History of Claygate Scouts

Formed in 1909, Claygate Scouts was proud to celebrate its 90th anniversary in the Millennium year and we are now 110!


Less than a year after the birth of Scouting in 1908, Eric Barratt, the son of the then Vicar of Claygate, held the first meetings of a Claygate Scout Troop. 1st Claygate, registered with headquarters on 6th October 1909, is the oldest Group in the Kingston area and still wears its original colour khaki scarf.


From 1909 until at least 1915 the Claygate Troop, under the leadership of Eric Barratt met in the old Church Hall. The first summer camp was held at Stokes Farm, Oxshott in 1910, and in 1911, the Troop attended the first Scout Rally, held in Windsor Great Park at which King George V took the salute. The Troop is reputed to have travelled to the Rally by river boat from Kingston.


The first overseas trip took place in 1913 when the Claygate Troop camped in Holland at The Hague, travelling from Harwich to Rotterdam in a cattle boat, taking all their camping gear with them. This was the first occasion that British Scouts had camped in that country, although others had done so previously but had slept in billets. The cost of the two week camp in Holland was £1 10s 0d.


Mr Tom Barnfield, a founder member of the Group, was appointed Assistant Scoutmaster on his return from active service during the First World War in which he was seriously wounded and in 1919 he was appointed Scoutmaster. He also became the Group Scoutmaster when Groups were formed in 1925. He was to continue as Group Scoutmaster and Scoutmaster until his retirement in 1970.


On 9th February 1921 a Cub Pack was formed with Miss Dorothy Barnfield, sister of Mr Tom Barnfield, as Cub Mistress, a position she was to hold until her retirement in 1970.


Between 1920 and 1924 the Group held its meetings on the site of the present Christian Science Church in Hare Lane. The first headquarters of our own was an ex-army wooden building erected by the parents in 1924 on a piece of land in Stevens Lane leased from the nearby brickfield. This was to remain our headquarters until it was dismantled in 1957 when land at the end of Station Road was purchased (freehold for £400) and was our headquarters until 2006. Meetings were first held there in February 1960 and the site was officially opened on 13th July the same year.


Scout shows were held regularly during the 1920s and 1930s often held in the Lantern Hall in Common Road or the Comrades (British Legion) Hall.


In the years between the wars, the Troop camped on many occasions at the Surrey County Rally held at the Whitsun week-end on Ranmore Common; on one occasion they met Lord Baden-Powell. The only methods of transport used to get boys and equipment to these camps were cycle and trek-cart. A Rover Crew, formed in the 1920s with Eric Barratt as the Rover Crew Leader, was very active in local and district Scouting until its abandonment at the outbreak of the Second World War.



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The Group continued its activities during the war on a somewhat reduced scale, but still held regular Summer Camps although not travelling so far afield as previously. In the late 1940s the Group appointed its first Group Committee and Supporters Committee with responsibility for the financial and other ‘non – uniformed’ affairs of the Group.


The first post war World Jamboree was held in 1947 in northern France and Dennis Bristow, a member of the Troop was selected to join the Kingston District Group of the Surrey contingent. In 1948 the Kingston Scouting District was split to form four independent Districts and thus 1st Claygate became one of the original Groups of the Esher District.


In 1969 the services of Mr Tom Barnfield and Miss Dorothy Barnfield were recognised in the Chief Scout’s St. George’s Day Awards by their receipt of the Silver Wolf and Silver Acorn respectively. The Scout Association’s two highest awards for service. A year later they retired from Scouting and Mr Jeremy Salter was appointed Group Scout Leader.


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Under the enthusiastic leadership of Jem Salter the Group expanded rapidly in numbers and activities. A second cub pack was formed in 1971 and a third in 1972. The substantial increase in the size of the Group necessitated the headquarters being extended and in 1975 two training rooms and an equipment store were added to the building. In 1975 the Venture Unit was formed followed by the Service Crew in 1977 and the Scout Active Support Unit in 2009.


The first of the ‘modern’ Group Shows in 1975 was masterminded by Jem Salter and his Assistant Group Scout Leader Ken Mallery. The success of this event led to the staging of Group Shows every two or three years up to the present time.


The first minibus was purchased by the Group – an elderly ex- Age Concern ambulance, in 1979. This was replaced in 1982 by a more modern vehicle at the cost of £2,500. Also in 1982 a garage was donated to the Group and this was erected in the grounds for use as a canoe store and by 1986 the Group had acquired 10 canoes. Canoeing and sailing remain popular and other Scout and Explorer Scout activities include caving and rock climbing.


In 1986 the Scout Troop took 28 boys to Norway under the leadership of Eoin Redahan which included one week at a Norwegian National Sea Scout jamboree at Grimstad, near Kristiansand with some 600 Norwegian Sea Scouts. The Christmas Postal Delivery within the Claygate Parish boundaries was set up in 1985 to raise funds for ‘Operation Norway’ and has continued every December since that time.


