A Bit of 1st Shepperton Group History
In June 1910 the first meeting of the 1st Shepperton Troop took place with 25 Scouts registered under Scoutmaster Blakeley - a captain in the Church Army, assisted by Assistant Scout Masters Poulton and Alexander.
Information from the Middlesex Chronicle, Staines & Thameside edition, dated 6/8/1910, page 3, reads:
"Scoutmaster H. Blakesley, of the first Shepperton Troop of Boy Scouts, has been awarded the silver cross for life-saving by Lieutenant-General Sir R. Baden-Powell, the Chief Scout. In June last Scoutmaster Blakesley rescued a lad who had got out of his depth and had sunk."
The Surrey Herald of the time reported "the founders felt that the Scout movement was most advantageous to the rising generation. It was calculated to improve the lads of the country physically, mentally and morally."
Three principles were laid down as the basis for the movement - Teaching of Patriotism, Self-sacrifice and Discipline.
The 1st Shepperton Troop clearly flourished as their activities were reported in 'The Scout' newspaper in April 1911 including a demonstration of bridge building at Staines for the County Commissioner. On July 8th 1911 a further report appeared: "Judging from a display given by members of the 1st Shepperton Troop the Scout movement has made great progress in that district. Displays of life-saving, bridge building, physical drill, ambulance work and signalling were given by the Scouts while some vocal and instrumental items were rendered by friends of the Troop."
Early meetings took place in the Church hall in Wood Road from where meetings transferred to the Rifle Range hut. Meetings continued through the First World War with Patrol Leaders taking over the role of adult leaders when they volunteered for active service. An illuminated scroll presented to the Group listed 3 Leaders and 25 Scouts who had served during the war. During that period the start of the Wolf Cubs occurred, to be followed in 1928 by the Group system. A photograph of a Church Parade in 1931 shows equal numbers of Cubs, Scouts and Rovers.
1926 saw the arrival in Shepperton of a leading figure in the Group's history, Dr Sydney Garret Vinter. Already 62 years old when he moved here from Cornwall he was to have a profound influence on many areas of the Group's activities as a leader for over 30 years. A devout Christian and teetotaller, Dr Vinter is remembered as "a perfect English gentleman with wispy white hair and a mild manner."
It was Dr Vinter who forged the link with St. Nicholas Church in 1927 when the Group's title incorporated the name of the Church.
A generous philanthropist, he was to finance not only the Group's headquarters, but numerous outings and events. Former members recall that, for Scout outings you only had to turn up at the appropriate time, when transport and food - sandwiches and a bun - would be provided at no cost. It is also recorded that a three-week camp during 1944 at Dale, Pembrokeshire; cost parents a mere £2 for each boy and the balance of £6 was paid by 'the doctor'.
Other men who were to bridge long periods In the group included Lionel Cornwall who was Scoutmaster between 1930 and 1952; while between 1937 and 1956 Bill Ead served the Group latterly as Senior Scoutmaster.
In 1936, thanks to Dr Vinter, the Group took over the old school house in the High Street as its headquarters. Naming it 'Russell Hall' after William Russell (the Rector who founded St Nicholas School) it would remain the Group's home until 1972.
A feature of the Group between the wars was a Sea Scout Unit within the Troop. The Group's band had been started in the 1930s but saw its peak between 1945 and 1953 with around 40 members who played each week at events in and around London.
Despite being depleted by members undertaking national Service, the band built a considerable reputation and played at the Coronation Parade in 1953 at Kempton Park.
In the 1950s the Group presented regular Gang Shows and there are many pictures of Scouts and Rovers wearing shiny costumes in elegant styles. The size of the Village Hall stage, however, must have inhibited some of the more spectacular Ralph Reader numbers! Fund raising activities of the time included Beetle Drives and the annual Summer Fair organised jointly with the local Guides. Held at different times on Halliford School's playing field, the Rectory Garden and the Rifle Range Park, a large number of stalls were run. The programme of the Fair of 1953 listed the afternoon's amusements as side shows Including Treasure Trove, guessing the weight of the cake and 'the Spinner'; while squashes, tea, sandwiches and cakes were available and 'ices at reasonable prices'.
The demise of the Fair In the mid 70's was brought about by a reduction in profitability and support; although the launch date of the now ubiquitous (and more lucrative) Jumble Sale is not recorded. The aim of raising the funds to build a larger headquarters was realised in the early seventies. On land rented from the local council for £90 per annum, the shell of the structure was built by a contractor with the bulk of the foundations, concrete work and finishing being carried out by parents, Leaders and supporters.
On 9th June 1973 the Russell Vinter Hall was opened by Jim Elliot, County Commissioner, taking the 'Russell' from the name of previous headquarters and adding the name of the man who had guided the Group for more than half its history.
Other memorials to Dr Vinter lie in the Old People's Home at Vinter Court, Laleham Road and also in a stained glass window in St Nicholas Church. Purchased through public subscription, the window was unveiled in 1961 by the man whose work it commemorates, then aged 97.
He was said to be on his retirement from Scouting at the age of 92, the oldest serving Scout. He died on Thursday 9th November 1961, less than 6 weeks before his 98th birthday.
The Group continued to thrive throughout the 1960s, 70s, 80s and 90s and membership remained in the 100s with two Cub Scout Packs being run up until 1997 and an always well-subscribed Scout Troop.
The Group also ran a Venture Scout Unit until 2001 when, following the national re-organisation of Sections and age-ranges, the older (14+) members became the responsibility of the Scout District and Group numbers fell to the current level of between 60 and 70.
In 1998, twenty-five years after the opening of the Headquarters, a major landscaping project was undertaken after the many trees surrounding the property were stricken by Dutch elm disease. Funded by Heathrow Airport Ltd, the Surrey Herald and Groundwork Thames Valley the trees were removed, the earth banking sculptured to give a more useable area and new trees and shrubs were planted around the perimeter. Internal projects have resulted in refurbished toilets, a new kitchen and the redecoration of the main hall along with upgraded heating and new flooring.
Now, in the 21st Century and with our Sunbury and Shepperton District now merged with Staines to become the Borough-wide Spelthorne District, our aims remain much the same as they were back in 1910.
The 'lemon-squeezer' hats, Scout staves and shorts may have been replaced by cargo pants and sweatshirts. Semaphore and Morse code may have been superseded by computers and mobile phones but the Scout movement, and 1st Shepperton (St Nicholas) Scout Group, continue to contribute to the development of young people in achieving their full physical, intellectual, social and spiritual potentials, as individuals, as responsible citizens and as members of their local, national and international communities.
2010 was a very exciting one for us as we celebrated our Centenary with Family Camps, a Special limited edition Badge and many other activities and events throughout the year.
Do you have memories, photos, press cuttings, old programmes, flyers?
Were you, or any of your relatives a member of the troop?
We would love to hear from you, just email us with any information & contact details and we will be in touch.