In November 1918 William de Bois Maclaren offered £7000 to buy land which could be converted into a campsite for boys from the East End of London. He had visited the areas and seen Scouts struggling to carry out their activities due to a lack of outdoor space. Teams of Scouts were sent out to find a suitable location and Gilwell Park, on the edge of Epping Forest was found.
During the First World War over 5,000 older Scouts and leaders were killed however, youth membership of Scouts had grown by over 46,000. The loss of so many experienced leaders and older Scouts created a need for leadership training programme to provide new volunteers with the skills needed to support the Movement. The purchase of Gilwell Park provided the perfect venue for a dedicated training centre.
Rover Scouts arrived on 17 April 1919, to start making the park suitable for camping. Unfortunately the weather made camping impossible on the first night and they slept instead in a gardener’s shed which they nicknamed ‘The Pigsty’, which you can still see to this day on the Orchard. The estate was very neglected and Maclaren generously donated an additional £3000 to pay for necessary works.
Gilwell was officially opened on Saturday 26 July 1919, by Mrs Maclaren who cut the ribbons at the main gate, the Estate at the time consisted of 53 acres, which included the White House, Training Ground, Orchard and the Boy’s Camping Field.
The first Camp Chief of Gilwell Park was Captain Francis Gidney who was appointed in May 1919. He formulated the early Wood Badge courses, developed the 1st Gilwell Park Scout Troop and Cub Pack (now 1st Gilwell Park Scout Group) and held the first ever Gilwell Reunion in 1921.
Creating a Scouting landscape
The Park quickly became home to statues, sculptures and structures many of which have become well known throughout the Scouting world.
|1919||Training Ground – the centre of the Park where international Scout leaders would gather for their wood badge training course.|
|1920||Camp Square – providing a space for Scouts to socialise and meet. Camp Square has at different times been home to a hospital, country dancing board and museum.|
|1926||Buffalo Lawn – home to the Bronze Buffalo presented to Gilwell Park by the Boy Scouts of Amercia.|
|1926||The Barn – created to provide a training room for Cub leaders now houses hotel accommodation.|
|1928||Leopard Gates – carved by Don Potter.|
|1929||Gidney Cabin – built by Don Potter in memory of Francis Gidney, Camp Chief 1919 – 1923.|
|1929||Chilean Statue – Boy with puma
Presented to celebrate the 21st birthday of Scouting. Chile was the first non-British empire country to adopt Scouting.
|1930||Jim Green Gate – built in memory of Jim Green, a Scout and leader from Hertfordshire who went on to edit the Scouter magazine.|
|1933||Robert Baden-Powell’s footprint
A bronze caste of B-Ps boot created at the 1933 World Scout Jamboree.
|1934||The Lodge “Camp Chief’s House” – built to replace the original estate lodge. Home to the Camp Chief until 2015.|
|1938||Eccles, Baden-Powell’s caravan
Presented to the Baden-Powell’s in 1929 alongside a Rolls Royce (Jam Roll). Eccles was given to Gilwell Park on their retirement to Kenya.
|1940-41||The Bomb Hole – created during the blitz providing much needed water activity facilities on site.|
During the Second World War, Gilwell was requisitioned by the War Office as a training centre for anti-aircraft artillery crews and the headquarters of the local defences protecting factories in Enfield and Waltham Abbey. Anti-aircraft guns were installed at the top of the Quick.
The Post War years saw the Estate extended by acquiring the land now known as The Quick, New Field, Hilly Field and Gilwellbury. This brought Gilwell to its current configuration and size of 108 acres.
Gifted by New Zealand Scouts in 1947 and erected 1951
|1947||Roman Catholic Chapel|
|1947||The Swan Centre (rebuilt in 1966)|
|1957||Synagogue, built by Jewish Scouts from London to celebrate 50 years of Scouting.|
|1950||The “Barnacle” hospital – originally a first aid centre it developed into a well-equipped hospital including an x-ray ward.|
|1961||Small Campfire Circle – created from surplus soil following the expansion of the Bomb Hole.|
|1963||Annexe to the White House built.|
|1966||The Boy Scout by Tait Mckenzie – presented by the Boy Scouts of America.|
|1967||Buddhist Sala – the Sala was funded by the Scouts of Thailand.|
|1968||Mexican bust of Robert Baden-Powell – presented after the Mexico City Olympic Games.|
|1970||Dorothy Hughes Pack Holiday Lodge – the first dedicated accommodation for Cubs.|
|1971||Colquhoun International Centre “CIC” – created to provide indoor training facilities.|
Restoring the White House
The 1980s saw the start of a major new development plan for Gilwell Park. The first part included the restoration of the White House with the ground floor being converted into meeting rooms and conference facilities. The upper floors once again became bedrooms along with the Barn and annexes are operated as a hotel for guests. The White House was officially opened in 1995 by Her Majesty The Queen.
Gilwell Park continues to evolve and change to keep pace with the needs of its many users. The biggest development of recent years was the creation of Gilwell House providing office space for Headquarters.
|2001||Gilwell House “HQ Offices”
|2008||Jack Petchey Lodge opens|
|2010||Peter Harrison Lodge opens|
|2015||International volunteer lodge opens|
|2015||Gilwell Park Mosque – funded and run by the Muslim Scout Fellowship.|
To find out about Gilwell Park’s next exciting project visit our Museum development pages.