaster of 2nd Laindon Troop received his warrant from the Rector, Rev. M N Lake.

    As far as I am aware, the 2nd Laindon Scout Troop was always that supported by the parish church of St. Nicholas (C of E). As I also recall, the appropriate Wolf Cub pack attached had regular meetings in St.Peter’s church hall on the south corner of Nicholas Lane opposite the “Hiawatha” which, by the way, was only a public meeting hall and not St Peter’s chapel.  The latter was a short way further to the east, on the opposite side of Nicholas Lane. The Wolf Cub pack in the late 1930’s was run by a William Branch known to us all as “Twiggy”. I think his wife ran the attendant Brownie Group. Their home was in Basildon Rise, a turning off Basildon Road, immediately adjacent to Donaldson’s School (aka Laindon Park Junior and Infants).

    When old enough, members of the 2nd Laindon Wolf Pack moved up to join the 2nd Laindon Troop of the Boy Scouts. Their meeting place (or “hut” as it was called) was the Church Hall in or off Pound Lane, Laindon. By the of the ‘30s decade it was a John George who was the Scoutmaster. By then the Rev. Lake and Basil Foster had left and it was the Rev. FWJ Reynolds who  was in charge of the parish. John George, or “Jack” as we knew him, was St Nicholas’s Verger, gravedigger and general dogsbody, as well as being our Scoutmaster.  As has been described elsewhere, the Verger/Scoutmaster and his sister lived in “Church Bungalow” built on to the west side of Church Hill.  The Scoutmaster was often assisted at Troop meetings by Senior Scouts, usually spoken of then as “Rover Scouts”.  I don’t think that term is used nowadays.

    One particular Senior Scout was Arthur Dunlop who had spent his childhood in Denbigh Road, Laindon where the rear end of the garden of his neatly constructed family bungalow backed onto the railway just to the west of Laindon Station. Not only was Arthur a keen senior member of the Scouts, he was also an enthusiastic regular member of the congregations attending services at St Nicholas church. As a result, the Rev. Reynolds persuaded him, firstly, to become a Server at these events and, then, to consider becoming a Curate. Consequently, in 1949, Arthur can be found lodging with the Georges in “Church Bungalow” having taken up the Curacy.  Following this, Arthur became the first incumbent (Vicar?) at the newly constructed St. Martin’s church in Basildon Town Centre, before moving on to become Rural Dean in Maldon, Essex.

    In the summer of 1941, the Rev. Reynolds decided that members of 2nd Laindon Scout Troop deserved a break from WW2. The population of Laindon, including the Scouts, had endured the “Battle of Britain” and were now learning to live with nightly bombing air-raids which frequently interrupted a good night’s sleep. The Rev. decided to take the troop camping, which practice, although particularly endemic to Scouting, had come to a complete standstill because of the War.

    To get the Troop to a particular point where a camp could be considered “safe”, the Rev. firstly arranged for George Brockwell who owned a lorry (he had the franchise with the LMS railway at Laindon to deliver parcels around the district) that could take us  well away into the country and bring us all back a week later. How the Rev. got around the problem of how much rationed petrol such a double two-way trip would take for George Brockwell  was never explained to us. Suffice it to say, the two trips took place and the Troop left Laindon, travelling via Billericay and Chelmsford to North Essex and a point between Great Dunmow and Thaxted known as Duton Hill. While the Rev. and Jack George rode up front with Mr. Brockwell, the Troop was in the tarpaulin-covered back using the camping gear as seating and with instructions not to make the fact too obvious by leaning over the lifting tailgate; an instruction we probably ignored.

    The actual camp-site was a field, part of Brick House Farm, Duton Hill. It was here that we erected the Troop’s three, somewhat ancient, heavy canvas Bell tents.  The camping field itself was bisected by the infant River Chelmer, a river that rises at Debden,  further to the north. Unfortunately, a dry summer meant the river’s flow was very, very  low, barely ankle deep, so swimming was out, but we had fun creating a rope bridge across it with the aid of the staves we all carried in those days.  We certainly seemed to spend a lot of time erecting things, including a waist high cooking fire point on which the camp’s rations were regularly cooked. Apart from all those things that Boy Scouts regularly do, like knot tying, lashing, playing rough games like “British Bulldog” etc., we seem to have had the general run of all of Brick House Farm except for the actual farm house in  which the farm’s owner and his family lived.

