The Camping Ground – Frith Grange
The Camping Ground, not known as Frith Grange until some years later, was acquired by lease from Finchley Borough Council in 1934.
The site has over the years seen many changes and has been the venue for many camps and District events. It is probably fair to say that every member of the District has at some time been there at least once, with most having spent some time under canvas.
The District is fortunate to have the use of this open space that provides an attractive venue for outdoor Scouting activities of all kinds, and a place that creates happy memories for so many.
After Finchley Lodge was sold in 1990 Frith Grange became the District Headquarters for Finchley, Friern Barnet and Golders Green. Following the 2008 merger it is now the District HQ for Barnet Scouts.
A local Camping Ground had for some time been an idea in the minds of Finchley Scouters, and in June 1934, through the tireless efforts of Mr G A Ballinger, the District Commissioner at the time, Finchley Council offered a piece of land in Frith Lane to the Association for use as a Camping and Training Ground at a rental of £10 p.a.
The land in question had once been part of the ancient Manor of ‘Frythe’, one of the Manors into which Hendon was divided in the tenth century. All the land was at one time owned by the Westminster Abbey Authorities but was now in the possession of Finchley Borough Council.
It was thought that “In a rapidly-growing town such as Finchley, the facilities for practicing the work of backwoodsmen diminished as the housing estates grew. With fields retreating farther away every year it was becoming increasingly difficult to find suitable places for outdoor Scouting.” The ground was also considered to be within walking distance of all of the Finchley Scout Headquarters (15 at the time). Despite only having an initial agreement for one year, although future requests for a longer period were thought to be looked upon sympathetically, the Executive Committee accepted the offer.
There was plenty of work to be done in preparing the area, trees to be removed, a pond to be filled, water to be laid on and huts to be built. Rules for its use also had to be drafted.
In September William Kelsall was asked to take on the role of Camp Warden, which he did, undertaking the task enthusiastically. The Executive Committee discussed the cost of the site’s upkeep and eventually suggested that they sought agreement at the Annual General Meeting for a capitation fee to be levied at the rate of 4d per Cub, Scout and Rover. When the matter was debated at the AGM in October it was resolved that the fee would be 2d per Cub, 4d per Scout, 6d per Rover and one shilling per Leader.
Much of the work, under the direction of William Kelsall, was being done by volunteers and in particular Rovers from the District. By January plans for sanitation had been drawn up.
About the same time arrangements were also being made for the Scouts to be involved in King George V’s Silver Jubilee celebrations. The Scouts would light a Beacon, one of thousands across the County during the evening of Jubilee Day. They had initially wanted to perform this task at the Gun Station (previously occupied by the Anti-Aircraft Battery during the war) in Summers Lane, but the Local Council would not provide permission. As a result it was decided that the Beacon would be lit at the Camping Ground – its first major event.
Although some Scouts were already using the Ground, including for camping, there was still much work to be done preparing it to the required standard. Rovers were asked to provide more help, which they did in two ways. The first was by providing manual labour but they also performed a couple of concerts to raise much needed funds.
On the 6th May the Scout’s Beacon was duly lit, in the presence of more than 1,000 people. After it was lit a certificate was sent to Buckingham Palace that read “The Jubilee beacon at Finchley is alight. All’s well. The Scouts of Finchley send loyal greetings to his Majesty.” The event was considered to have been an outstanding occasion, as reported in the District’s Annual Report.
At the end of May the Camping Ground was again to the fore when it was revealed that the cost of providing sanitary accommodation would be in the region of £110. There were lengthy discussions about how this would be paid for. Imperial HQ was prepared to lend £100 over a 3 year period at 4% interest but wanted personal guarantees. Members of the Executive thought this might be an issue and eventually decided to offer shares at £1 each. The idea was that the monies would be paid back over varying periods of 1 – 10 years with each shareholder receiving an additional 2 shillings.
In October it was decided that the Camping Ground would be officially opened on the 23rd May 1936. Although permanent camp sites were available by the end of the year, there was still work to be done, including making the arrangements for the big day.
In March the District Commissioner headed the organising committee and William Kelsall was naturally put in charge of the ground. A number of sub committees were also created covering finance, reception, display, publicity, camp fire, fairground and catering.
Posters were produced and programmes were printed. All Groups agreed to take part in the arena displays and help with the sideshows, and a camp fire was arranged to start at 9 p.m.
The Mayor, Alderman S Pulham, duly declared the Camping Ground open at 3 p.m. in the presence of a large crowd and a good time was had by all. The occasion was widely covered by the press.
More to follow.