Gilwell Park

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Gilwell Park
Gilwell Park
Owner The Scout Association
Location Epping Forest,
Country United Kingdom
Founded 1919-06-26
Founder W. de Bois Maclaren

Scouting portal

Gilwell Park is a campsite and activity centre for Scouting groups, as well as a training and conference centre for Scout Leaders. The 44 hectare (109 acre) site is located in Sewardstonebury, Epping Forest close to Chingford, London.

In the late Middle Ages, it started as a farm, growing to a wealthy estate that fell into disrepair towards 1900. It was given in 1919 by Scout Commissioner William De Bois Maclaren to The Scout Association of the United Kingdom to provide camping facilities to London Scouts, and training facilities for Scouters. As Scout Leaders from all countries of the world have come to Gilwell Park for their Wood Badge training, it is one of the great landmarks of the world Scouting movement.

The site contains campfields for a small patrol up to a 1200 people camp, indoor accommodations, historical sites, monuments of Scouting, and activities suitable for all sections of the Scouting Movement. It can accommodate events for up to 10,000 people. Accommodation of Gilwell Park can also be hired for non-Scout activities such as school group camping, wedding receptions and conferences.


Original farm in late middle ages

The recorded history of Gilwell Park can be traced back to 1407, when John Crow owned Gyldiefords, the land that would eventually become Gilwell Park. Between 1407 and 1422, Crow sold the land to Richard Rolfe, and the area became known as Gillrolfes, "Gill" being Old English for glen and "Rolfe" the surname of the owner. Following Rolfe's death in 1422, different sections of the property came to be called "Great Gilwell" and "Little Gilwell". The two areas were named after the Old English "wella", or spring. A farmhouse has continuously stood at Gilwell Farm ever since. Around this time, an adjoining 5.6 hectare (114 acre) property was purchased by Richard Osborne. In 1442, he built a large dwelling called Osborne Hall, which stood for 300 years. Legend has it that in the early 1500s, King Henry VIII owned the land and built a hunting lodge for his son Edward, but there is no proof of this. Around 1736 the infamous highwayman Dick Turpin began using Gilwell's forests to conceal himself from authorities and as a staging point for ambushing travellers and freight along the roads leading into London.[1][2]

In 1754, William Skrimshire purchased Great Gilwell, Little Gilwell, and half of Osborne's estate, including Osborne Hall. Skrimshire demolished Osborne Hall and built a new residence, which he also called Osborne Hall. That building is now called the White House.[3] Timbers in the White House can be dated to this time, but not to any previous era.[1] Leonard Tresilian (?-1792) bought the estate in 1771 and expanded the land holdings and size of the residence. Tresilian's first wife, Margaret Holland, died young after bearing three daughters. He then married Elizabeth Fawson. Desiring that Gilwell pass on to his eldest daughter, also named Margaret (1750-c.1844), Tresilian drew up a detailed prenuptial agreement with Fawson's father. By the time of Tresilian's death in 1792, the younger Margaret had married William Bassett Chinnery (1766-?), the elder brother of the painter George Chinnery.

Rich estate in 18th century

The Chinnerys were wealthy and influential. William Chinnery's father, also named William, owned trading ships and named one Gilwell in 1800. William and Margaret Chinnery initially resided in London, and after three years of marriage and inheriting Gilwell in 1792, they moved to Gilwell in 1793. They soon shocked the local populace by renaming Osborne Hall to "Gilwell Hall". William Chinnery expanded Gilwell's land holdings through significant purchases over the next 15 years and, along with his wife, transformed it into a country estate with gardens, paths, and statues. Parts of the garden, paths, and dwelling modifications exist into the 21st century. William Chinnery was exposed as the embezzler of a small fortune from the British Treasury where he worked and was dismissed from all his posts on March 12, 1812. Margaret Chinnery was forced to sign over Gilwell Estate to the Exchequer on July 2, 1812.[1]

The Chinnery family was prominent enough that members of the English nobility visited often during the 1790s and early 1800s. King George III visited on occasion, and the Prince Regent, who later became George IV, was a regular visitor. George III's seventh son, Prince Adolphus, became a family friend, lived at Gilwell for awhile, and even tutored their eldest son George.[1]

Gilpin Gorst bought the estate in 1815 at public auction, and his son sold it to Thomas Usborne in 1824. When the original London Bridge was replaced in 1826, Usborne bought pieces of the original stone balustrades, which date to 1209, and erected them behind the White House around the Buffalo Lawn. The estate changed ownership more times, but these families did not maintain the property and it fell into disrepair by 1900. Reverend Cranshaw, a local resident, bought the estate in 1911 and was the last owner prior to the Boy Scout Association, as it was then known, becoming owners.

