A History of Scouting in Barnet

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Although Barnet Borough Scout District was only formed in 2008, there has been Scouting in the area since our first Scout Group opened in 1914.

1914 – 1965

This green and leafy suburban area of north west London was nearly all in the Scout County of Middlesex until 1965.

“Since the beginning of things, Middlesex has striven to play the game of Scouting as it should be played. Giving happiness, new experiences, new skills, a love of out-of-doors, loyalty, courtesy, and self discipline to thousands of boys, through the devotion of generations of Scouters.” By 1954 there were over 21,000 members in the County.

Scouting in the County of Middlesex

In 1922 the first Middlesex Training Ground at Waxwell Lane, Pinner, was inaugurated. This ground was rented, as were its successors at Hillingdon, Harrow Weald and Stanmore and it was not until 1945 that a permanent home for training was acquired by the purchase of a Training Ground at Elstree.

“Here at Elstree, Training Courses are held at regular intervals for Scouters in each section of the Movement – Cubs, Scouts and Rovers – and somewhere between a dozen and two dozen Scouters give up a whole week or perhaps four weekends of their precious time to come to Elstree to camp as their Scouts do, to attend lectures, to make notes for future reference, to learn practical Scouting and all the many things that will help them in the running of their own Groups.” This is a reference to the Wood Badge training scheme which leaders still undertake to this day.

Frith Grange in full action w/ the site badge

Meanwhile, a more familiar site to our members today was opened in 1936. Then a part of the Finchley Boy Scout Association, Frith Grange Camp Site has been a place for camping and Scout activities for over 80 years and today plays a key role as our District headquarters.

Edgware District St. George’s Day Parade c.1960

At District level competitions and events were organised for a smaller number of Scouts. Similar to what we do now, there were annual competitions for camping, hiking, handicraft, sports and swimming galas. There were also 5-a-side football competitions, soap box derbies for Rovers, bulb-growing and singing competitions for Cubs, and a couple of boxing tournaments for Scouts!

District Sports Day 1961

In the Harrow & Edgware District Groups would regularly compete to test various Scout skills to obtain the District Flitch. The names were carved over 10 pages of leather. Did your Group make it? Read the full list here.

1965 – 2008

In 1965 the London Scout Council was set up replacing the former Scout Counties of London, London over the Border and Middlesex. In its place were seven new Scout Counties, including our County today of Greater London North.

From the 1st of April what is our Borough today was then composed of three Districts: Barnet, Hendon & Edgware and Finchley, Friern Barnet & Golders Green.

Some of the old competitions continued, as well as new ones being introduced. In 1976 the County Maypole competition started for Venture Scouts, a night navigation event via car. More recognisable today is the Chiltern 20 Challenge Hike, which started in 1981. This continues to be an annual event for Scouts, followed by the Southern 50 Challenge for Explorers and Leaders.

Badges of our former three Districts (1965-2008)

2008 – present

In September 2008 the three Districts amalgamated to form the new Barnet Borough Scout District. Our first District Commissioner was Charlie Rowell and a new District team was established. Today we provide scouting for over 1,500 young people, through over 500 dedicated adult volunteers. Around the website you can see the kind of activities and events we get up to as a District.

Barnet Mayor David Longstaff thanks former DC Charlie Rowell and welcomes new DC Tracey Smith (2017)

The latest chapter in our District revolves around Frith Grange.

“Frith Grange is not just popular with Barnet Scouts, but also a large number of visitors travelling to camp in London. During this summer [2018] we hosted 120 Scouts from Israel for 2 weeks – the largest single group we have welcomed and a great opportunity for us to foster International relations. Frith Grange’s unique features for a site in London – open and airy, with no neighbours to worry about, unrestricted, safe & secure is all about to be ruined and the site made far less enticing and attractive to use.”

This was from a council planning meeting in 2019, in response to plans from developers Millbrook Park to build 6 storey flats along the border of the site. Into 2020 our members have supported us and got involved in campaigns and local council meetings to stake our objections. The development is going ahead but we have secured small changes such as a wall of trees against the boundaries.

An aerial photo of the District sent to Barnet Councillors (2019)

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Discover more:

Our photo archive

Our newsletter archive

How the face of the District website has evolved

Finchley, Friern Barnet & Golders Green District history

The history of Scouting in London

The history of Scouting in the UK (The Passing Years factsheet)

Look up your local Scout Group, because you’ve got a safe, practical community who will encourage and support you.'
Bear Grylls, Chief Scout Bear Grylls