Wednesday 10 July 2019

Scouting in Watford

1st Watford South Scout Group

(Countess of Clarendon’s Own)
incorporating 82nd Watford South

A History 

Scouting became popular following publication of THE SCOUT, a magazine that had caught the imagination of boys throughout the UK following Lord Baden-Powell’s camp on Brownsea Island in 1907.
On 1st March 1908 two Watford school boys – Alan Emery (whose birthday it was) and Marchant Scrivener (whose family ran a nursery and flower shop in Queens Road) – gathered some friends together at Alan’s home in Escourt Road and took the Scouting Oath.
In June 1908 Harold Collins, who lived in Cassio Road, Watford, and a friend, also swore in their Oaths in the shed of their school, Watford Boys Grammar.
They all practised their Scouting skills in Whippendell Woods dressed in makeshift uniforms, although Alan’s parents had bought him a hat from a Watford clothing shop.  Later that year, the two patrols formed the original Scout Troop.
The Group was the first registered in Hertfordshire when it became  

1st South West Herts (Lady Hyde’s Own)

When Patron Lady Verena Hyde became the Countess of Clarendon, the title of the Group changed accordingly. This privilege has remained with the Group since the death of Lady Verena in 1963.
The first mention of a club room occupied by the original Group, was that in 1909 meetings were held in the annexe of the Presbyterian Church in Clarendon Road. Then came several moves around Watford until, in 1930, when the opportunity arose for the 1st to acquire its own HQ in Durban Road East.
The Group had plans to expand Scouting in West Watford, so a sister Group was formed - the 2nd/1st - which took premises in Harwoods Road.

The Labour Church, Durban Road East, Watford 

The building was registered as a meeting place for Religious Worship on 2nd November 1901.
Headquarters premises Durban Road East, Watford, secured for the Cubs, Scouts and Rovers in 1931 by Adrian Brough, Group Scoutmaster in association with Harold Collins, Founder member of the Group and Assistant District Rover Scout Leader and Percy Puleston, Assistant Scoutmaster.

The Years during the 2nd World War 
  • The Rover Crew was depleted due to war service
  • The Cubs and Scouts suffered a lack of leaders
  • Adrian Brough was left to run the Group with less help
  • Despite this, the windows were blacked out, records safely boxed and the boys struggled on, assisting the war effort themselves with jobs such as helping build Morrison shelters, making camouflage netting and acting as messengers
  • Headquarters was used as a base by Street Fire Watchers and ARP
  • Troop used Victoria School air raid shelters to meet due to the air raids

There was a time when a Scout Troop bearing their colours and marching along the streets of Watford was a familiar sight. The age of heavy traffic and streets crammed with parked cars has led to the demise of such spectacles.

Here (photo to be uploaded) the 1st South West Herts Sea and Land Scouts are marching past their Durban Road Headquarters, possibly towards the Town Hall, which was the rallying point for the St George's Day Parade each year. This was a very popular event in the town.

St George's Day is still celebrated throughout the UK by Scout Groups and in Watford a service is held in one of the local churches, followed by a display of Group colours born by well turned out members of the Watford South and North Districts. The event usually takes place in Cassiobury Park.

Ralph Reader popularised the Scout Gang Show and one of our own young members who lived in Durban Road East took part in one of his shows in London's West End.

The above photograph (to be uploaded) shows the 1st Sea Scouts and their Leaders entertaining their families and the local residents with their own brand of Gang Show to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Group in 1958.

The Group were familiar with entertaining audiences since the days of the Twin Concerts held at two community halls in Watford. At the 5th Twin Concert held in 1936, when Arthur Askey and Tommy Hanley topped the bill, Scoutmaster Brough was able to announce in the interval that sufficient had been raised from the ticket sales to pay off the Headquarters' mortgage.

Gang Shows continue to this day. The St Albans Gang Show is a very popular Hertfordshire event and this year (2012) our own Watford South Scout District held a show at the theatre in Watford Boys School in Rickmansworth Road. It closed to many cheers and shouts of appreciation by the audience.

Fundraising has always been a feature of Scouting. The first photograph above (to be uploaded) shows a crowded Headquarters on a Saturday Jumble Sale day during the 1950s. The one below (to be uploaded) shows the Rover Scouts preparing for a Bingo evening. Tombola was also a popular fundraiser in the 1950s until the 1970s.

The Group celebrated its 80th anniversary with a party at Headquarters organised by Group Leader Chris Marshall. Parents of the young members catered for the party and one of them made the cake, cut by the guest of honour Bunny White, the longest serving member.

Our 90th anniversary was celebrated by a special Family Camp at our campsite in Chandlers Cross.

Commemorative badge competitions were held in 1988, 1998 and 2008.

50th Anniversary of Victory In Europe - 1995 
Party for Beavers and Cubs - 1940s style games, food and brown paper
"goodie bags" were the order of the day. 

Making a "Gas Mask" had been a project at meetings 

A sketch inserted into the Scout Log for September 1939

The Group archives hold many log books containing elaborate accounts of nights under canvas and trips to far off lands. This simple entry speaks volumes of how the boys of the 1st South West Herts were contemplating the war years ahead.

Centenary Open Day and Exhibition at Headquarters, 1st March 2008 

Two senior members of Herts County Scouts admire some press cuttings.

Cubs and Beavers work with Brown Beaver to complete a model of the Lord Hyde Memorial Campsite, the Group's other premises.

Open Day - Scout Hut - 10th September 2011 

Opened by Lade Jane Clarendon, Dowager Countess to celebrate the refurbishment of the interior of the building and the 80th anniversary of the acquisition of the Labour Church, Durban Road East.

(Photographs will be uploaded as and when we can)

The Exhibition and Open Day was attended by local residents and Scouting friends old and new. Tours of the premises were conducted by our Group Scout Leader and Chairman.

We have always welcomed local people to hire our premises and we are now better provided to assist them with our updated facilities.

We very much look forward to raising sufficient funds to refurbish the outside of the building and present everyone in West Watford with a Headquarters premises to be admired.


History and copyright Sue Ettridge 2012


  1. I designed the winning in the 1988 Commemorative badge competition, if you would like a photo of the badge I can send it to you

  2. Sincere apologies for not responding before. It appears many comments did not make it onto the website and are only now appearing. We would be very pleased to have the photo. Kind regards.

  3. Hi Lynda,
    My apologies if this isn’t the appropriate place to ask this question but, so far, it’s the best that I can find.
    I have been going through some old family photos and discovered some of my dad in the scouts in, about, 1947~1955. He was definitely in one of the Watford scout troops as my grandparents lived in Rickmansworth & Croxley Green at this time. Do you happen to know of any historian and/or historical records that I might be able to consult that could help me ‘flesh out’ my scant knowledge of my dads involvement?

    I do also have a vague recollection of him talking about a scout camp which, I think, may have been called ‘Foggles Wood’? Does that mean anything to you?

    Many thanks for any help,

    1. Dear Mark
      Thank you so much for contacting us. I am unable to answer your questions myself, but I will certainly pass your enquiry on to the lady who wrote the Scouting History.
      If you would like to email me via the address on the Home Page, I can send a reply as and when I receive it.

  4. I was a member of 1st SW Herts Based in Durban Rd The year was 1951 l am now 82yrs

    1. Hello. Would you care to share any memories with us?


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