Scouting connection

Baden-Powell bust, donated to Olave Baden-Powell for Gilwell Park by the Boy Scouts of Mexico in 1968

The estate's condition declined even more during the 1910s. William F. de Bois Maclaren was a publisher and Scout Commissioner from Rosneath, Dumbartonshire, Scotland. During a business trip to London, Maclaren was saddened to see that Scouts in the East End had no suitable outdoor area to conduct their Scouting activities. He contacted Lord Robert Baden-Powell about this, who appointed P.B. Nevill to handle the matter. Nevill was the Scout Commissioner of the East End at the time. On November 20, 1918 over dinner at Roland House, the Scout Hostel in Stepney, Maclaren agreed to donate £7,000 to the project. Part of the agreement included narrowing the areas to look for suitable land to Hainault Forest and Epping Forest. Rover Scouts searched both areas without success, but then John Gayfer, a young Assistant Scoutmaster, suggested Gilwell Hall, a place he went bird-watching. Nevill visited the estate and was impressed, though the buildings were by then in poor condition. The estate was for sale for £7,000, the exact price Maclaren had donated.[1] The estate totaled 21 hectare (53 acres) at the time.

The estate was purchased in early 1919 by Maclaren for the Boy Scout Association. Nevill first took his Rover Scouts to begin repairing the run-down estate on Maundy Thursday, April 17, 1919. On this visit, the Rovers slept in the gardener's shed in the orchard because the ground was so wet they could not pitch tents. They called this shed "The Pigsty" and though dilapidated, it still stands, as it is the site of the first Scout campsite at Gilwell Park. Maclaren was a frequent visitor to Gilwell Park and helped repair the buildings. His dedication was so great that he donated another £3,000. Maclaren's interest had been in providing a campground, but Baden-Powell envisioned a training centre for Scouters. An official opening was planned for June 19, 1919 but it was delayed until Saturday, June 26, 1919 so that Scouts could participate in the Official Peace Festival commemorating the end of World War I. Invitations were changed by hand to save money.[1] Significant remodeling and construction was done in the 1920s. Because of limited finances, few improvements were made during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Baden-Powell never lived at Gilwell Park but he often camped, lectured, taught courses, and attended meetings on-site. He emphasized the importance of Scouter's training at Gilwell Park for Scouting by taking it as the territorial designation in his peerage title of 1st Baron Baden-Powell of Gilwell in 1929 when the barony was conferred upon him by the king.[4]

Wartime and later development

The Ideal Scout, donated to Gilwell Park in 1966 by the Boy Scouts of America

The estate was requisitioned by the War Ministry from 1940-1945 as a local command, training, and ordnance centre. Little remains at the estate from World War II, except for the notable exception of the Bomb Hole that was created by an aerial bomb dropped by the Luftwaffe. It was enlarged again later and is now used for swimming and canoeing. After the war, the Boy Scout Association made purchases of adjoining land to increase the size of the estate and protect it from rapidly approaching new developments. These areas are called The Quick, New Field, and Hilly Field. An additional purchase and a donation from South Africa in the early 1950s brought the estate to its present size.[1] This began an era of expanding camping facilities for Scouts which lasted until the early 1960s. Training and sleeping facilities were then added through the early 1970s. The Boy Scout Association was renamed The Scout Association in 1967.

