This Saturday (24th November, 2018) I was invited along to the Centenary celebrations of the 25th Norwich Scouts. Seeing as both my children attend the Cubs and Scouts here and the fact there was free tea and cake to be had (as well as a chance to bend the ear of the Mayor) it was a bit of a no-brainer, so we thought we’d pop along to see what it was all about.
It was a pleasant couple of hours, the kids seemed to enjoy themselves with plenty of activities to keep them entertained and the flowing tea, coffee and cake helped to keep the nattering parents placated. Unfortunately the Mayor failed to show up in the end but the Sheriff managed to make it and she was there doing her bit.
On top of all that there was plenty of old photographs and paperwork to rifle through to keep an old history bore such as myself entertained. I was in my element poring through some of the older items to see if there was anything that might be of interest. To my delight there was a battered-old photograph album sat on one of the tables which had images dating back as far as 1919:
A strange, balding man hunting through the 1919 photo album.
I’m not ashamed to say that I was a little bit excited with some of the images I was finding. There were pictures taken at Mundesley, Runton, Cromer along with images of the Scouts loaded onto the open back of an old truck, en route to and from their locations; a fascinating insight into the life of a Scout almost 100 years ago. Of course, I was immediately on to the leaders to see if I could borrow a few of these items; who kindly obliged, as you’ll see shortly.
One of the albums I’d borrowed told a fascinating story about the 25th and how they had ended up here in Mile Cross. The 25th Scouts’ base of operations currently resides within the Church Hall connected to St. Catherines Church sat on the triangle of land nestled between Mile Cross and Aylsham Road on the outskirts of Mile Cross, but this hasn’t always been their home and the fact that the 25th were formed some 17 years before the church’s foundation stone was laid by Queen Mary should have been a bit of a giveaway.
One of the photo albums the 25th kindly allowed me to borrow for a few days had some interesting typed documents along with some equally interesting photographs taken not too long after World War Two. It turns out that the 25th were originally based in St Mary’s Chapel, opposite St Mary’s church on St Mary’s plain just off Duke Street, but this all came to a rather abrupt end, when in 1942 Germans bombs fell upon their headquarters, destroying it completely along with all of their equipment. The 25th were now effectively homeless but had soon managed to find temporary residence at St Mary’s Hall on Mile Cross Road (now the Phoenix Centre) so that they could continue to soldier on in a small way. However, this was far from ideal and in 1948 the 25th had managed to purchase a wooden army hut measuring 48ft x 20ft at a cost of £145. It was to be erected on a small piece of land situated between their temporary home at St Mary’s and their current home at St Catherine’s Hall. Of course, being post-war Britain and the fact that these groups have always been run on a shoe-string the group was operating with limited funds, as the following treasurer’s report highlights below:
As a result of the arrears the group were desperately trying to recoup some of the money to help pay for the new hut and its decoration and the following letter was subsequently sent out (after the opening ceremony of their newly-built headquarters) to the parents of the Scouts asking for much-needed donations:
Along with the above documents were a handful of brilliant photographs of the new wooden hut being erected and decorated, along with and old cutting from a Newspaper (most likely the Eastern Evening News) reporting on the opening ceremony of the 25th’s new home:
The ‘Old boys’ adding the final touches to the roof of their new home. You can make out the roof of St Catherine’s Hall, the current home of the 25th in the background.
Boys on the roof. Note the very tidy-looking Kirkpatrick Road and Mile Cross Road in the background.
A pair of Scouts pose for a picture whilst working on the roof of their new HQ.
Equipment for building and decorating the new Scout Hut.
Interior decorations almost complete.
A detail shot showing the freshly painted interior along with the 25th’s Ceremonial Totem Pole on display in the corner. This, or one very similar to it can be found in the images taken way back in 1919.
And finally, the newspaper cutting regarding the opening of the new Scout Hut.
And there you have it, that is how the 25th Norwich came to be located at their Mile Cross Home for the last 70 of their 100 years (and counting). It’s amazing what little bits of local history you can stumble across when you’re least expecting it. And it came with tea and Cake! I now have the album of 1919 images to carefully scan and you can rest assured that if I find anything of relevance I’ll be writing something up about it here.
Thanks once again for reading,