The founder of Scouting, Robert Baden Powell (1857-1941) was educated at Charterhouse School. He joined the Army, and served in India and South Africa, developing skills in bushcraft and scouting. A national hero after commanding the British forces besieged in Mafeking, he was a force to be reckoned with.

In 1907 he took a group of 20 boys to Brownsea Island, in Poole Harbour, working out the skills in his military manual ‘Aids to Scouting’. This encouraged him to write a similar civilian manual which became ‘Scouting for Boys’, published in 1908. He never intended to form a separate movement, thinking that these skills could be used in existing boys’ movements.

Scouting first came to Woking when, on 24 March 1909, local B-P Scouts leaders demonstrated scouting methods to the Church Lads’ Brigade at Christ Church. There were several separate Scouting bodies in the early days so it is not easy to trace continuous Scouting in Woking, but troops were well established by 1910. Over the years Scouting has evolved to include boys and girls from the ages of 4 to 25.

Meanwhile in June 1909 girls had formed a group of ‘Nightingale Girl Scouts’, attached to St Paul’s Church. These remained independent of the main Guide movement, founded by Robert’s sister, Agnes, in 1910, with companies in

Woking by 1914. Now known as Girlguiding, it remains an all-girl association covering the years 5 to 18. HM the Queen, herself once a Brownie and Guide, is Patron, with HRH the Countess of Wessex as President.

In Girlguiding’s two Woking divisions there are ten districts, and many more companies, with about 1000 actively involved, and in the Woking Scout District there are 14 Scout groups and 5 Venture units, with 1581 involved.

Acknowledgements for loans and copies of photographs to Richard Langtree, the Scout Association and Jeanette Sheldon, District Commissioner Girlguiding Woking East, 1st Byfleet Scout Group.

Learn more in this free heritage display outside Woking's Story, our local history museum.