During the 1970s, two key and popular facilities were built: the Dorothy Hughes Pack Holiday Centre for Cub Scouts and the Colquhoun International Centre for training Scouters, originally called The International Hall of Friendship. In the 1980s extensive remodeling of the White House was done. In April 2001, The Scout Association moved its program staff from London to Gilwell Park, where its training staff was already located. Extensive renovations were done to the White House and other buildings.[1][5] With a target of budget of £20,000,000 and individual contributions as high as £500,000, improvements to programs and facilities have been ongoing since then in preparation for the 21st World Scout Jamboree in 2007, which is the 100th anniversary of Scouting and will be hosted at nearby Hylands Park, Chelmsford, Essex with related activities also being held at Gilwell Park.[5][6][7][8] Gilwell Park provides The Scout Association with an income of over £1,000,000 per year through conference fees, accommodation fees, and sales of materials to support Scouting.[8]

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

Camp Chiefs, and other staff

Captain Francis "Skipper" Gidney became the first Camp Chief in May 1919 and served until 1923. He organized the first Wood Badge training, and contributed to setting up Gilwell Park as the Scouters' training centre. The Gidney Cabin was built and named in his honour in 1929 to serve as a training centre.[1][4] The second Camp Chief was John Skinner Wilson, who served from 1923 until 1939. Wilson was Colonel with the British Indian Police when he became a Scout Leader in 1917. In 1921 he traveled to Gilwell Park to take leader training, which led to his retirement from the Indian Police in 1922 to become a full time Scout Leader. He was honoured with the Bronze Wolf Award in 1937, the only distinction of the World Organization of the Scout Movement.[9][10]

R.F. "John" Thurman was a British Scout Leader who served as Camp Chief from 1943 until 1969 and was awarded the Bronze Wolf Award in 1959. He was a strong promoter of Scout training and wrote books on the subject that were translated into other languages. The Thurman Memorial stands near The Pigsty.[1][11] Thurman was succeeded by John Huskin.[12]

Don Potter (1902-2004) was an English sculptor and wood carver who was a lifelong staff member at Gilwell Park, serving as a Gilwell Master Craftsman.[13] Potter created wood carvings at Gilwell Park, including the Jim Green Gate, Gidney Cabin, the Leopard Gates, and totems he carved for the 1929 World Jamboree.[14]


Camping at Gilwell Park, summer 2006

Gilwell Park can host indoor and outdoor conferences, training, a variety of outdoor Scoutcraft activities, and special events for both Scouting and non-Scouting organizations. These include conferences, leader training, team building, receptions, weddings, and funerals. Conferences are generally held in either the White House or Colquhoun International Centre (CIC), both of which are equipped with modern information systems and audio-visual aids. The CIC has a main hall, five seminar rooms, and six training suites.[15]

Outdoor activities

The Scout Activity Centres of The Scout Association provide camping, hostelling or conferencing for Scouts and Scout Leaders from around the world. Activities at Gilwell Park include: camping, leader training, a rope swing, high rope course, archery, pedal go-karts, grass sledging, canoeing, rifle shooting, crate stacking, wall climbing, revolving wall climb, jump mats, rafting, team building, horse riding, orienteering, pioneering, tours, hiking, photography, obstacle courses, and aeroball.[16]

Leader training

Campfire circle at Gilwell Park

While different leader training courses are conducted at Gilwell Park, the most prominent is Wood Badge. Francis Gidney, the first Camp Chief, conducted the first Wood Badge course at Gilwell Park September 8-19, 1919. Gilwell Park became the home of leadership training in the Scout movement.[17] Leaders from all over the world receive automatic membership in 1st Gilwell Park Scout Group (Gilwell Troop 1) on completion of the Wood Badge course. These leaders are henceforth called Wood Badgers or Gilwellians. Any location in which Wood Badgers meet is called Gilwell Field. The 1st Gilwell Park Scout Group meets every first weekend of September in Gilwell Park for the Gilwell Reunion.[1]

The Training Ground, near the White House, is the hallowed ground of Gilwell Park as this is the world home of Wood Badge, the premier Scout leader training course. A large oak tree, the Gilwell Oak, separates the Training Ground from the Orchard.[1]


Gilwell Parks provides accommodation for visitors, comprising camping fields, hostel rooms, lodges and cabins.

