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Historic Henfield Scouts under threat
Henfield is famous for its Scout group – the oldest in the world – but the hut built in the 1950s is in a poor state and must be replaced to provide a meeting place and village headquarters.
Fundraisers are still a long way from their target of £500,000 to replace the building.
The 1st Henfield Scout Troop was founded during the winter of 1907 after General Baden-Powell’s experimental camp on Brownsea Island.
Fittingly, the Scout Association in 2007, Scouting’s Centenary year, arranged for Henfield to be the only village in England to host the Centenary Torch during its journey around the world to Brownsea Island.
Here is the story behind the founding of the troop. When Robert Baden-Powell sailed back home to England after service in Africa during the Boer War (1899-1902), he was accompanied on that trip by an officer from Henfield – Major A Wade, the son of a Henfield solicitor.
During the course of the journey, Baden-Powell explained his plans regarding setting up a training scheme for Britain’s boys, modelled on the training he gave to boys who were scouts at the Siege of Mafeking.
Major Wade was so impressed by these plans that upon arriving home he related them to his sister Audrey Wade, who organised a Boys’ Hockey Club in Henfield.
Audrey had wanted an all-year activity for the boys to undertake, as hockey is seasonal, so she converted the hockey club into a troop of Boy Scouts |and started training the boys in scouting activities as planned by Baden-Powell.
This was early in the winter of 1907 and by the time that Scouting was officially formed nationally in 1908, Henfield already had an active and thriving Troop.
Soon afterwards, Baden-Powell started a Troop near his home in East Sussex and Major Wade started a Troop in Chichester.
Major Wade, in his book “The History of Scouting in Sussex”, said that he believed 1st Henfield was the earliest Troop to be founded after Baden-Powell’s Brownsea Island Troop.
Major Wade enjoyed a long association with Baden-Powell, working to set up the National Association of Boy Scouts and organising the first Jamboree at Crystal Palace in September 1909 and the first International Jamboree in 1920.
He later married Baden-Powell’s secretary and Baden-Powell was godfather to their son.
The 1st Henfield Troop continued Scouting and one boy, Jack Alliss, attended Baden-Powell’s second camp in Northumberland in 1908, he won his place on the camp by selling subscriptions to the magazine “Scouting for Boys”.
Jack later went on to become Henfield’s first King’s Scout, but was killed in 1917 whilst serving as a Company Sergeant Major in the Royal Sussex Regiment.
In 1933 a local benefactor, Frank Clarke, donated a piece of land and a building at the end of Craggits Lane to be used for Scouting in Henfield. This land is managed by The Clarke’s Mead Trust and if Scouting ceased to be active in Henfield, the Trustees would ensure that the land and buildings be used for the youth of Henfield.
The trustees are the Vicar of Henfield, a Henfield Parish Council representative, the Scout Group Chairman, the Group Leader of First Henfield Scouts and the Chairman of Henfield Baden-Powell Guild (B-P Guild).
In 1958, Henfield B-P Guild replaced the old building on the land with the present Scout Hut. This building has served the group well but has now deteriorated to such an extent that it is no longer financially viable to continue repairing it.
In 1996 a fundraising committee was set up for the purpose of raising funds to build a new Scout centre, to serve the Scouts of Henfield for another 100 years.
More than £60,000 has been raised since 1996 and planning permission obtained in 2007 to build a two-storey building. This has since been altered to allow a single storey building because of accessibility problems for disabled members to a second storey.
Of the money raised, only about £15,000 remains – as the remainder has had to be spent on two sets of architects fees and other expenses incurred in gaining planning approval twice.
It is estimated that the new Scout Centre will cost about £500,000 to build, so the oldest Scout Group in the world is desperately trying to get funding for their new home, before the old building finally rots away and is condemned.
Dave Malkin, fundraising chairman, says: “It is vital we preserve a headquarters for the scouts of Henfield, for so long an essential group for young chaps to belong to.
“The danger is that without a good base the Henfield group would go into decline – and we are determined that will not happen.”
He was a former Scout leader himself (and a B-P Guild member), and his son Chris became a Queen’s Scout – together with Henfield boys Dominic Knight and Stephen Denyer.
“We had 10 Queen’s Scouts in Henfield – a remarkable number,” says Dave. “They are the most senior Scouts and give much time to expeditions and service to the community.”
The Henfield B-P Guild members themselves have been influential in fundraising and support for the Scouts. Among other activities they have carried out sponsored bike rides and duck races.
“The most important thing we need now is for the parents of Scouts to come forward and support us with help,” says Dave.
“We have all tried to give something back to our youngsters and it is time for the current parents to become helpers.”
Parish councillor Mike Morgan, himself a fundraiser for the new building project, said: “We are very proud of the history of Scouts in Henfield – and being the first group in the world puts us in the unique position of trying the preserve the earliest memories of Scouting in Britain.”
If you can provide help for Henfield Scouts, financial or otherwise, call David Malkin on 01273 493843 or 07929 840321.