3rd Gidea Park Scout Group
web site . . .
HQ. The Rowswell Hall, St Michaels Church, Gidea Park.
 Beavers (6 - 8 years) Tues & Fri | Cubs (8 - 10.5) Tues & Fri | Scouts (10.5 - 14) 7:30 Thur


A Starting Place.

In 1982, Romford District put together a brief history of each Group to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of Scouting. In regard to 3GP it states the following.

The Group started in 1934 and the first troop camp at Botley, was held that year. The Group has always been centred on St Michaels Church. Before the church halls were built they met in a hut off Balgores Lane.
The first Group Scout Master was the Rev. Elvin, with Freddie Rowswell (a master at Brentwood School), as the Assistant Scout Master.

1935 saw the first of many foreign camps — three days in Brussels and eleven day in the Ardennes.

The Group kept going through the war years, boys helping with wartime emergency services. After the war in 1946 the Troop was again camping abroad.

In 1952 the Rover Crew was established and a Group Gang Show took place. As the years ticked by Scouters were found for the increasing number of boys. Freddie Rowswel became Group Scout Master, followed by R.Gingell, P.Rance and now Allen Matthews, a member for 55 years.
The present Group H.Q. was built under the watchful eye of Tony Jones, by with willing parent help. The premises are shared with the Guides. The name — Rowswell Hall — aptly named after this keen 3rd Gidea Park Scouter who still maintains contact with his many Scouts around the world. The Hall provided better facilities for Scouting and events to attract parental involvement.

Throughout its near half century the Group has maintained close association with the Church. Nevertheless it is an open Group and many denominations figure among its members.

This brief account contradicts the 1934/5 District Year Book (Scout Pie) in a number of ways not least that Scout Pie states the St Michaels section of 1st Gidea Park was meeting in the Church Hall at St Michaels in 1934. As Scout Pie was written at the time it is probably the more accurate source. It also contradicts the Headquarters stamp on the Group registration certificate.


The registration form for 3rd Gidea Park is dated October 22nd 1935 and is signed by F.W. Rowswell in the role of (acting) Group Scout Master and by W.W. Nicholass in his role as Assistant Scout Master.

However there are those who are convinced the Group started as early as 1933, and exactly what role F.W. Rowswell officially held is also a matter of debate. We have records of a first Summer camp at Botley in 1934 and a second one in Belgium in 1935 but the Group wasn't registered until October of that year.

This web page attempts to unpick these conflicting reports and create an accurate account of the history of 3rd Gidea Park and a number of sources have been used. The most influencial have been:

Apart from being quoted above, the Group History published in 1982 is being ignored.


The early history of 3GP is bound up with the history of St Michael's and to an extent the history of Gidea Park.

The St Michael’s Mission Church was built in 1928 and until 1931 was within the Chapelry of All Saints Squirrels Heath. St Michael's is located in the Gidea Park Garden Suburb which was built between 1910 and the mid 1930s on parts of the old Gidea Hall estate. The old Gidea Hall was used as a sort of community centre and it was here that in 1926 the 1st Gidea Park Scouts started meeting. 

When Gidea Hall was demolished in 1930, the 1st Gidea Park moved to All Saints Squirrels Heath which at the time was located on the North East side of the junction between Upper Brentwood Road and Squirrels Heath Lane. In 1933 they were evicted from there, moving even further away from the Gidea Park Estate to Salisbury Road School - now known as Squirrels Heath School.

At about the same time, St Michael's became a parish church in its own right when the new Parish of St Michael's Gidea Park was constituted. A new church hall was built and opened in 1933. The then Vicar of St Michael's Rev J Elvin made an application to the Scout's Local Association (similar to the modern District) for the registration and formation of a new Scout Troop at the Church, which would meet in the new Church Hall.   That application was refused!

The District insisted that St Michael's could not have its own “closed” Scout Group on its own terms, despite the application containing a nominee for the warrant of Scouter in Charge who was an old Scout and who had been on the staff at Gilwell (Scouting headquarters). 

Scouting at St Michael’s would have to take place under the auspices of the 1st Gidea Park who would open a St Michael’s section to compliment their Salisbury Road School section. It would therefore be a non sponsored - open Group.