    This almost “devil-may-care” attitude on the part of the farm’s proprietor led to a lot of odd activity by the Troop that were not run of the mill as far as such activities usually take. I think the fact that it was wartime must have coloured his attitude. There was a great deal to explore in and around the farm grounds which, for some unexplained reasons, was run more like a country estate than an actual farm since there were no animals present except a number of domestic cats! What there was, was a large overgrown garden with some pretty exotic tropical type plants which made for a virtual jungle in which to get lost! There was a large orchard and, more interestingly, a large soft fruit cage in which, given the season and time of year, we could gorge ourselves on the ripening fruit to our heart’s content. 

    This meant that I remembered 1941 as being a “good” year for two things: greengages (there was an absolute glut) and wasps. Not only were the members of the troop able to stuff themselves with all manner of ripe fruits, we also managed to pick up some casualties with nasty wasp stings, most of which, luckily, could be dealt with by the application of a raw onion.  I, for one, was stung in the mouth by a wasp which I had failed to notice was busy eating from the other side of the pear out of which I had taken a bite after picking it from the tree.  My particular mate at camp, Don Grey, (he was also my chum at Palmer’s School who lived at the north end of Martindale Avenue) was far less lucky. Stung on the right cheek, his face swelled up and closed his right eye. This failed to respond to the onion treatment and the following morning, the swelling had closed his left eye also. Don had to be taken to Great Dunmow for some medical attention, which, luckily, proved successful.

    The wasp glut led to the Troop indulging in an activity for which, at the time, no activity badge could be awarded; hunting for wasp nests. These, when found, were destroyed by the farmer who kept pellets of cyanide in an old tobacco tin in his waistcoat pocket for the purpose. Does the Scout Association issue a “Wasp Eradication” badge nowadays?

    Another place on Brick House Farm was a large barn near the farmhouse, the inside walls of which had been lined all round by shelves on which was assembled a O-gauge miniature model railway that was propelled by steam.  This naturally attracted a lot of interest among us scouts who considered ourselves experts in such matters, although most of us only had clockwork train sets, although some, the more affluent among us, had aspired to electrically driven sets. However, we all were double-O gauge types, so O-gauge in itself was a revelation.

    Over time, the memory of all the things we did at Brick House Farm has faded, but a jolly good camp it was far beyond the rituals of such gatherings, and most of the time was spent in and around Duton Hill and the farm. The Rev. Reynolds revealed his earthier side when he called for an exploratory hike around the small village itself; he clearly had a hidden motive. Our exploration revealed that the village (it was little more than a hamlet) had two pubs (names forgotten) one of which the Rev. visited accompanied by six scouts!  While the Rev. clearly enjoyed his pint of ale (he was, after all, an ex -Merchant sailor, while we had to make do with lemonade. It was the first time I, at least, had been on licensed premises!  Years later, I was involved in a road accident just south of Duton Hill and had to walk back to the village to telephone for assistance: there are no longer any pubs in Duton Hill.

    On the last Saturday of the camp, Don Gray and I, it being a “free to do what you liked” day, decided to explore Essex county further afield. Having joined the local bus service (operated by Hick’s Coaches) we got to Great Dunmow where we quickly discovered that the glut of greengages had spread to all the greengrocers in the town, so much so, that they were practically giving them away to customers. It took very little time for Don and me to exhaust the delights of the town so we paid a visit at about mid-day to Dunmow Railway station. Here we asked that perennial question most railway staff despise and dread, namely “When’s the next train?”  Here we learned, after we had been asked as to where it was we wanted to go and we had replied with little imagination: “the seaside!”, that the next train would be at 2.15pm from the platform we were standing on.  We were even more nonplussed when, having been met with scorn after asking the other dreaded question “Isn’t there one before that?”, we went on to enquire about a train in the opposite direction.  This we were told was also at 2.15pm! It was only later we discovered that as the railway between Bishops Stortford and Witham via Braintree was single tracked, Great Dunmow was a crossing point. Nowadays the line from Witham ends at Braintree, the rest of the way to Stortford having fallen under Beeching’s Axe. The site of the station at Dunmow is now on a fast motor road to Stanstead Airport that bypasses under Dunmow town.

