District History

It all began in Crewe on 24th February 1908

Scouting in this part of Cheshire goes right back to the birth of the Movement and Crewe was one of the first towns in the Country to form a Scout Troop. General Baden-Powell visited Crewe on 23rd January 1908 to explain his idea of Scouting at a ‘public meeting’ in the old Co-op Hall. This led to a further meeting of ‘interested persons’ held in the Mayors Parlour in February and the first Scout Troop was formed at Christ Church the same month, only 6 months after the famous camp on Brownsea Island where Scouting began.

In those days the Scout Troops in and around the town belonged to the ‘Crewe and District Boy Scout Association’. After the 1st Crewe (Christ Church) troop came the 2nd Crewe (Bedford Street School) troop followed by the 3rd Crewe (St. Andrews) troop.  By 1911 there were Scout troops at Nantwich, Elworth, Alsager and Wrenbury plus a ‘combined’ troop at Willaston and Shavington.

The Founding Scouter in our District was a young accountant, Wilmot Welch, who lived at the Royal Hotel and he led the troop at Christ Church until he joined the army for the First World War. Like Wilmot, many of the early Scout Leaders joined the Services and fought in the Great War so Scouting struggled to continue during the period 1914 to 1918. Older Scouts (16 ½ to 18) were encouraged to join the Crewe Volunteer Training Corps Battalion, similar to the Home Guard in WW2.

After serving in France and Palestine Wilmot Welch returned to Crewe and was appointed District Commissioner following the death in 1920 of Mr C J Bowen Cooke, our first DC, who was Chief Mechanical Engineer with the London and North Western Railway Company. Slowly the Scout troops in and around Crewe began to recover and build up their strength to pre-war levels.  In 1927, Wilmot Welch, the DC, married and went to live at Willaston-in-Wirral resulting in the appointment of a new DC – Mr W E Shewell-Cooper.

At around the same time Imperial Headquarters in London decided to change some District boundaries and all Scout Groups were re-registered with a new number.  This resulted in the formation of the District of ‘South West Cheshire’ at the beginning of 1928.  Our 12 Groups at that time were registered 841 to 852 and just two of these Groups have been open continuously since that date, namely 841 = 1st S W Cheshire (St Andrews) and 842 = 3rd S W Cheshire, originally St. Pauls, Hightown and now (Wolverton Scout and Guide Group) following several amalgamations during the intervening years.

Scouting in this District received a welcome boost after the 3rd International Jamboree was held in 1929 at Arrowe Park, near Birkenhead. Publicity from this event spread around the County and it seemed that everyone wanted to join the Scouts! Troops were formed in virtually every village and the total number of Groups in the District reached a peak at 32 by 1932.  Some fizzled out after only a year or two but the strength of the District remained buoyant until, once again, our Leaders were called to serve their Country in the 1939 – 1945 war.

Following extensive research in local newspapers the early history of Scouting in and around Crewe is told in detail, illustrated with nearly 100 period photographs, in the book entitled ‘A General came to Town’ and it is available to read in Crewe library.

In addition, the District maintains an extensive archive of original documents and information as well as a collection of old Scouting books, magazines, photographs, uniform, and associated memorabilia. We are always keen to add to this valuable collection and any suitable gifts will be gratefully received.

Gerald Newbrook  District Archivist