Return to 'Scouting Milestones' links
Baden-Powell and Charterhouse School

This Page, and indeed this website, was conceived after visiting Charterhouse School in September 2000 as part of a 'Heritage Tour' organised by the Scout Association. It was the very first Milestones ever to be written. Accompanying our tour of the school was Mr Paul Moynihan, former Scout Association archivist and Mr Chris Wheeler, a teacher at the School and at that time its Group Scout Leader. Needless to say since its inception this key part of Scouting Milestones has been has been added to and updated many times.

Town and Country

THE first Charterhouse School was founded in London in 1611 as a home for retired gentlefolk and a school for boys. The original premises still belong to the School and can be found behind St Bartholomew's Hospital in London.

Old School
Cigarette Card image of the old Charterhouse School

It was to these buildings that the thirteen-year-old Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell arrived for his first day on November 28th 1870, as a newly-nominated Gownboy Foundationer - a title given to pupils who had won one of the few scholarships to Charterhouse - only forty in total, spread over all the year groups.

School Coat of Arms
The School Coat of Arms
 The scholarship was vital because, though he came from a large well-connected family, his mother Henrietta was a widow and the family were not particularly well-off. However, what his mother lacked in finance she made up for in her ability to 'pull strings'. Part of her campaign to improve her family's position in society had involved her changing the family name from Powell to Baden-Powell only the year before. This fresh start at Charterhouse for 'Stephe' (pronounced Stevie), as his family called him, would probably been the first time he had interacted with people who had never known him by his former more simple surname. There was though at least one person he knew very well at the school because his younger brother Baden had already been at Charterhouse for three months, also as a Gownboy. No doubt, schoolboys being what are, young Baden Baden-Powell had to endure some teasing over his new name. The fact that Baden was at Charterhouse with Stephe is little known, as B-P, in all his writings, never once mentioned his brother in connection with the school.

In his 2nd year, B-P was a 15 year old freckled, red headed, average size boy with twinkling eyes when, on June 18th 1872, the school moved, relocating close to the town of Godalming on the Surrey Downs. There is no doubt B-P enjoyed the change to country air. The Headteacher at this time was Dr. Haig-Brown.

MANY of the original buildings still exist, though some have been modified. There have been additions, some of which were not completed on time and the School was still very much under construction for some time after the move from London in June 1872. In her book The Piper of Pax, Mrs Eileen K Wade, B-P's personal secretary, wrote "B-P was very interested in the techniques of bricklaying and went out of his way to learn from the craftsmen bricklayers."

School buildings

The School was said by Sir Nikolaus Pevsner, editor of the scholarly 50-volume series The Buildings of England, to be "probably the most picturesque of the 19th Century public schools." and, I think, it still is.

Dr. Haig-Brown, who had been the Headmaster of Charterhouse since 1863, was something of a character and a revolutionary educator in his day. B-P told many affectionate stories about him, the most revealing recalled Haig-Brown enabling his charges to 'get one over' on some butcher's boys from the neighbouring Smithfield Market, when the School was still in London, in a bit of skirmish between 'town and gown'. B-P had not long been at the School when these boys, throwing stones over a wall, were disrupting a football match being watched by B-P. Naturally, the schoolboys were incensed but could do nothing as their tormentors were safe on the other side of the high wall. Safe that is until the Headmaster used his key to open a side gate, resulting in the street lads being out-flanked and out-manoeuvred.

B-P always held Haig-Brown in great respect, which seems to be have been mutual, for when his other Schoolmasters had very little to say in favour of B-P, his Headmaster always had a positive comment to conclude his school report. His assessment of B-P was that he was a boy whose word you could not doubt. Though Dr Haig-Brown was able to share in his former pupil's fame as the Hero of Mafeking, he did not live long enough to see B-P's greatest achievement. Dr Haig-Brown died in 1907 after B-P had introduced his Boy Scouts Scheme but had yet to launch the Boy Scout Movement. B-P carried on a correspondence with Dr. Haig-Brown throughout his lifetime and then with his family, sending his specially designed Christmas cards until he died in 1941. I have a letter and the last ever of B-P's cards addressed to Dr. Haig-Brown's Daughter, Miss G Haig-Brown dated Christmas 1940.

'Duckites' and its Housemaster

Girdlestonites House
The picture shows Girdlestoneites House, which still features a duck by the front door!