The reasoning for this was not clear but at the time the suspicion was that the 1st Gidea Park wanted the new St Michael's church hall as their own headquarters. Senior members of the Local Association executive were from the 1st Gidea Park. So Scouting at St Michael's started with the leaders of the 1st Gidea Park in charge. The 1st GP report that appeared in the 1934 District year book included the following:

The most important features of our year of campaign have been (i.) The growth of the Headquarters Fund, and (ii.) The growth in our numbers due to the formation of St. Michael's section. The St. Michael's section is progressing very well indeed under the care of A.S.M. (in charge) R. Tilston and A.S.M. F. Rowswell, who is taking charge of the Cubs.

This is the first mention of Mr Rowswell, a character who would have a huge and positive influence on Scouting at St Michael's over the next thirty years or more. At the time Freddie Rowswell was a Sunday School teacher at St Michael's. In his own words...

This was the position when I first took a hand in January 1934 as an ASM (Assistant Scout Master) , having previously held a warrant as GSM (Group Scout Master) in Portsmouth. I helped both the controlling Group and the St Michaels section for a year in both the Pack and the Troop, and joined the Rover Crew and took the combined Troop to camp at Botley, Hampshire, in July.

But it was readily apparent that the St Michaels section urgently needed re-registration as a separate group. This view was also held by W.Nicholass, another ASM introduced to the Group and the section.

We have the below picture in the Group archives dated 1933 showing Freddie Rowswell centre, along with the Patrol Leaders of the 54th Portsmouth Hilsea College Troop. Hilsea College was originally a Portsmouth-based boarding college for naval officer's children. The School is now known as the Trafalgar School, Hilsea, Portsmouth but the buildings in the picture below are still recogniseable from the school field today. The 54th can't have faired too well after Freddie's departure as the current 54th Portsmouth seems to have been started in 1946.


 1934 to 1935 - GROUP REGISTRATION

And so in the summer of 1934 Mr Rowswell took the Salisbury Road School and St Michael's sections of 1st Gidea Park camping at Steeple Court Farm, Botley, Hampshire. Seven of the Scouts were from the St Michael's section including a young Ronald Apps.

In the summer of 1935 a valuable supporter joined us in the form of Fred Eldridge, ex GSM Wittrick Forest, Leicester. He did not take a warrant, contenting himself with Rover Instructorship. His help enabled the 3GP to enjoy summer camps in 1935 (Belgium) and in 1936 to Ireland. It would have also helped that Freddie 'Perk' Rowswell had previously worked for Thomas Cook.

Summer Camp 1935 wearing the Hunting Stewart Tartan Scarfs of the 1st Gidea Park.

1935 Flag

RIGHT - CAMP FLAG both Gendron-Celles Sur Lesse, Ardennes.

Matters in regard to the 1st Gidea Park came to a head when Cub Pack funds disappeared and the Scout Master was found to be actively encouraging boys to switch from the St Michael's section to the School section and dissuading them from attending the agreed Church Parades.

F.W. Rowswell and W.Nicholass at once supported the Vicar’s request for a re-registration as a Church Group. Mr Rowswell was to be Group Scout Master (GSM) and Cub Master and Mr Nicholass to be the Scout Master.

This time (1935) though registration as 3rd Gidea Park was grudgingly accorded, the Executive of the Local Association still refused to allow the church to have its own Group in its own hall registered as a sponsored one (or as then styled “controlled”).

By way of compromise however the Vicar was granted the warrant of GSM though he never asked for it, or wanted it, or knew anything about how to fullfill the role. Mr Rowswell was appointed Cub Master (CM) and Mr Nicholass only ASM. The Vicar and the new CM were only too relieved to get “Home Rule” at last; but W.Nicholass refused to accept anything less than SM and resigned forthwith. In practice Mr Rowswell acted as the GSM and seems to have been semi formally treated as Acting GSM.

So at the end of 1935 F.W. Rowswell found himself sole effective Scouter in the Group being acting SM, as well as CM and acting GSM. This “one-man business” state of affairs lasted more or less continuously until 1944.

