History of 1st Cobham, introducing “100 Years of 1st Cobham Scouting”
In 2007, to celebrate the Centenary of the Scout Movement Grahame Coombe, County Archivist, produced an article every month for Surrey Scout magazine about the early history of scouting in Surrey. One such article mentioned the Cobham Troop camping on the Isle of Sheppey in the 1900’s , reporting on the fact that Cobham had been the first troop ever to save lives - from a shipwreck that happened at that time. Peter Amys, Scout Leader at Cobham in 2007, contacted Grahame to seek more information after realising that if this was true, our own group records about the history of 1st Cobham (and when it began) were incorrect. After various letters and further research Grahame supplied us with a start date, recorded in the Headquarters Gazette magazine, and a list of the early scout leaders. This established beyond any doubt the origins of scouting in Cobham.
In winter 2008, the Group’s executive committee started planning the Group’s Centenary celebration and inspired by these findings, Alyson our indefatigable Cubs Leader started work on a memorial book so as to bring alive the story of scouting in Cobham, using all sources available and drawing on as many memories as possible from Cobham scouts . It was a long task because, as she comments at the beginning of the book, “unfortunately there were no records at our hut and very little information to hand. So began a long road of dusty books, libraries, history centres, old papers, cold church vestries, land registry, maps photos galore, tired eyes, brain freeze, chasing old members for memories and hours upon hours of sifting through information…” The eventual fruit of this labour, “100 Years of 1stCobham Scouting”, was proudly displayed in 1st Cobham’s Centenary Scouting exhibition tent at Painshill Park for the 2010 Heritage Day celebrations. There are still gaps in the story and we would much welcome further contributions both to help fill in missing years, and give more personal colour across the whole history.
We are delighted to attach “100 Years of 1st Cobham Scouting” here on our new website and urge you to browse through some fascinating historical detail, photos, memories of happy days spent scouting, and what it meant with hindsight to have been a scout; it also has many insights into how scouting has changed over the years.
To encourage you to read on and explore this document, here are a few tasters. The book starts with an overview of the origins of scouting in the UK – Gen Baden-Powell, his book “Scouting for Boys” and the big picture in Edwardian times. The Cobham story -1stCobham was amongst the earliest groups formed - started with the Rev HB Chubb, a vigorous young curate in charge of Hatchford Church and Downside parish, being inspired by “B-P” at one of many camps he held to promote scouting, - and passing on his enthusiasm to another young local man named Edward Cripps, aged 24. Edward would go on in later life to have a City career culminating in being the senior Government Broker, responsible for crucial government debt operations connected with the Second World War and the postwar nationalisation programme, from 1937 until his retirement in 1950. They decided to open the first scout troop in Cobham closely followed by a scout troop in Hatchford and Downside. You can read a series of Rev Chubb’s articles in Cobham Parish Magazine presented as a blog …. Scouts played cricket, camped, performed night hikes and exercises and in Nov 1910 the Troop’s first fundraising event was held. This was a Follies’ Entertainment at the Village Hall at which the performers freely gave their services. The death of the assistant scoutmaster Andrew Potter in Sept 1912 seems to have badly affected the troop, numbers were low and with war imminent, Rev Chubb disbanded the Cobham troop in Feb 1914. The Troop reformed in happier times after the war in 1920, but as you will see, information about the 1920’s and 30’s is conspicuous by its absence. From 1940-49 1st Cobham held its meetings in the Guide Hall, Spencer Road, Cobham and then at the end of the decade moved to new HQ in an old wooden army hut on stilts at the top of Freelands Road on scrubland. At that time the road was not joined with the Tartar Rd estate. On page 19 we see the first of many photos of Cobham scouts having fun in action. The 1950s saw the emergence of a key figure in Cobham scouting, Norman Hicks, a Scout, Patrol Leader, Senior Scout and Rover Scout who then went on to become a major leader in the troop right up till 1987. The troop was successful, full to capacity and started fundraising for the new brick hall, which we have today and which was opened in 1960 after a major team construction effort by members, fathers and friends of the scout group. Another key figure at that time was Alec Forhead, a Scout Master who had joined in 1954. He had fought the Japanese in World War II and regaled the scouts with his war stories as well as supplying memorabilia to give atmosphere and character to the newly built scout hall.
In the pages covering the 1960s and 1970s you can see a number of colour photos including one of Cobham scouts providing an arch of honour at the 1965 wedding of Norman and Daphne Hicks at St Andrews. You can see in those more relaxed times the Scouts would go camping travelling practically hanging out of the back of a furniture van … fewer health and safety concerns in those days ! In the 1980s the information became harder to find for some reason, but plenty of scouting was being done in Cobham and in 1981 the cub pack was so large it split into two! We have found surprisingly little testimony from the 1990s…. but a number of the recent leadership and executive committee first became involved in that decade, including Alyson herself.
When we enter the 2000s, her story, that of Helen Amys our current Beaver Colony leader, and testimony from Peter Amys, the Scout Leader at the time, together give the true flavour of 1stCobham to any parent who is considering sending their children to our troop. Peter did a huge amount to build up 1st Cobham in the 2000s and was also responsible for helping pull together the executive committee, made up of both uniformed and non-uniformed volunteers that governs and supports the Scout Group today.
“100 Years of 1stCobham Scouting” is rounded off by wonderful accounts of all the activities behind our powerful and effective fundraising campaign around 2008-2011 led by Debbie Coles, which enabled us to renew the roof, the windows and flooring and install up to date toilet arrangements in the hut: essential modernisation. Last, the 2010 Centenary Celebrations are described – tree planting at Painshill Park, a Community Day again at Painshill Park held in conjunction with Cobham Heritage Day, and a Commemorative Service at St Andrews Church followed by tea and scones at the Scout Hut to celebrate the first century of scouting in Cobham.
Here’s to the next 100 years ! We hope you enjoy it.