In 1984 Jem Salter was awarded the Silver Acorn, but in 1985 due to work pressures he stood down as Group Scout leader after 15 years building up the Group until it was the largest in the Esher District and County of Surrey. John Baldwin then became the third Group Scout Leader in over seventy five years of unbroken Scouting in Claygate.


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In June 1986 the first Beaver Colony – Maple was started for 6 – 8 year olds with 24 members. Their programme was based on the motto ‘Fun & Friends’.


In 1987 the Venture Unit went to Iceland to explore and map a previously uncharted underground lava cave complex. The terrain was extremely rugged and desolate but the members of the expedition completed their task and also discovered a previously unknown cave which they named after their Unit – Selachii. They were given much help by the Young Explorers Trust of Great Britain, and were presented with an award by the Trust in relation to their survey of the caves.


Following the success of the 1986 Norwegian Camp, the Group hosted the 7th Kristiansand Troop from Norway in 1988 and some 136 Scouts, Venture Scouts, Norwegian Scouts, Leaders and local Claygate and Hinchley Wood Guides and Rangers joined together for a superb camp of multi-outdoor activities at Staverton, Devon. The Norwegian Scouts were given home hospitality in Claygate which included two days of London trips.


Due to the popularity of the Beavers a second Colony named Sycamore was formed in 1989, and a new activity for the Group – the 1st Claygate Scout Band - was started in the autumn. This proved very popular and in 1991 the Band achieved its first major achievement winning the Novice Class at the Kingston Youth Band Competition at Tolworth with an average age of 11years.


The Group returned to Norway in 1990 enjoying home hospitality with 7th Kristiansand as well as joining a Sea Scout Jamboree of some 1,100 at Risor In 1992 there was a second Norwegian return visit and an excellent camp including 40 of our Troop to Appletreewick in the Yorkshire Dales.


Tom Barnfield had held the post of Group President from 1971 until his death in 1980 and in 1993 the Group Scoutmaster, John Baldwin invited Jem Salter to take up this appointment.


Mark Brittle, a member of the Venture Unit attended the 1995 World Jamboree in the Netherlands as one of the two representatives of the Esher District. He was later given home hospitality in Denmark and at the same time twenty Japanese Scouts who had also been attending the Jamboree were hosted in Claygate. The visitors spent a week in the village and were taken on several trips to London and other places of interest. Also in 1995 the Venture Unit organised their Summer expedition to go mountain walking in the Czech Republic.


The Band continued to build on its success and attended many Group and District events as well as taking part in National Competitions. Ann Etheridge, the founding Bandmaster resigned in 1995 and was replaced by Ian White and later in 1997 Daraius Master became the Bandmaster.



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90th Anniversary and into the new Millennium

In 1999 the group marked its 90th Anniversary with a variety of events : a Group Show, a Group Camp with firework display, Anniversary Dinner, publication of ‘The Group’- a history of 1st Claygate Scout Group, and a Service of Dedication at Holy Trinity Church as well as photographs of all the Group Sections and Leaders.


And so to the new millennium. Mark Aulds succeeded John Baldwin as Group Scout Leader in March 2000. The Claygate Scout & Guide Band reformed in 2001 under the expert direction of bandmaster Robin Wilkinson, and a Group Show “Around the World in 95 Years” was staged in March 2004. To cope with a boom in numbers in 2003 Jaguar Cub Pack was closed and Oak Colony began, followed by the opening of Lynx Pack in 2007 to cope with the ripple which included the intake of girls from January 2007.


After many years of planning the Group moved to its present site at the Claygate Scout Centre in Oaken Lane in January 2006 with the official opening performed by the Lord Lieutenant of Surrey Mrs Sarah Goad on Saturday 4th March 2006 in the presence of the Chief Scout Peter Duncan, members of the Group and many other local dignitaries. In February 2008 Mark Aulds was succeeded as Group Scout Leader by Hugh Gostling who had led the Scout Troop for 21 years until July 2007.


The Group celebrated its centenary in 2009 and there is a display of images and text describing this on show on the wall of the balcony at the Scout Centre. Also worthy of note is the celebration of ten years of the Scout and Guide Band which was highlighted by a performance to thousands lining the street of Disneyland Paris in October 2011.


2014 was a year of international travel for Explorers who went to India to do voluntary work and Scouts who went to Kanderstag in Switzerland. 2015 was momentous for a the Band playing at the St George’s Day parade in Windsor and celebrating 15 years with a trip to play in the Disney New Year’s Eve parade.


In 2016 the Group celebrated 100 years of Cub scouting with special events including Carols around the Campfire during which all Cubs renewed their promise.


Group Scout Leaders


  • Eric Barratt (1909-1925)

  • Tom Barnfield (1925-1970)

  • Jeremy Whitton Salter (1970-1985)

  • John Baldwin (1985-2000)

  • Mark Aulds (2000-2008)

  • Hugh Gostling (2008-Present)