Baden-Powell House

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Baden-Powell House, colloquially known as B-P House, is a Scouting hostel and conference centre in South Kensington, London, which was built as a tribute to Lord Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouting. The house, owned by The Scout Association, hosts a collection of Baden-Powell memorabilia, including the original Baden-Powell painting by David Jagger, Baden-Powell's Last Message to Scouts, and a granite statue by Don Potter.

The building committee, chaired by Sir Harold Gillett, Lord Mayor of London, purchased the site in 1956, and assigned Ralph Tubbs to design the house in the modern architectural style. The Foundation Stone was laid in 1959 by World Chief Guide Olave, Lady Baden-Powell, and it was opened in 1961 by Queen Elizabeth II. The largest part of the £400,000 cost was provided by the Scout Movement itself. Over the years, the house has been refurbished several times, so that it now provides modern and affordable lodging for Scouts, Guides, and their families, staying in London.


From address by HM the Queen[1]
Baden-Powell himself has gone, but his Movement remains and grows—a memorial more enduring than stone or steel. It is, however, fitting that, here in England, where he started it, there should be a house, bearing his name and serving the needs of the Movement, which can express our gratitude to him in a practical way.

Acting on a 1942 initiative by Chief Scout Lord Somers, a formal Baden-Powell House Committee was established by The Scout Association in 1953 under the direction of Sir Harold Gillett, later Lord Mayor of London. The committee's directive was to build a hostel to provide Scouts a place to stay at reasonable cost while visiting London. For this purpose, in 1956 the committee purchased a bombed-out property at the intersection of Cromwell Road and Queen's Gate at a cost of £39,000.[1]

The Scout Movement raised the major part of the funding of £400,000 for building and furnishing the building between 1957 and 1959. Money was raised through public appeals supported by publication in Scout Movement magazines, a collection of donations in 15,000 brick-shaped boxes, and 5,000 appeal letters signed personally by then Chief Scout Lord Rowallan.[1]

In a celebration on 1959-10-17 the Foundation Stone was laid by the World Chief Guide Olave, Lady Baden-Powell, with Lord Mayor Sir Harold Gillett, the new Chief Scout Sir Charles Maclean, and 400 other guests in attendance. A casket was buried under the foundation stone which held 1959 Scout mementoes, stamps, coins, photographs, etc., and a programme of the Foundation Stone Laying Ceremony.[1]

With 142 Queen's Scouts as Guard of Honour, and live broadcast by the BBC (commentator Richard Dimbleby), Baden-Powell House was opened on 1961-07-12 by Queen Elizabeth II. Afterwards, the Queen toured the house with the Chief Scout and the president of The Scout Association, her uncle Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester. A black marble panel with gold lettering was put on the balcony in the hall to commemorate the event.[1]

Modern architecture

Baden-Powell House, long view
Baden-Powell House, side view
Baden-Powell House, front view

The house was designed by the architect Ralph Tubbs in 1956, whose works included the Dome of Discovery, the highlight of the 1951 Festival of Britain. Tubbs' floor plans and a model of his design were displayed during a fundraising campaign and exhibition on 1957-02-21 in the Egyptian Hall of the Mansion House.[1][2]

The six storied Baden-Powell House is designed in the modern architectural style, as pioneered by the Swiss architect Le Corbusier from the late 1920s onwards, and predominating in the 1950s. At Baden-Powell House, Tubbs made the first floor overhang the ground floor, a Le Corbusier architectural design choice to free the building from the ground, such as seen in his Pavillon Suisse at the Cité Internationale Universitaire in Paris.[3] Additionally, Le Corbusier's Sainte Marie de La Tourette priory in Lyon shows two floors of monk's cells with small windows, cantilevered over the more open floors below, another design choice used by Tubbs in the facade of Baden-Powell House.[4] While Tubbs created Baden-Powell House in the modern architectural style of Le Corbusier, he used more architectural restraint in his own design choices. For example, he made the main visible building component brick rather than concrete. This heavier evolution of Le Corbusier's style was popular in England throughout the post-war years until replaced by the Brutalist style in the later 1960s.[5]

Baden-Powell House was built to Tubbs' design by Harry Neal Ltd, for which they received the 1961 Gold Medal of the Worshipful Company of Tylers and Bricklayers.[1] At the opening, the house received the building design award for ‘The building of most merit in London.'[6]

Thirty-five years after its opening, Baden-Powell House was refurbished in a six-month £2 million programme, providing all modern amenities such as private facilities for all rooms, double glazing, and air conditioning, as well as enhancing conference facilities for large and small events. Upon completion of the programme, the house was opened by the president of The Scout Association, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent on 1997-06-05. In 2002 a Starbucks coffee and sandwich bar was opened, as well as an outdoor roof garden adjacent to the meeting conference rooms on the second floor.[6][7]

Baden-Powell collection

Painting of Robert Baden-Powell, by David Jagger, 1929, pivotal part of the Baden-Powell House collection