BADEN-POWELL was in Girdlestoneites House for most of his time at Charterhouse. Like all the other 'houses' at the School, it was named after its first Housemaster, a Mr Girdlestone, who was twenty-eight years old when the Baden-Powell brothers arrived. The Charterhouse boys called the house 'Duckites' after the master's nickname, occasioned by the way he waddled rather than walked. B-P was attached to this house from the outset because he was a Gownboy on a scholarship place. He remained a part of it, with Mr Girdlestone as his housemaster, for at least the next five years. A reference written for B-P by his housemaster on May 16th, 1876 says that B-P "has always during all of this time been of irreproachable character in all respects." As this reference was written nearly twenty-years before B-P received any hint of popular fame, it is safe to conclude that this was a fair assessment and not something dreamed up retrospectively to satisfy the desire for knowledge about B-P after the Siege of Mafeking. Girdlestone seemed to see beyond B-P's acting-up to entertain his classmates, finding quite a reserved boy, who often found it easier to relate to grown-ups than to boys of his own age. The Housemaster's impact on Baden-Powell was even more far-reaching than that of Haig-Brown's, which was not surprising as their day-to-day contact for over five years extended into personal friendship and indeed into the Brotherhood of Scouting. B-P's own obituary on Girdlestone is to be found in the Appendix to this article.

The House system at Charterhouse placed 60 or so boys of different ages and responsibilities living in one house under the pastoral care of one Master. Great responsibility was delegated to the older boys, not too dissimilar from the structure of a Scout Troop, but public school prefects, or 'Monitors' as they were called at Charterhouse, were empowered to administer corporal punishment. 'New Hops', as the boys just joining the School were called, were expected to 'fag', or be at the beck and call of an older boy. In B-P's case, he 'fagged' for Edward H Parry, who was good at sports - particularly football. Parry formed a secret society called the 'Druids' which B-P joined and illustrated its minute book, still in existence. All members or the society had nicknames and, as was the case in most schools, they rhymed or parodied the surname of each of its members. B-P then was 'Lord Bathing-Towel', the name was to be expected, but the 'title' prophetic.

One of the rules of the Club stated "Any brother not producing a song or speech (within a minute of being called upon) the latter in length not less than five minutes, or one year, shall be fined a bottle of lemonade."

The 'fagging' system was prevalent throughout English Public Schools, with younger boys acting as servants to more senior ones or, to put it more charitably, with older boys exercising direct responsibility over their younger charges. The system was very much open to abuse, but B-P did not find it a problem. Indeed, his life at school was less arduous than when he was at home, at the beck and call of all his older brothers. This experience of being the youngest in a group may have helped him to exercise responsibility fairly when his turn came to become a Monitor. There was a letter in the Daily Telegraph immediately after the Relief of Mafeking from one of B-P's charges who wrote that, "It was a pleasure to fag for B-P". This may or may not have been the same person who became the pioneer-Scouter C V Swan's Headmaster who, as 'Swannie' reported, thrilled his charges with 'yarns' about the time he 'fagged' for B-P, with stories from Charterhouse and B-P's defence of Mafeking.

Extra-curricular Activities

THERE were some scholastic subjects at Charterhouse in which Baden-Powell excelled, but these, then as now, did not have the same kudos as the 'academic' subjects of the day. B-P was a natural and gifted artist. He used his work to adorn everything he did and this remained a feature of his writing throughout his life. He could draw equally well with his right or his left hand, both at the same time if required! His Headmaster, Dr. Haig-Brown wrote "...his sketches were beautiful - not evidences of art training, but actual reality."

B-P as Cox
B-P on the left as Cox in Box and Cox, 1873

Various sources credit Baden-Powell with being able to play the piano, violin (extremely well), harmonica, ocarina, flugel horn and bugle, no less, though no single source lists more than four instruments. B-P recalled playing the bugle in the School Cadets, the flugel horn in the band and the violin in Duckites' orchestra. He was also an accomplished singer, with a range from falsetto to baritone, much the same as his Charterhouse choirmaster, John Hullah. B-P was a long-term member of the School Choir, a fact he often recounted when writing to young people. In the October 23rd edition of The Scout, B-P recounted his first meeting with his music teacher, he was with the rest of his incoming class on arrival at the school, given a voice test, but he alone was asked to remain behind by Mr Hullah, who after more tests declared B-P to have, quite unusualy, a 'falsetto voice'. Despite the natural 'breaking' of his voice as he grew older by the time Baden-Powell left the school;

"I was able to take any part needed whether soprano, alto, tenor or baratone. I don't say that I had a good voice for I had not, but I was just passible for use in chorus singing."