Camp fields

Gilwell Park provides camping opportunities for small groups and groups in excess of 2,500 people. This includes everything from unit-level camping up to hosting international events. Essex Chase is close to the swimming pool and stores and is the most popular campsite. Woodlands Field is a large field that will hold up to 200 campers, with space for activities, at the north end of the park. Branchet Field is the largest campsite and will hold 1,200 campers. Mallinson Field is a small, wooded, secluded area suited to small groups. Ferryman Field is a split-level field suitable for a large troop. It is at the north end of camp, past Woodlands.[16]

White House

The White House at Gilwell Park

The White House and its predecessors represent over 500 years of Gilwell history.[1] It became the headquarters of The Scout Association on 2001-04-27, but Baden-Powell House still facilitates departments of The Scout Association.[5] The White House also serves as a restaurant, training, and conference centre. It was totally torn down once and has been renovated, remodeled, and expanded continuously over the years. The central portion has no foundations and the chimneys are made of Coade stone. It also displays original Scouting paintings by Ernest Stafford Carlos (1883-06-04-1917-06-14); the highlight of which is The Pathfinder.[18][19][20] In this historic setting as a conference centre, the White House has offered over 40 rooms (single, double, twin) with all modern facilities since 2004/5.[15]

Dorothy Hughes Pack Holiday Centre

The Dorothy Hughes Pack Holiday Centre (PHC) is for young people, sleeps 40, is centrally heated, and has a large kitchen. It is named after a Cub Scout leader from East London. The PHC is constructed with interlocking logs and, originally, without nails in the frame. It is often booked two years in advance. The PHC was built in 1970 by fitting interlocking logs together from a Norwegian design.

Branchet Lodge and other cabins

Branchet Lodge, or simply The Lodge, opened on May 23, 2003 on Branchet Field to replace old portable cabins. It should not be confused with another building also called The Lodge which was built in 1934 near the White House. Branchet Lodge is a single storey building that has central heating and sleeps up to 56 people in two separate wings with a single common kitchen and dining/meeting area. Each wing has its own bathing facilities. There are four single rooms for leaders, two rooms for disabled people that sleep two people each, and six rooms that sleep eight people each. The design incorporates skylights, natural lights, energy efficiency, and disabled access. It is constructed of stone, timber, copper, and a grass roof.[21][22]

Log cabins on the edge of Woodland Field sleep 8 and have bunk beds. Cooking is provided in a separate shelter or an open fire can be utilized. The Storm Hut is a large hall-type building for activities and games. It was moved to Gilwell Park from Wales by trucks. All of these can be rented by groups.

Staff accommodation: Gilwellbury and Gilwell Farm

After the purchase of the original site in 1919, the purchase of Gilwellbury and adjoining land in 1945 is probably the next most important in Gilwell Park's Scouting history because it allowed The Scout Association to close the original road and fully utilize Branchet Field.[23] It was originally used for small retreats and conferences but is now used as staff accommodation. The Ministry of Education assisted in the purchase.[1]

The Gilwell Farmhouse is believed to date from the early 1700s, making it the oldest original building at Gilwell Park. It is comprised of two buildings that were joined together. There is a brick well head on the farm that is known as the Gil Well.[1]


Buffalo Statue, donated to Gilwell Park by the Boy Scouts of America in 1926

The attractions to see at Gilwell Park include the Gilwell Museum and souvenir shop, a fully operational all-volunteer hospital, gardens, gates, statues, smaller buildings, and four houses of worship: Buddhist, Catholic, Jewish, interdenominational, with an Islamic mosque being built in time for the 21st World Scout Jamboree in Summer 2007.

The bronze bust of Baden-Powell was presented by the Scouts of Mexico in 1968 after the Olympics.[1] The Lime Walk formerly surrounded the main lawn area, but few of the lime trees survive. As originally planted by Margaret Chinnery, it would have formed a shady overhead cover to the path.

