Gilwell Park's history

Gilwell Park White House

Gilwell Park's history

Gilwell Park marks a centenary of Scouting fun and adventure

Throughout 2019, Scouts from around the world will join in with a year of celebration as Gilwell Park marks its 100th birthday.

A Training Centre

This Scouting wonderland was founded in 1919 as the world reeled from the cataclysmic impact of the First World War. UK Scouting was recovering from the devastating loss of over 5,000 older Scouts and adult volunteers. This created a need to train and develop new leaders to fill the gap left by those lost and ensure the future of the Movement which by 1919 had 218,000 members in the UK. The ideal opportunity arose when a benefactor, William de Bois Maclaren, generously offered to to buy a camping area for inner city London Scouts who lacked access to suitable grounds. After several months of searching, Gilwell Park was found on the edge of Epping Forest and purchased for £7,000. The size of the estate (roughly half its current size) meant it would suit both the Scouts needs and provide a permanent leader training venue.

The Wood Badge

On 17 April 1919 the first Rover Scouts arrived to start converting the site from its rundown state to a friendly Scouting venue. By the 12 May the first Scouts were camping on site and making the most of Gilwell's location. On 8 September adult volunteers convened for the first ever Wood Badge course. The training offered at Gilwell Park was the first of its kind, Scouts from around the world attended Wood Badge courses at Gilwell. On their return journey home many set up their own training centres to pass on their learning. In this way the legend of Gilwell spread throughout the Scouting community around the world.

The Home of Scouting

Gilwell Park has become the worldwide spiritual home of Scouting. It is sung of round campfires, remembered by many and is a place of pilgrimage for Scouts from around the globe. Its grounds are scattered with structures, sculptures and statues gifted by international Scout organisations, each of these has a tale of worldwide friendship to tell which resonates with Scouts today.

Gilwell Park also has a fascintating pre-Scouting history, the earliest reference dating from the 1400's sitting on the edge of the Royal Hunting Forest the Park the first known building was a medieval hall. The site has also known infamy and scandal with its links to Dick Turpin and transformation into a regency pleasure palace. During the Second World War the site was requisitioned due to its strategic location overlooking Enfield's reservoirs and armaments factories. This occupation left its mark, the 'bomb-hole' pond created during an air-raid now hosts canoeing, kayaking and raft building activities.

Since 1919 Gilwell Park has grown and evolved to meet the needs of the Movement but its core ethos of delivering skills for life through fun and adventure remains the same and benefits 400,000 young people who visit from across the globe every year.

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"'A week of camp life is worth six months of theoretical teaching in the meeting room.'"

Robert Baden-Powell