Biggleswade Scouting trio care for national movement’s heritage collection
- Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO
Three veteran Scout leaders from Biggleswade care for the UK association’s massive 100-year national heritage collection.
Every Thursday for the past four years the three friends – Gerry Pope, Bill Mapletoft and Dave Bridges – have made the 96-mile round trip to the UK home of Scouting at Gilwell Park in Essex.
There they don purple gloves and get to work cataloguing more than 250,000 items in the heritage collection, in what Gerry has called “a labour of love”.
The items in the collection range from Scouting founder Robert Baden Powell’s caravan to nearly 15,000 badges and awards.
Pride of place in the national collection goes to the royal warrant signed by every monarch since King George V on January 4, 1912.
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Gerry, Bill and Dave have just completed a list identifying all Scouts who lost their lives in the two world wars. Eight came from the Biggleswade area.
Gerry, who was a leader with what is now the 1st Biggleswade Scout Group, came to collecting early. He said: “I was at a Scout camp in Oxford in 1965 when I was 12 and everyone was swapping things. I swapped my Oxford badge for a Durham County one, which showed the gold cross of St Cuthbert.
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“It still has pride of place in my collection 53 years later.”
Gerry’s collection now occupies every corner of his garage – yet he can locate every item among the numbered boxes and countless uniforms, shields and pennants.
When national Scout Heritage Centre curator Caroline Pantling was looking for a volunteer to help, she found a fellow enthusiast in Gerry. He quickly roped in Bill and Dave, who are collectors themselves, to create a formidable team.
The trio have been active in Biggleswade District Scouts for more than 50 years. Gerry arrived aged 15 in 1968 Bill, who was a Cub Scout in Arlesey in the 1950s, is responsible for Cub Scouts in Biggleswade. Dave, who was a Cub and Scout in Lower Stondon, won the Queen’s Scout Award and is now a Cub Scout leader and Biggleswade badge secretary.
The national centre is planning a new facility to house the whole collection in air-conditioned luxury, and is bidding for lottery funding to help create a project that will attract visitors from all over the world.
Gerry said: “My garage is a heritage archive in miniature, so I suppose it was natural for me to volunteer when the Scout centre asked for help.
“It’s really a labour of love and one that will keep us occupied for many years to come.”