    In despair at the geographical limit placed on our exploration Don and I returned by bus to Duton Hill with just a short diversion to what remains of the Cistercian Monastery of Tilty, namely its one remaining wall, water mill and what I remember as one of the most unusual parish churches in a county not at all short of such interesting buildings. After this visit, I think Don and I had had enough until, after dusk on the same day, we had, against all of the wartime rules about showing of lights and creating smoke we had that traditional Scout camp activity of community singing around the camp fire. This activity was made possible by the fact that whatever we did was completely concealed from view by the overabundance of the vegetation of Brick House Farm. Who now remembers the words of songs like “There’s a Hole in My Bucket” or “In the Quarter Master’s Store”?

    Next day, Sunday, was the final day of camp as Mr. Brockwell was coming back from Laindon to collect us and take us back to bomb alley.  However, it was also the traditional day for Church parades, and just to rub it in, the Rev Reynolds had decided it be done in style. This meant a 3 mile march, yes march, to Thaxted and three miles back. Thaxted Parish church is considered by many as being  the ”cathedral” of Essex. In retrospect, Reynold’s choice seemed a bit unusual, as I always thought him as being “High” with his love of processions and incense. In 1941, Thaxted was still under the control of Conrad Noel (the “red Vicar”; he died the following year) although I cannot recall who it was that conducted the service. Perhaps, Reynolds was more revolutionary than I give him credit. The Rev. Noel had devoted a chapel to John Ball, the priest associated with the Peasant’s Revolt so, perhaps, Basildon’s connections with Wat Tyler are a clue to Reynold’s decision.

    Back in Laindon, Church Parades were not a new idea. The Troop regularly marched (at Monthly intervals) along St. Nicholas Lane and up Church Hill for a Morning Service after assembling at the Rose Garden at the junction of the lane with Basildon Drive. I usually escaped the tedium that followed by volunteering to pump the organ which then lacked the necessary electrical power for that task.  Later I avoided the march as well.  I attended the church half-an-hour earlier than anyone else in order to ring the five bells from the clarion board in the organ loft.

    There is a query at the head of this column about the origins of the 1st Laindon Scouts Troop. In my opinion this is an error that arises from that long-standing mistake about whether it is “Langdon Hills” or “Laindon Hills”. The 1st Laindon Scout Troop was attached to the Methodist Chapel which, unless anyone knows differently was always set in Langdon Hills and not Laindon. If I’m right, then to my mind the 2nd Laindon (St. Nicholas) Troop should have been Laindon’s Number One.

    By John Bathurst (11/03/2015)
  • Thank you to everyone that has left comments it’s been most helpful.

    By Clark manning (11/03/2015)
  • I recently searched through the national newspaper archives and found a few references in the Chelmsford Chronicle to Laindon and Langdon Hills Scouts.  Hopefully these may be of assistance and perhaps jog a few memories.  The first was dated 29th December 1911 as follows:- 

    “Boy Scouts of Langdon Hills.  Boy Scouts from all over south east Essex co-operated in a serious of field operations in Langdon Hills on Boxing Day.  Scout Master Clarke was in the command of the defenders, while Scout Master Stinton led the attackers.  The judging was by Scout Masters Boon, Hunt, Miller, Rose and Mr Reynolds, while the District Commissioner (Ald. J. C. Ingram), accompanied the troops.  After an exciting time, the result was declared to be “honours even”.   Afterward, the scouts had a meal at Laindon”.

    The next references are from between 1930 and 1940. 

    24th January 1930

    “Laindon Scouts’ birthday.  The Scout Group celebrated its first birthday with a social and musical evening at the Wesleyan Church”.

