The modern Scout movement in Copthorne dates back to 1953 when local schoolmaster Godfrey Rugg, known universally as Geoffrey for some reason, founded the first troop but there were definitely Scouts in the village in the 1920s and probably a good deal earlier. Some are thought to have attended the Burstow troop, while there is also evidence to suggest the original Worth troop was actually a Copthorne based unit.
Nonetheless there is no doubt that Scouting effectively took off from 1953 onwards. By 1958 they had erected – at a cost of £400 – a hut on the present site on ground left to them for that purpose by Percival Humphrey – the adjacent Humphrey’s Field is also for the villagers to use for leisure purposes.
The considerable efforts of Copthorne’s founder Geoffrey Rugg, GSL Harold Ansell, assistant scout masters Don Norman and Peter Fuller and scout leaders Brian Uren and Derek Durran soon saw the group grow in strength resulting in two Copthorne boys – Joe Tee and Rodney Page – receiving the Queen’s Scout Award. The cub pack was well run under Akela, Beryl Hutchings, with Alan Tring and Eve Catchpole as assistants but the scout numbers dropped after Ted Catchpole had to retire through ill health.
The Group floundered a little in the late 1960s and was faltering when Colin Tully took over as GSL and breathed new life into the movement, ably assisted by a hard working committee and the dedication of the leaders – notably various members of the Cheesmur family. Brothers Norman, Harold and Gwyn have all served as leaders, Harold’s wife Jenny is the group’s longest serving cub leader, daughter Alison was an assistant cub leader and son Owen is now a scout leader. Others who have rendered long and invaluable service include Bill Sandys and wife Maureen – who together have given over 50 years’ service – June Branchitt, Dick Bunn, Frank Maloney, Janette McGivern, Robin Ainsworth, Marion Acraman and husband Bill. The latter revolutionised the Venture Unit from the mid 70s onwards and raised everybody’s aspirations, not to mention their blood pressure, when it came to outdoor pursuits. No challenge or project was too big under Bill’s leadership.
The late 1970s and early 80s were heady years with upwards of 180 boys populating the three Cub packs, two scout troops and a blossoming Venture unit. The latter increasingly spread their wings, winning all sorts of local, district and regional hiking competitions before venturing forth to the Peak District to tackle Britain ‘s best in the prestigious Four Inns and Master Hikes – 45 mile marathons in full gear across the Moors in mid winter with the winners normally taking slightly less than eight hours. Even the SAS would have found it tough going! Copthorne never won but earned the respect of all the northern groups who knew the area like the back of their hands and could train on the hills every week. They were also spared a grueling six hour journey (pre-M25) after work on Friday nights simply to get there.
And so it continues today. A Beaver pack – for boys aged between six and eight – was founded in 1986 by Mary Saunders but the closing of the Convent as a school led eventually to one cub pack being discontinued. Figures are steady at 150 with a healthy waiting list. The old favorites continue – the ever popular father and son camps, the annual visit every Easter to some hilly region, known from the earliest of days, and with some justification, as the Bogtrot. Copthorne Scouts have never deviated from their primary aim – to teach young, and not so young boys and girls to think for themselves, take the initiative and translate ideas into action – in whatever project they undertake, indoors and outdoors.