Since Baden-Powell House was intended as a tribute to Baden-Powell, a notable collection of Baden-Powell memorabilia has always been on display for visitors in 'The story of B-P' exhibition. This includes many drawings and letters by Baden-Powell himself, such as the original of his Last Message to Scouts, Laws for me when I am old and several first editions of his books. The exhibition also displays the original painting by David Jagger, as presented to Baden-Powell on 1929-08-29 at the 'Coming of Age' 21st World Jamboree.[1] This painting, a personal favourite of Baden-Powell, is often used in publications throughout the Scout movement.[8] A facsimile of the famous painting is on display in the Geneva headquarters building of the World Organization of the Scout Movement.[9]

The exhibition was augmented in 1971 by a bust of Baden-Powell, unveiled by Olave, Lady Baden-Powell. On the exhibition's 25th anniversary in 1986, the Duke of Kent re-opened the exhibition in a new setting.[6] The Baden-Powell House regularly hosts temporary exhibitions on Scouting subjects, including (in 1976) an exhibition of Scouting stamps, Scout book exhibitions, etc.[1]

As an introductory part of the collection, a nearly 3 meter high statue of Baden-Powell has been erected in front of Baden-Powell House, the only granite statue in London. The sculptor was Baden-Powell's personal friend Don Potter. It was unveiled on 1961-07-12 by the Duke of Gloucester, as part of the official opening of the house.[1]

In the 21st century

Souvenir badges of
Baden-Powell House

With special Scout atmosphere, Baden-Powell House provides a hostel and conference centre for people visiting London. Located in the middle of London's visitor area, known as Exhibition Road, it is in short walking distance of the Natural History Museum, Science Museum, Royal Albert Hall and the Victoria and Albert Museum. The full address is 65-67 Queen's Gate, London SW7 5JS, reachable by public transportation through South Kensington tube station and Gloucester Road tube station. The hostel partipates in the Youth Hostel Association, and is rated Four Star by the Visit Britain Quality Assurance, and Mobility Level 1; also recent visitors rate it on average 4 out of 5.[10][11][12]

Statue of Baden-Powell, in front of Baden-Powell House in London, by Don Potter (1960).

The hostel and conference centre is entered through a wide glazed atrium which serves as a large foyer containing the cafe and the exhibition centre. From the atrium the large hall is reached which can serve as an auditorium with seating for up to 300 people. The first floor has a restaurant seating 100 guests; the second floor has meeting rooms, and conference facilities for groups up to 80 delegates per room. The upper floors contain 180 hostel bedrooms. Baden-Powell House was designed specifically for members of the Scout Movement. Nonetheless, it has always been fully open to family members of Scouts at reduced prices and to the general public at competitive commercial rates. In an average year, 30 thousand people spend the night, and 100 thousand meals are served in the restaurant.[6] Souvenir badges and other Baden-Powell House merchandise can be purchased from the reception desk.

From 1974 to 2001, Baden-Powell House was the headquarters of The Scout Association, for which a dedicated extension to the house was completed in 1976. In April 2001, the headquarters formally moved to new accommodation at Gilwell Park, but Baden-Powell House still facilitates various departments of The Scout Association. As the owner of Baden-Powell House, The Scout Association receives a net income out of the revenues of approximately £1.5 million.[6][13][14]

Baden-Powell House is one of the four Scout Activity Centres of The Scout Association, together with Youlbury, Downe, and Gilwell Park.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 Wood, Edward (1971). The story of B.-P.'s House. The Scout Association. 
  2. "The Twentieth Century Society, Building of the Month February 2005". Retrieved 2006-07-08. 
  3. "Images of the Pavillon Suisse". Retrieved 2006-07-05. 
  4. "La Tourette Monastery". Retrieved 2006-07-05. 
  5. Cropplestone, Trewin (1963). World Architecture. Hamlyn. pp. Pages 331-333, caption 1002 and onward to 341. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 "Scoutbase Fact Sheet on Baden-Powell House" (36KBPDF). Retrieved 2006-05-01. 
  7. "The Passing years, Milestones in the progress of Scouting" (96KBPDF). The Scout Association. Retrieved 2006-05-01. 
  8. "Example of Jagger's painting on scout merchandise". Retrieved 2006-07-06. 
  9. "Robert Baden-Powell". Pinetree Web. Retrieved 2006-05-01. 
  10. "Five visitor ratings for Baden-Powell House hostel". TripAdvisor. Retrieved 2006-07-14. 
  11. "Visitor rating for Baden-Powell House". Yahoo Travel. Retrieved 2006-07-14. 
  12. "Visitor rating for Baden-Powell House". Virtual Tourist. Retrieved 2006-07-14. 
  13. Bevan, John (2001). Annual report & accounts 2000–2001. The Scout Association. 
  14. Asplin, John (2005). Join the adventure. Annual Report 2004–2005. The Scout Association. 

External links

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