History of Gilwell Park & Maclaren

A History of Gilwell Park
For millions of Scouters throughout the world, Gilwell Park is famous as the home of training and camping. Scouters in over 120 countries are awarded the Wood Badge as a sign of having completed their advanced Wood Badge training, in accordance with Gilwell tradition begun by Baden-Powell. On receiving the two beads the participant automatically join other members of the 1st Gilwell Park Scout Group who have also completed their Wood Badge Training.

After the end of World War I, the British Scout Association was looking to acquire a camp for the scouts living in the East End of London. In those days, scouts would hike, bike, or use public transportation to camp. So, a site was needed not too far away from the area in which they lived. The Association started looking for property for a camp and they found several, but chose a farm close to the city, just to the northeast, next to Epping Forest in England. The estate at that time was a total of 53 acres, but has grown to just over 100 acres. This estate is known as Gilwell Park.

MacLaren to the Rescue
Gilwell was purchased for the Association by a generous publishing company owner from Edinburgh (Scotland) named William F. de Bois MacLaren. MacLaren was a Scout Commissioner from Rosneath in Dumbartonshire. He was expanding his business from Edinburgh to London and was dismayed to see the Boy Scouts trying to operate in the backs streets and on waste land. In November 1918 he contacted Baden Powell, and told him of his wish to provide money to purchase a camping ground.

After the Association had decided on the farm called Gilwell Hall, MacLaren’s gift of L7,000 (British pounds) was exactly the amount needed. After the purchase of the property, scouts started clearing the estate. They found much work was necessary to make it a viable Scout camp. MacLaren was a frequent visitor and was so keen on the project, that he committed an extra L3,000. MacLaren had only been interested in providing a camping ground, but Baden Powell’s vision was to create a training center for Scoutmasters. He managed to convince MacLaren that the two could sit in harmony side by side. The camp opened on July 26th, 1919, and would be the home for the first Wood Badge course.

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Training, Wood Badge, MacLaren, and how it is all connected
After the camp opened, Baden Powell offered a new advanced training course for leaders. The very first course of what was to become known as Wood Badge, was called the Scout Officer’s Training Course. It kicked off on Friday, September 19, 1919 and Baden Powell himself gave special lectures.

All this was possible by the generous gift to the Scout Association from William F. de Bois MacLaren. Therefore, the Association, Baden-Powell, and Wood Badge have honored Mr. MacLaren’s memory in several ways. Wood Badge originally had the entire neckerchief made from the MacLaren tartan. But due to the cost of the tartan, the neckerchief changed to a tan pattern with a small patch of Maclaren tartan symbolizing the gratitude Scouters have for Mr. MacLaren.

Provided by Morris Truslow

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