B-P went on to make comparision between his choir-singing and other forms of team-playing.

Most commentators agree, however, that the one subject in which Baden-Powell excelled was Drama. He took part in many school productions and, on occasion, he filled in with impromptu items.

The first School production in which B-P appeared was a comedy To Parents and Guardians' in the lead role of Bob Nettles (according to B-Ps book, Lessons From The Varsity of Life.

In 1873, he played Cox in Arthur Sullivan's Comic Opera Box and Cox with, according to a review found in Dr. Haig-Brown's scrapbook at Charterhouse, "...a vivacity and animation which elicited deservedly frequent tributes of applause". The rare photograph shown here of Baden-Powell in this rôle, together with the other two main leads, is from the collection of David Jefferies, formerly Chief Commissioner of Scotland and came with another showing B-P on his own, annotated with the words 'Baden-Powell as Cox'.Programme cover The photographs were given to Jefferies by the family of one of the other leading characters in the production. B-P's Biographer Tim Jeal. Jeal erroneously concludes that B-P was playing a female role and goes to use this, as he often does, other false deductions to question B-P's sexuality. The school production according to Batchelder and Balfour was put on by the gown-boys in their 'writing school'. The Carthusian of October 1873 had a review of the proceedings:

"Baden-Powell gave full satisfaction, startling the audience by a display of his immense knowledge of the sciences, of mathematics, and music, in his songs of Stay, Bouncer, Stay and The Buttercup, or Diddle-diddle-dum. It was brilliant and spirited acting."

Baden-Powell was to frequently recreate the rôle of Cox in later times and by 1933 the count was 26 different productions, the most notable of which was at The Castle, in Cape Town.

The following year, B-P played a singing role, Mrs Bundel, in The Waterman, part of the programme cover for which is shown here, and had various rôles in other reviews. In 1875 B-P performed monologues, as Captain Sabretache from Heir at Law, Toby Whistler in The Wandering Minstrel and also as Mr Jones Robinson Brownsmith in Little Toddlekins. B-P wrote,

"I am convinced that the play-acting which was encouraged amongst us boys by that broad-minded and far-seeing Headmaster, Dr Haig-Brown was of great value to us in after life. "

There is no doubt that amateur dramatics were to stand Baden-Powell in good stead early in his army career, keeping him to forefront of attention when he produced and performed in shows in India and Malta, and on long sea voyages when he met and entertained many of the world's most influential leaders. During the Siege of Mafeking when morale often needed a boost through the 217 long and dangerous days of the Siege B-P received standing ovations for his various stage personas including Signor Paderewski and Mr Personally Conducted Cook. He recognised the camaraderie that such shows generated and thought, as his old Headmaster did that "Play acting ought to form a part of every boy's education"and, later, was to advocate that Scout Groups should perform shows, so sowing the seeds for Gang Shows. Is it possible to calculate just what effect the vision of Dr. Haig-Brown has had on the world?

Sports Days

The FA Cup

IT may have been Edward H Parry's influence that persuaded B-P to take up football and though he played cricket and racquets (still played at the School) and was a good athlete, it was as a goal keeper in the football team that he most often represented Charterhouse. The standard was high and in 1880 only five years after Baden-Powell left, a team of Old Carthusians - as old boys from the School are called - won the F.A. Cup, with Parry in the winning team. B-P was the first-eleven goal keeper, a position he revelled in and fanciful similarities have been drawn, as you might expect, between defending a goal and the future defence of Mafeking. Today, the First-Eleven Football Pitch at Charterhouse remains in the same position as it was in B-P's days, when he brought his own unique style to the game and a crowd of supporters would always gather behind his goal, not so much to witness his footballing skill, but to hear the banter B-P continually shouted out to inspire his team-mates and his blood-curdling warcries as he charged down attacking forwards. He played for the team as its regular goalkeeper in his last year at the School in 1876, and was considered 'cool under pressure'. Showmanship was always a part of B-P's act and it has been reported that he was never without two pairs of football boots, theatrically changing over at half-time in such a way that the opposition could not fail to notice and then shinning up the goal posts to walk along the crossbar. Theatricals aside, B-P was given credit in match reports as a useful player and a safe pair of hands, a fact which was alluded to on a his return visit to the School after the Siege of Mafeking when a contemporary of his, the Vicar of the nearby village of Godalming, put out a banner proclaiming, "Goal well Kept, B-P"

There is a painting of a football game in action in the School museum and, whilst the School still plays football in the same colours, the painting has players wearing shorts that come below the knee and are navy in colour. They look to be identical to those worn by Boy Scouts up to the Second World War. Is it possible that B-P remembered his footballing days when he designed the Scout uniform?

