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A few miles NW of Hexham, on the north bank of the Tyne, can be found a dot on the map labelled Carr Edge Farm. It sits a little to the north of Fourstones, but south of Hadrian’s Wall, and is famous as the venue, in 1908, of the first ever Boy Scout Camp. Common assumption places the first scout gathering at Brownsea Island, Poole Harbour, in August 1907, but this was an experimental camp attended by boys who were not properly-invested scouts. So I am pleased to say the honour of the title of the first official camp goes to the North-East of England! (In fact, the land, though near to Carr Edge Farm, actually belonged to the slightly more distant Park Shields Farm to the east).
The spot was named ‘Look Wide Camp Site’ by the organisers, headed, of course, by the famous General Baden-Powell, founder of the scout movement. The event, which ran from 22nd August to 4th September 1908, came a year after the south coast ‘dry run’, and was the culmination of a frantic period of preparation and organisation as the scouting movement got off the ground. Baden-Powell himself led the team of supervisors, who took charge of 30 boys from all corners of the UK, each of whom had been nominated by friends and relatives in a voting system (although they were joined by another six in due course). The two-week jolly included all the usual scout-like activities, in addition to visits to local sites of interest.
The event is usually described as having taken place at Humshaugh, a village which is several miles to the NE – on account of it being, I think, the name of the parish at the time – but there is no doubt about the location of the true venue.
The site is now marked by a large stone cairn (erected 1929) adorned with several commemorative plaques. The pictured slab was set in place in 1950 and nicely sums up the story. A centenary event, ‘Jamboree 2008’, was held at the Carr Edge site in, er, 2008.
See here for much more info!
P.S. The weather during the 1908 inaugural camp was, by the way, rather wet.