Part One: an account of the Troop's (and later the Group's) meeting places over the years.
Throughout its history, the Troop has had various meeting places. Mr. L. Baker and Mr. M. Jerrom started the Scout Troop in 1933. In those days the School (Hastings Grammar School as it was then) was in Nelson Road, not far from the Town Centre. The Scouts held their meetings in the School, usually in the gymnasium. They met twice a week, on Mondays and Fridays. From a beginning of 6 Scouts, the Troop quickly grew and flourished.
In 1939 the war started and on July 21st 1940 the whole School was evacuated to St. Albans where the Troop teamed up with other Hastings Scouts who had been evacuated. They met at the District Headquarters in Victoria Street and formed additional Patrols to cater for all the extra members. At one time there were 8 Patrols, and at Summer Camp during and after the war there were often over 60 people in camp. They used to put on a pantomime at Christmas each year (long before the District started the Scout Show).
For a boy's view of Scouts at the time, and in particular the first pantomime after the war, go here .
The Seniors started in 1937, 10 years before Headquarters officially began the Section, and there was usually a large Rover Crew. Rovers were Scouts over 18, who had their own activities, and helped to run the other Sections.
When I joined in 1964 Hastings Grammar School had only just moved to Parkstone Road. The Scout Group really was a part of the School in those days, just like cricket and football and music and drama. All the Scouters were teachers at the School, and only boys at the School were allowed to join. The School Captain and the prefects were quite likely to be Rovers.
Most of the time we held our meetings in the tower block in rooms F, G, H & J on the first floor and fall-in was on the landing. We had games in the Dutch Barn: what is now the ABJ cricket school, but then it was only enclosed on three sides. The side facing the roadway was only bricked in much later. We soon decided that these conditions were not for us, and we started to raise money to buy a better hut. In 1976 we were able to buy a large hut, second hand, from a property developer called Larkin in Bexhill. It had previously been used as a gymnasium by a private school and then by a workingmen's club. When we went to see it at Collington, it had a corrugated iron roof and two wood-burning stoves, with stovepipes going out through the roof, and a stage at one end. We bought it for £400, but we then had to have it demolished, transported to Hastings and re-erected on our site. This cost about £10,000.
There was still no electricity supply suitable for heating it, but in those days we had a Group Supporters' Association. They held fund-raising events like folk dances, tramp suppers, pyjama parties, beetle drives and so on, and they came up with the £1200 or so it cost to install a new cable underground from the art room. This cable still carries our electricity supply now, and is also used by the School to supply the cricket pavilion and the other little outhouses. Later, a water supply pipe was added, also paid for by the Supporters. Before that, all water had to be carried up to the hut from the School in containers. There was never any sanitation, but fortunately the copse is close by.
The Venture Scouts, mainly Roland Illman and John McDonagh soon got busy building themselves a den inside the new hut. They obtained the necessary timbers and knowledge, and had soon constructed a large room, which they then furnished with a carpet, chairs and stools, with built-in cupboards down the side. The room was papered and painted. Lighting circuits and a fridge quickly followed. Later Glen Russell painted Scout motifs on one wall, and the rest of Unit added other decorations. After the den, the next step was to install a small kitchen, so that refreshments could be adequately prepared, and also to enable cook badge courses to take place at the HQ.
So we thrived and built up the Scout Troop and the Venture Unit. We started Cubs, and for a time we had a second Troop, called the Gilridge Troop, which was named after the camping field the District used to own above the School fields. But the terrible storm of 1987 with winds gusting to over 100 mph severely damaged the hut. Of course, we repaired it as best we could, but it was never the same again. It leaked, the weatherboard started to fall off the outside (with the help of vandals), the ceiling panels fell down and the windows rotted and had to be replaced.
In the end the Group Council decided that we were pouring good money after bad trying to patch it up, and in 1992 we resolved to go for a new brick-built HQ. This was before the National Lottery was invented, but we started running boot sales, auctions, etc. and diverted most of the money from our paper salvage collections to our new building fund.
At first it came in only very slowly, and we were getting nowhere near our target. But then we had a breakthrough. The Isabel Blackman Foundation responded to our pleas for help with a magnificent donation of £25,000. Now we could start to plan in earnest. We engaged an architect to draw up plans, and we held committee meetings to try to steer the project to completion. In the meantime the Lottery Fund had come into being. The first time we applied to them, they turned us down, but at the second try we were granted £100,000. The way was now clear, and we invited tenders from various builders. After much discussion, one was appointed and eventually, in early 1999, the work began. Of course, there were still many hurdles to clear, but that is another story in itself.