1st Gidea Park - The 1st Gidea Park built and opened their own hall Arnaud Lodge in 1938. It was another 35 years before 3GP managed the same. The 1st GP continue to exist as 2nd Squirrels Heath and as of 2015 reside in Hornchurch District. Members of 1st GP did attend 3GP's summer camp in Ireland in 1936 but that was the last joint camp.

2nd Gidea Park - The 2nd Gidea Park was founded by 1928 at Squirrels Heath Methodist Church, by the Drill. The Group transferred to Squirrels Heath District in 1948 and became the 3rd Squirrels Heath. At some stage the Group moved to its own headquarters further North on Upper Brentwood road on the Gidea Park side of the railway. They returned to Romford District in 2015 when Squirrels Heath District was disbanded. For some reason their fate was sealed on the grounds that they were on the Romford side of the Railway. Groups on the Hornchurch side of the railway would become part of Hornchurch District. (It was considered a good thing that County had no idea where the 19th and 11th Romford met.)

W.Nicholass was later killed in an accident while on Home Guard duty in 1942.


 1936 to 1937 - ?

At the end of 1936, Miss Reid-Wilson joined the Group as Assitant Cub Master (ACM). Miss D. Reid-Wilson had been ADC Wolf Cubs from 1923 but by 1936 had retired. She had founded the Cub side of the movement in Brentwood and Billericay, not to mention the 1st Gidea Park troop in 1926. Regretably her spell at 3GP didn't last more than a few months as she had to give up due to ill health. She is listed in the 1939 Essex County Handbook as holding the role of Honorary County Commissioner (Wolf Cubs). The same handbook lists Mr H.F. Hutton as the ADC for Scouts in Colchester. His grandson became Scout Leader of 3rd Gidea Park in 1998.

In 1936 the Troop declined to just 17 Scouts though there were now 4 patrols, the Seagulls having been formed in 1934 and Kingfishers in 1935; the Eagles however were dissolved during 1936. Of these 17 Scouts, 4 gained the first class badge doing journeyes for it in County Wicklow, Ireland. The standards then demanded were not very high except in first aid, but there was an intolerable amount of red tape such as getting a certificate endorsed by an appointed LA examiner to the effect that the Scout has a shilling in the Savings Bank.

In 1937 the troop gained its first Kings Scout badges a fitting celebration for George VI’s Coronation. There were 4 Kings Scouts altogether in the troop of which 3 were accompanied by the very rare Gold Cords, which up to 1947 were awarded to holders of 18 proficiency badges (including the KS of course) The Kings Scouts were A.Ritchie, D. Cornwall, R Murley and C. Caldwell. These four accounted for half the Kinds Scouts presented in the District that year.

The District Challenge Shield for highest proportion of badges which had been narrowly missed in 1936 when the 8th Romford won it was gained in this year and held until 1944.


3rd GIDEA PARK (St. Michaels)

Undaunted by the absence of an S.M. (or is it because of that?) the Troop has obtained 4 King's Scout badges this year. Two of the holders of these have also gained the Gold Cords, and the others the Red and White. The rest of the Troop has kept up a good average level, being now all Second Class.

New ground has been covered in getting the Airman, Starman and World Friendship badges. We were so delighted to read, on page 13 of the last Scout Pie, that we had come 28th in the County Marathon without even entering a team, that we decided really to compete in the District one this year and see what would happen. The result was that we came third - an improvement !

We enjoyed three holiday camps, in addition to week-ends. First, there was a 10-day camp at Durgan, near Falmouth, in April—an unprecedented event, we were told. Our daring was justified by our five days' dose of sunburn, after a gale had driven us to shelter in a barn. At Whitsun we visited Bedfords Park. In true Scout manner we accepted our A.D.C's challenge to cook his specialities (e.g.: ceufs a la poche d'43corce d'orange), and are still alive to tell the tale.

Six of us went to the World Jamboree, being put into Troop 110, with Alexandria and Leeds—a Jamboree on its own was this. Further news on application. Finally, to carry out the Chief's message, we embarked on the good ship "Royal Sovereign" one day at Southend and tumbled ashore at Calais, with the object of camping in the Forest of Guines. To our surprise, we were accorded a civic reception in the Town Hall, and were made the guests of the Jamboree Calaisien. The rest you have probably seen already in the Essex Weekly News.

