The current Squirrels, Beavers, Cubs, Scouts and Explorers of 1st Merton Park are the most recent members of a local scouting family that stretches back over a century, to its origins in 1910. On this page we’ve gathered together some key events and highlights from our history.
Three years after Robert Baden-Powell launched the scouting movement by publishing ‘Scouting for Boys’, the Vicar of Merton asked two local brothers, Allan and Ernest Tanner, to start a scout group here in Merton Park. Meetings of the original group of 8 boys were held at the Old Church House opposite Merton Parish Church.
This letter encloses perhaps the first ever photo of the group, taken in 1912, and explains that the original group was known as the 75 South West London Troop, later being registered as the 1st Merton, and then the 7th Wimbledon.
The group’s first ever summer camp was held in 1913, at Christchurch near Bournemouth.
1914 saw war intruding on scouting life, with World War I declared while the group were away at camp. Ernest later recollected: “Though advised to return home, we stayed on for two weeks. We nearly caught a spy and we certainly saw the first British airship in motion over the channel”. The Scouts later contributed to the war efforts with activities including coast watching, entertaining the troops, delivering circulars and distributing vegetables from local allotments to Nelson Hospital. For this they received War Service Badges. While Allan was sadly killed in action in 1916, Ernest remained actively involved in the group for the next 30 years.
In 1916 a new section called Wolf Cubs began for younger boys – later this would be renamed the Cub Scouts.
After the war, local scout numbers were severely depleted, but the group never closed, continuing even with a single scout at some parades. Helen Tanner had led the group in the Tanner brothers’ absence during the war, for which she was awarded three Medals of Merit, and she continued doing so for some time after it finished.
The group grew in size over the years that followed, taking part in many camps and other activities.
In 1942 the Shepherd family launched a new scout group, the 16th Wimbledon. This had scout and cub sections.
World War II was underway by this point, and when rambling on Wimbledon Common boys would often discover bomb craters. For the group’s 1st birthday in June 1943, a cake was served. With rationing in full swing, parents each donated a tiny share of the ingredients. The first slice was reserved for the scout group leader who had joined the army the previous day.
The scout section was initially made up of 16 boys in two patrols, the Buffalos and the Bulldogs. They camped for the first time in July 1943, at Walton Firs in Surrey. They had a challenging 4 hour trek to get there, pushing their kit the whole way on three track-carts. Later, while camping in Chichester in the summer of 1945, they celebrated VE Day with fireworks.
1960 - 1st Merton Park is formed
In 1960, the decision was made to merge 7th Wimbledon and 16th Wimbledon, to form a larger group – 1st Merton Park. This was prompted by increasing difficulty for both groups to find permanent leaders. The District Commander at the time decided ‘scouting in Merton Park would be best served by a single strong group’, rather than two groups competing with each other for recruits and leaders.
Both the 7th and 16th groups had strong fundraising traditions, which continued after the merger. The efforts of dedicated volunteers over the years have made a vital contribution to our activities, funding camping equipment and other expenses.
The 16th Wimbledon became known for organising activities including Christmas fairs, whist drives and concerts.
The 7th Wimbledon specialised in jumble sales, which are still a familiar and much-loved fixture in our local community, and run in much the same way as always!
- The first Beaver Scout meeting at 1st Merton Park was held on 25 January 1988. It started with just 14 boys. Jane Skrebowski was the first Beaver Scout Leader, with Lisa Reeves as Assistant Leader. The structure of the Merton Park Beaver Colony was decided by Jane, and the structure remains the same to this day. She decided on a Canadian theme, with Beavers Scouts arranged in four ‘Lodges’: Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia.
- Around 1990 Beaver sections were given the option of replacing the turquoise neckerchief with the Group scarf.
- In 1992, girls were accepted into all sections of the Scouting movement, including Beavers.
- In 2003 the Beaver Scout uniform changed to a turquoise sweatshirt and group scarf with navy blue activity trousers.
- Carol Martin had been part of the Group since 2003 and took over as the Beaver Scout Leader in 2007.
- On 23 October 2007 the 1st Merton Park Beavers Colony contributed to a world record for the largest collage of cut out handprints, which was shown at the Scout Association’s HQ at Baden-Powell House, London.
Ray Donovan-Hill took over from Carol Martin in September 2010, Ray had been with the Beavers as Assistant Leader since 2007