The Buffalo Lawn is so called because of the replica of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) Silver Buffalo Award that was presented to the Boy Scout Association by the BSA in 1926. This was to honour the Unknown Scout that helped William D. Boyce bring Scouting to the United States. The Buffalo Lawn is behind the White House. Located there is a signpost with the directions and distances to all the World Scout Jamborees from Gilwell Park.[1] The Buffalo Statue was originally mounted on a large tree stump. The stump has been replaced by a brick pedestal. The inscription reads:

“To an Unknown Scout Whose Faithfulness in the Performance of the Daily Good Turn Brought the Scout Movement to the United States of America.”[24]

Buddha inside the Buddhist Sala

A copy of a statue by R. Tait McKenzie called The Ideal Scout stands near The Lid. This is also known as The Boy Scout. The BSA donated the statue in 1966. The original stands outside the headquarters of the Cradle of Liberty Council in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and another copy outside the BSA headquarters in Irving, Texas.[1]

The Buddhist Sala was donated to Gilwell Park in 1967 by the Boy Scouts of Thailand. The Buddha found inside was a gift from the Thai government and is over 1000 years old. Thai ambassadors to the United Kingdom often visit the sala, as it is their responsibility to care for it.[1] Scouts from other countries, including Chile, Japan, Mexico, and New Zealand, have also donated gifts to Gilwell Park.

The Lid is a barn-sized building that can not be rented, but is used for dances, exhibitions, and religious services. It is so named because the original building only had a roof, with no walls.[1][16]

See also


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 1.19 Rogers, Peter (1998) (in English). Gilwell Park: A Brief History and Guided Tour. London, England: The Scout Association. pp. pages 5-46. 
  2. "Gilwell Park Scout Campsite Hike Routes" (115KBPDF). The Scout Association. Retrieved 2006-08-12. 
  3. Elwart, Steven P. "10 Facts About Gilwell Park". Post 369. Retrieved 2006-08-01. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Thurman, John (1951). The Scout's Book of Gilwell. The Patrol Books. London: The Boy Scouts Association. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Bevan, John (2001). "Annual Reports and Accounts 2000-2001" (166KBPDF). The Scout Association. Retrieved 2006-08-30. 
  6. Asplin, John (2002). "Annual Reports and Accounts 2001-2002" (672KBPDF). The Scout Association. Retrieved 2006-08-30. 
  7. Asplin, John (2003). "Annual Reports and Accounts 2002-2003" (180KBPDF). The Scout Association. Retrieved 2006-08-30. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 Asplin, John (2005). "Annual Reports and Accounts 2004-2005" (1.5MBPDF). The Scout Association. Retrieved 2006-08-30. 
  9. "Departures: John S. Wilson". Pine Tree Web. Retrieved 2006-08-30. 
  10. "Green Bar Bill Hillcourt's Impact on Wood Badge". Wood Retrieved 2006-08-30. 
  11. "The Origins of the Wood Badge" (304KBPDF). The Scout Association. Retrieved 2006-08-30. 
  12. "De Gilwell au MacLaren" (in French). Guides et Scouts d'Europe. Retrieved 2006-09-10. 
  13. "Don Potter's 100th Birthday" (140KBPDF). The Bryanston Newsletter. 2002. Retrieved 2006-08-30. 
  14. Light, Vivienne (2002). Don Potter: an inspiring century. Brook, New Forest, Hampshire: Canterton Books. ISBN 0-9541627-1-4. 
  15. 15.0 15.1 "Gilwell Park Conference Centre". The Scout Association. Retrieved 2006-08-12. 
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 "Gilwell Park Activities Centre". The Scout Association. 2005. Retrieved 2006-08-01. 
  17. "The Wood Badge Homepage". Pinetree Web. Retrieved 2006-08-01. 
  18. "Gilwell Park". London City Guide. Retrieved 2006-08-02. 
  19. "Training at Gilwell Park". ScoutBaseUK. Retrieved 2006-08-02. 
  20. "Ernest Stafford Carlos (1883-1917)" (161KBPDF). The Scout Association. August 2003. 
  21. "New Accommodation Lodge at Gilwell Park". The Scout Association. 2003. Retrieved 2006-08-30. 
  22. "Branchet Lodge (floorplan)" (168KBPDF). The Scout Association. 2003. Retrieved 2006-08-30. 
  23. "Look At Gilwell". Look At. Bessacar. 2006. Retrieved 2006-08-30. 
  24. Reynolds, E. E. "IX. FORGING AHEAD" (in English). B-P: The Story of His Life. London, England: Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2006-08-12. 

External links

51°39′01″N 0°00′08″E / 51.65028°N 0.00222°E / 51.65028; 0.00222

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