The Cubs, more numerous than ever, got two hard-earned points at the Sports, and a Swimming Medal at the Baths. Camping practice has been shared by them, too.

The Scouters are much depleted in number. Only one, the Old Wolf, has been regularly in action. He manages this Troop and Pack, plus another Troop elsewhere, and is the possessor of a brand new Part I. certificate for the Wood Badge. Meanwhile the G.S.M. gathers enough shekels, not only to construct a new church, but also to provide larger premises for the 3rd G.P.

G.S.M.—Rev. J. ELVIN, St. Michael's Vicarage, Main Road
Scouts, Tuesdays 7.30-10 p.m. C.M.—F. W. ROWSWELL,
Cubs, Thursdays, 6.30 6.308 p.m. A.C.M.—Miss D. REID WILSON (Lone Wolf) Headquarters – St. Michael's Hall, Main Road, Gidea Park
A.S.M.—W. W. KEENE-NICHOLASS, 44, Haines Rd , Hornchurch
Colours—Khaki shirts, and orange scarves, black bordered, with navy blue jerseys for the Cubs

The Whitsun camp at Bedfords was a district camp. A photo of F.W Rowswell, Cecil Caldwell, Peter Gobey, Alan Rowe and Brian Williams cooking around a fire appeared in the Romford Times.


During 1937 a new Troop was formed at Brentwood School. F.W. Rowswell was a staff member of the School and became Assistant Scout Master of this new Troop in addition to his roles with 3rd Gidea park. A number of the 3GP Scouts were also pupils at Brentwood School. From then on the two troops regularly camped together. Some of the School pupils were boarders who didn't return home even during School holidays. This situation encourgaed lengthy camping trips during School Holidays, trips the 3GP Scouts were all too keen to participate in.

In 1937 the troop camped for the first time on patrol lines, and also for the first time for a fortnight in April. This Spring camp was held at Falmouth Cornwall.

5 Scouts and F.W. Rowswell went to the World Jamboree in Holland. The following report by F.W Rowswell appeared in the District's Scout Pie No. 4.


The profoundest thanks are due to the Dutch Scouts for the provision of shower-baths, which helped so much to mitigate the tremendous heat. As we were well below sea-level, cut off by sand-dunes from the coast, no sea-breezes came our way. We were soon afflicted with the usual Jamboree malady - swopping of badges, thirst for autographs of members of other States, and the spending of our hard-earned shekels on clogs, The general camp-fires in the dunes will never be forgotten. On each occasion some 25,000 people were present.

Some of the programmes were broadcast, though it hardly seemed needful to use radio at all to let the yells or the applause of such an audience be heard all over Holland. Sub-Camp IV. had their own camp-fires too, and one of these was broadcast. Probably the best item in these was the East Indiansí dancing; at the final general camp-fire the greatest applause seemed to be given to the Scotsí high-speed bagpipe performance, and to the Americansí Eagle Dance.

We did a good deal of exploring on our own, but the chief journeys were made on the last three days, when conducted tours were made of Amsterdam, Volendam and the Zuider Zee, Dordrecht and the river Maas, and Rotterdam and the Hague. What impressed us above all else on these journeys was the spotless cleanliness of the whole country, and the ubiquitous fresh paint.

A third camp was held jointly in the forest of Guines, near Calais, France. Amoung the campers on that trip was F.Godwin who later died during the war. The group archives contain clippings from three Franch local newspapers describing the arrival of 3GP in Calais. There is also a note to say there was a brief mention in the Lille Newspapers.


 1938- ?

In 1938 joint camps were held at Lucano, Switzerland in April; and in July at Great Tower, Windermere. According to the group's report for 1938, in order to camp at Great Tower at the time, you needed to be recoomended

One of the patrol sites there was for at least 20 years known as “Gidea Glade” after 3GP had cleared it. (could that be the current Elvan Glade site?) The new Woodpigeon patrol was awarded by the Verderer the “Order of the Second Steak” for toughness in camping under canvas throughout 4 consecutive days of non-stop rain totalling 10 inches. This camp taught all the patrols how to camp, for everyone was really on its own: patrol system is really enforced here. We learnt more there about camping than anywhere else before or since.

By the end of 1938 we had 29 Scouts, 20 Cubs and 3 old Scouts.

To be continued...