Charterhouse Birch

There was a series of articles in The Scout in 1959 concerning artefacts in the Scout Archives. In the January 23rd edition, the image opposite is displayed of " a Birch used in training boys in character when I was at Charterhouse.". Though a fearsome looking weapon, the very width of the bound up group of birch fronds, would I feel, administer far less pain on the miscreant's backside that the single wand of cane administered so effectively by my own Headteacher! The importance of this article in The Scout is however is that it contains the information that B-P was on committees of the Boat Club, the Museum, Sports Days and the Hockey Club, which shows a wide range of activities in which the future founder of the Scout Movement was prepared to take some sort of leadership role.

A Scout is Born

"When I was a small boy at Charterhouse, outside the school walls was 'The Copse', a long stretch of woodland on a steep hill-side, extending for mile or so around the playing fields. It was here that I used to imagine myself a backwoodsman trapper and Scout. I used to creep about warily looking for 'sign' and getting 'close up' observation of rabbits squirrels, rats and birds. As a trapper I set my snares, and when I caught a rabbit or hare (which wasn't often) I learned by painful experiment how to skin, clean and cook him, But knowing that the Redskins were about in the shape of masters looking for boys out of bounds, I used a very small non-smokey fire for fear of giving away my whereabouts."

As the 'Copse' is so central to Scout History, coupled with the fact its whereabouts seems a source of mystery to day, it is perhaps worth repeating B-P's description of it, he wrote of the place again in the The Scout of December 11th 1926;

"Our playing fields were on plateau top of a hill, the steeps sides of which were dotted in a regular jungle of brushwood and copse. "

Baden-Powell wrote in the Greyfriars Magazine in 1922 - on the 50th Anniversary of Charterhouse School's move to Godalming - "It was in the copse that I gained most of what helped me on in after life to find the joy of living." Surprisingly, given B-P's often-told to tales of how he first took up 'Sea Scouting' on boat trips with his brothers, he could not swim when he was first admitted to the School. In later years his daughter Heather in her Baden-Powell A Family Album, wrote that her father was fond of recounting the words on a sign raised next to the only pool of water near Charterhouse which was deep enough in which to learn to swim - NO BOY CAN BATHE UNTIL HE CAN SWIM

The pool in the River Way was just below Raquet's Wood Copse. Whether or not that was the copse, I don't know, but as B-P acknowledged, the formative influence of the experiences he had in the woods around Charterhouse were to have a profound effect on his later life and the establishment of Scouting.

The School Cadet Corps

Charterhouse Rifles

BADEN-POWELL was an early member of the School's Army Cadet Corps, joining as a bugler in 1874. He competed as a Private in the Public Schools Rifle Shooting Competition, competing for the Ashburton Shield at Wimbledon in that year. Charterhouse came 8th and B-P was credited with the only Bull's Eye of the day. The photograph opposite is of that 1874 Charterhouse Rifle Team, B-P stands second from the left. He remained in the Cadets and the school's 'Shooting Eight', eventually becoming a Sergeant.

Membership of the Charterhouse Cadet Corps gave B-P enough knowledge and credibility to be able to successfully 'target' the country's leading Public School Cadet Corps when seeking to launch his Boy Scout Scheme in 1907. At that time he did not envisage a Scout Movement independently run under his own full-time leadership, rather a training scheme that could be taken up by patrols of boys within existing organisations such as the Boys Brigade, Church Lads Brigade, YMCA and School Cadet Corps. (See Brother Organisations.) This 'Cadet Corps' image was, in later years, to bring criticism on the Scout Movement. B-P had, with some justification, to vehemently deny that his Scouts were designed merely to be a character factory for Army recruitment. He was against Scouts 'drilling', as was practiced in the Army Cadets, Boys Brigade and Church Lads Brigade and from the start laid great emphasis on what he called 'Peace Scouting'. After the First World War it would not be an exaggeration to say that both B-P and his wife devoted their lives to the furtherance of a World-wide movement to ensure that brother Scouts would never again have to bear arms against each other .That aside, B-P never lost an opportunity to impress upon boys that learning to shoot straight was a skill that would be helpful to them and their country. The 'Marksman' Proficiency Badge is one of dozens that Scouts have always been able to gain, and can still do so today. There is, for example, a rifle range at the UK Scout Headquarters Camping Ground at Gilwell Park, and from their inception Scouts have competed, as B-P did, in marksmanship competitions, the premier event being the Duke of Connaught's Challenge Shield Competition.