    12th September 1930

    “Laindon – Scout Group.  On Monday at the Manor Mission, a group of boy scouts was enrolled.  Group Scouts Master Woollcott from Stanford-le-Hope and Mrs B M Coates, Hon Secretary of the Stanford-le-Hope Boy Scouts Association handed warrants and badges to the two offices, Group Scout Master H. O. Horner and Cub Master J. T. Toule”.

    14th July 1933

    “Scouts’ Rally.  The Laindon and District Boy Scouts’ Association held their fire rally on Saturday in a field at the corner of Victoria Road and the High Road.  The County Commissioner (Brig.-Gen)  Wigan performed the opening, supported my Mrs Upton, County Commissioner for training and Mrs Thomas, Col. Whitmore, District Commissioner, the Rev. M N Lake, Assistant District Commissioner and other officers, – Gen. Wigan said such gatherings gave the boys the greatest incentive to work for the various objects for which the movement stood and gave parents and those outside the movement an opportunity of seeing what Scouts could do.  Their Association at Laindon was formed in November with six groups, containing 176 Scouts and Rovers and that was very satisfactory.  One of the greatest difficulties was to get Scouters.  The object of the Scouts movement could be sized up in the words “Character training”.  The boys, if they remembered what they learned as Scouts, would be worthy citizens of the Empire.  A display of marching and counter-marching was given by the pipe band of the 1st Chalkwell Bay Troop of Highland Scouts, followed by items by the various troops and packs.  Major Thomson spoke on the Scout movement generally and the rally concluded with the camp fire ceremony and sing-song”.

    6th September 1935.

    “The County Marathon took place to Forest Hill Ongar.  The winners of The Scouts Section 1a were the 8th Chelmsford Troop, with 1st Laindon Troop taking fourth place.”   

    14th August 1936.

    “The 1st Laindon Troop of Scouts in the charge of their Scout Master Mr C Arnold are this week enjoying a week’s camp at the Jubilee Camping Ground in Clacton.  Last year the boys camped in Derbyshire. They express their appreciation of the facilities provided at the camping ground which was provided out of money collected for the Clacton Jubilee Celebrations.”

    16th July 1937

    “The Essex County Marathon took place with 198 teams taking part, each team consisting of 3 scouts. Laindon entered 3 teams.  The teams started out on cycles and arrived at Colchester Castle Park  between 1pm and 4pm.    The aim was not speed but efficiency and teams were marked accordingly.  (Disappointingly, Laindon wasn’t amongst the winning teams).”   

    21st January 1938

    “The annual fancy dress dance was held at St Nicholas Hall in aid of the Scouts and Girl Guides.  Mr Norman Peter was M.C.   The costumes were judged by Mr and Mrs S. Seaton.  Winners were:- Margaret Holliday, Pauline Mansfield, Ronald Simmons and Victor Nunn.”

    17th March 1939

    “Nursing Association.  The Memorial Hall was filled for a concert on behalf of the Nursing Association.  Those taking part included, St Nicholas Church Scouts.  Messrs. H. G. V. Curtis, Hopper, Baggs and Jones,  Mesdames. Hornsey, Collard, Saunders, Ward, Hyatt, Houser, Cockerel, Wright, Jones, Bird, Ratty, Newman and Miss Knight.  A miniature pantomime “Jack and the Beanstalk” was performed by the Scouts.  The arrangements were made by Mrs Herepath and Mrs Miller.”

    21st July 1939.

    Laindon Horticultural Show.  The opening was performed by Mr and Mrs Brooks.  Mr J Sired, President praised the officers and committee and Mr Brooks commended the Society.  The band of the 3rd Laindon Scouts played.”   

    14th June 1940

    “Presentation.  Mr J Toule Chairman of the Boy Scouts Association presented Rev M N Lake, retiring Acting District Commissioner,  who is leaving Laindon shortly to be instituted Rector of Loughton, with a statue of a Boy Scout bought by the Group Scouters.”

    By Nina Humphrey(née Burton) (25/10/2014)

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