The Group was started in 1910, some when in the autumn. It was announced in the Headquarters Gazette. The 100th anniversary was celebrated in October 2010.
In the early years, the group did stop several times due to WW1, WW2 and lack of leaders. In 1959 the group had been closed for its longest stretch, about 6 years, when it was restarted and has run continuously ever since. In 2009 we celebrated 50 continuous years of Bransgore scouting.
The Group started with 29 scouts as Bransgore (St. Mary) Troop under Scoutmaster Ernest Nicholson. This was in 1910 and the troop met in the church rooms. Rev Cariss was certainly involved with the Troop in 1911 so it is assumed he was from the start and offered the rooms.
Rev Cariss died in 1912 and Ernest Nicholson also gave up as Scoutmaster. In 1913 the new vicar Rev Molyneux took on the Troop and within the newly formed scout district of Christchurch, it was known as 5th Christchurch.
In 1915 the Troop accounts show Lord Manners and Mr Kennard gave “subscriptions” and many other members of the community gave donations, notably Mr Jesson, Lady Meyrick, Miss Hay and Mrs Gordon. Ground-sheets for the camp that year cost 18/=.
The group was kept going during WW1 but Rev Molyneux was moved on in 1917 and it closed until Percy Luckham had returned from the war. He restarted the Troop around 1920 and as 4th Christchurch which as Burton, Sopley and Winkton had closed, they were given this district name. The Troop only lasted a few years before it closed yet again.
In 1925 Brigadier-General Sanders restarted the troop yet again and by now both 4th and 5th had been reallocated so Bransgore (St. Marys) became 6th Christchurch. It is presumed the troop continued to use the church and school rooms to meet. The Brigadier-General went on to be District Commissioner in 1928. 1928 was also a significant year within scouting as troops and packs were organised into Groups by Imperial Scout Headquarters. Everyone had to re-register and Bransgore became 6th Christchurch (Bransgore), a name we have held ever since.
There is a story that Brig-Gen Sanders was a colleague of Baden-Powell but this is not verifiable. He did serve for seven years as District Commissioner and was awarded the ‘Award for Merit’. He moved away from Bransgore in 1935, aged 65 years.
In 1935 the first Bransgore cub pack started under Mrs Mansell and Mrs Sturgess, or Dido. There had been a cub pack in Thorney Hill under Mrs Fortescue from 1927-30 but it didn’t seem to have any links to Bransgore. It was ironic that the cub pack started as the Troop closed again.
The years leading up to WW2 and for the duration of WW2 are a little confused. Ralph Young is listed as Scoutmaster of Bransgore during 1937 but no other times. It is thought that during the war, Bransgore joined with Sopley and Burton and one Troop known as Avon Valley was run by Ralph Young and Major Lake. Ralph had two sons who were cubs and scouts so this is perhaps his reason for being involved and keeping it all running.
The post-war years are also confusing. Avon Valley closed in 1946 and both Sopley and Burton opened their own Groups. Sopley’s Scoutmaster was Mr London until 1952 when it closed and the following year RAF Sopley opened. As Sopley and Bransgore parishes are so interwined, it is likely that boys from Bransgore went here.
In 1951 Don Dyer and Mrs Welstead, supported by Mr and Mrs Stubbs, stepped up and restarted the Troop and the Pack respectively. The meetings were registered as being in C…c Hall, Harrow Hill, Bransgore. It’s a shame that the ink has faded on the document so that we can’t be sure where this was. Sadly it didn’t last long yet again. By 1954 there was no active scouting in the village.
In a way, this was the end of an era, when scouting still had links with the army traditions and many scoutmasters were ex-army. The world was changing and so was the village. In 1963 there was no Brookside Rd, Rosehill Drive, Stibbs Way, Elmers Way, St Georges Drive, St Marys Drive, Wiltshire Gardens, nor many of the smaller side roads. In the sixties, the village started to grow and the seventies saw continued infilling new build. The village grew from less than 1000 residents to over 4000 in 1991.
In July of 1959 a meeting was called in the village to see if scouting could be restarted. Phil Churchill was offering to be Scout master and Audrey Hitchins to be Cub mistress. A committee was formed and all prospective boys were asked to meet by the single
oak in the middle of the playing fields which still stands there today. Nobody probably realised they had started something significant and that from this meeting, scouting would still be running in the village well into the 21st century.
Two notable people were part of this. Firstly Ann Hoare, daughter of Alice Hoare mentioned in the minutes, became Assistant at cubs and worked with the group for 41 years. She became Group Scout Leader in later years and was a huge influence on the Group and much loved by many. She sadly died in 2000, still passionate about scouting. The other person was probably in shorts and was Mike Manley, a young scout who today is still our scout leader with many years of service with scouting under his belt.
The Group was registered at Littlemead, a house that stands next to the entrance to the current St Marys Close where interestingly two leaders currently live. Presumably they did their activities in the field behind but winter was tough with no suitable premises. In 1960, Mr Sarjent offered the hut at the end of his garden, which was down the lane to Poors Common. The committee accepted gratefully and raised funds to repair it and buy tilley lights. They were to be here for thirteen years.
Mike recalls a second hut to store their tents and equipment and that many activities took place over Poors Common. This is now deemed a SSSI and entry is restricted. The trek cart was used on numerous occasions as they packed up, trekked out, camped and then later returned home.
By 1964, scouting was doing well in the village and the huts, as generous as they were, had their limitations. The committee had a dream of permanent headquarters and the hunt, a long one, began.
In 1960 there was a social club where the fork of Stibbs Way now is. Then there was no road and homes, just the remnants of the previous clay pit. Beyond the hall was a bike track and the pit was a dangerous pond. Plans were drawn up to build the scout HQ alongside but these plans never came to fruition. By 1973 when Mr Sarjent died and Mrs Sarjent left the village, there was still no site.
But late in 1973, Lord Manners offered a site off Burnt House Lane, opposite the entrance to the current Stibbs Way. The social club was moved here too, allowing Stibbs Way to be built. The first lease was for 21 years, for a plot 135′ x 75′ with access through the social club car-park. A wooden hut was acquired and the Group had its first permanent headquarters. The concrete standing for this hut is still there and is parked on regularly, right in front of the new HQ.
The next milestone was in 1986 when a beaver colony was added to the Group. In 1993 a brick headquarters was built and in 1995 a Venture scout unit was started. In 2004 the Group took over the Boys Brigade hut next door and added it to their site facilities, converting part of it into a scout store as the store in HQ had become far too small.
Ventures in Bransgore had closed in 2001 partly because the Scouting Association was going through a large programme change. The section changed to explorers and started at a younger age. In September 2009 an explorer unit started at Braggers camp-site up the road and it was established with a partnership with the Group. Now scouts had somewhere to continue their scouting.
In 2012 the current Lord Manners gave us another 21 year lease for a larger plot than we’ve ever had before and scouting looks set to continue here in the village for many more years to come.
In September 2013 we opened a second colony of beavers which accepted girls for the first time and was part of a phased approach to opening to girls in all our sections.
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