It is interesting to note that it is only those who have never been Scouts who fuel the 'cannon fodder' argument. I do not have any statistics to confirm this, but I would be greatly surprised to learn that, other than in times of war, the 'Marksman' Badge has ever come remotely near the 'top-ten' of favourite proficiency badges.

School Reports and Exams

ACADEMICALLY, B-P did not do well in his early years at the School. Reports indicate that he "...had given up the study of Maths..." and slept during French lessons, although by the time he left B-P had gained good marks in Latin and Greek, won the School French prize and also did well in English. His classics teacher, Dr Thomas Page, pronounced his progress "...satisfactory in every respect..." B-P characteristically put his success down to the skill and personality of his teachers and "...cramming in good hands...".

Despite criticisms from some of his Masters for inattention, B-P was made 'Second Monitor' for his house and did learn enough to excel in his Army Entrance Exams in 1876, perhaps his experiences in the School Cadet Corps were of some help as his results were spectacular, coming second in the Cavalry in a field of 718 applicants, and fourth of Infantry. Due to this achievement, he was directly commissioned as a sub-lieutenant in the 13th Hussars. B-P was quickly promoted and rose through the ranks. In 1884 he visited South Africa for the first time. In 1899, at the start of the Boer War and now a Colonel, B-P's Frontier Forces were ordered to defend Mafeking. One of the last things he did in England before he embarked for South Africa was to 'tread the boards' of the professional stage at The Haymarket Theatre, London, in a review to raise funds for his old School's Christian Mission to the London slums.

Mafeking and Founder's Day

THE Boers had laid siege to Mafeking in October 1899, the Siege lasting until May 1900. The odds were so clearly stacked against the small town that raising morale was a major consideration. Throughout his Army career, Baden-Powell had been able to entertain and amuse, whether on land or sea, which made him many friends and kept him firmly in the eye of his senior officers. As senior officer, B-P was able to use his talents to the full. He would bring the house down with his comic parodies, especially that of Signor Paderewski, the idiosyncratic Italian pianist in morale-raising productions, but his greater talent was in inspiring others to use their initiative towards the common good.

Under the heading 'Good Old Charterhouse' the Mafeking Mail of April 6th, 1900, carried the news that a Charterhouse Master had formed a 'Support B-P Fund', and had sent money and stores which were 'well on their way' to the besieged town. The boys had collected over £1,450.00 (worth about £80,000.00 today), together with 145 packing cases of 'comforts for the troops', and a special present of a pair of binoculars for B-P. That Master was Frederick Girdlestone. B-P wrote to him on April 7th to thank him for his efforts.

"Dear Girdlestone,
I cannot tell you how much my happy family here appreciate the kind thoughts of Charterhouse in wishing to provide us with all good things.
If we have the good luck to get them bye and bye, they will indeed be most acceptable - but in the meantime it does give us an immense fillip to 'buck up' when we feel we are the object of so much kind thought at home.
It is a curious thing that I am the only Carthusian here. I called for names to get up a dinner for Founder's Day. However I did none the less fail to drink the health of the old school.
I hope that some day this Siege will be at an end and I can then write at length.

R Baden-Powell

The stamp and the envelope may be useful to philatelists."

The letter quoted above is from a copy kept by B-P in his Mafeking Scrapbooks, now in the U.K. Scout Archives, and once again demonstrates his affection for his old School and Housemaster. The stamp and the envelope would indeed, should it still exist, be 'useful' to philatelists. Mafeking had used its usual British Bechuanaland stamps overprinted with the words 'Mafeking Besieged' from March 23rd, 1900. Mail had be run through the Boer lines at night and so these stamps were surcharged to pay £15 to the Native runners for the very great risk to their lives, as some were caught and shot. On April 6th, the day before this letter was sent to Girdlestone, three photographically produced blue stamps, two bearing the image of Baden-Powell, the other that of the Sergeant Major of the Mafeking Cadet Force, Warner Goodyear, were issued. They were intended for internal use within the town, but there are known examples of mail sent out of Mafeking using combinations of 'blues' and overprinted stamps. It seems probable, if not likely, that Girdlestone was in receipt of a letter run out of Mafeking bearing a stamp showing the head of his former pupil. There is no record among collectors of the 'Mafeking blue' stamps that this envelope does still exist, but Milestones would be delighted to find that it does, should you know of its whereabouts.

The money raised by the school was added to the Mafeking Relief Fund, made up of donations sent from all over the Empire, amounting to £29,267. The fund was administered in Mafeking by Lt.-Col. C B Vyvyan who was B-P's Base Commandant at the time of the Siege and later Mafeking's Commanding Officer. It should be noted that the Charterhouse efforts comprise one twentieth of the total amount raised.

Remarkably for a school of it size, Charterhouse saw 35 of its ex-pupils die in the Boer War. W Francis Aitken, a contemporary biographer of Baden-Powell, claims that there were 226 Old Carthusians at the front in South Africa. If we assume that the 33 that died were officers, Old Carthusians account for just over 3% of all officer fatalities. Although a major conflict, the Boer War was not a World War. The British Army also had many regiments, presumably some with Old Carthusians, committed elsewhere. The percentage of Charterhouse school-leavers joining the army must have been very high indeed, but even then that does not seem to justify B-P's surprise that he could not find another Carthusian amongst the besieged.

Amazingly however there was one! Carthusian Captain Douglas H Marsham, was with B-P in Mafeking, but died in the slaughter at Game Tree, early in the Siege on October 31st, 1899. Aged only 28 he was 14 years younger than B-P. He was a 'Saunderite' and though not thought of as an academic achiever, he became a very popular officer, whom a Mafeking diarist notes was 'beloved of all'. There is no record that B-P ever knew that Marsham was a Carthusian, though given the difference in their ages, this is not altogether surprising.

B-P attained great popularity by his brilliant defence of Mafeking. Wild celebrations (known as 'mafficking') took place throughout England and Colonel Robert Baden-Powell was known as "The Hero of Mafeking". His successful Army career continued, becoming Inspector General of Cavalry in 1903, then Major General and finally Lieutenant General before retiring from the Army in 1910.

[The events of the Siege and Baden-Powell's part in them make fascinating reading. The role of The Mafeking Cadets whom Baden-Powell said were the "The First Boy Scouts" in Camp Fire Yarn No. 1. in the first edition of Scouting for Boys published in 1908 is well documented in these pages. Other aspects of the Siege are covered in my books The Mafeking Siege Slips and Mafeking Artillery and also The Mafeking Siege Register which contains the 'doings' of some 1800 of the besieged.]

Then-new technology brought Baden-Powell unprecedented fame. The London newspapers had ensured that their correspondents were in Mafeking before it was besieged. Local Baralong runners, often at the cost of their own lives, took the journalist's copy through the enemy lines at night to the nearest telegraph office not captured by the Boers. The British public waited eagerly to learn the fate of this very much outnumbered and out-gunned corner of the British Empire. What they read about its resourceful, if laconic, Colonel exhibiting 'the best of British pluck', filled them with pride. Before this, there had only been failures and reverses to report. Newspaper readers could identify with what was happening; clearly, as the Siege went on, it was going to be a race to the finish with hunger and disease the winner even if the Boers were not, unless the Relief Column were to arrive in time.

The British public and the Boers knew the Relief Column was on its way. The Boers made a final onslaught just before its arrival, which was repulsed with many of the enemy captured. When the news reached England that Mafeking had at last been relieved, the country went wild. The verb 'to maffick' was coined to explain the unprecedented celebrations in every corner of the land, and nowhere less than at Charterhouse - the news reached the School late at night, resulting in rejoicing, high spirits and general pandemonium!

Dapper B-P

'THE Hero of Mafeking' was the most popular soldier of the day, if not the most popular figure of the time. It is not surprising then, that he should have been fêted by his Old School. They commissioned a painting of him by George Frederick Watts who, from all accounts, was lucky to get B-P in one place long enough to arrange a sitting. His mother, ever open to social advancement, had commissioned an hitherto unseen family coat of arms and the School were delighted to feature this on one of the stone archways on the northern wall of C Block. It is very impressive; alongside numerous lions there is a diagonal row of arrowheads. The term 'Arrowhead' is sometimes incorrectly applied to the Scouting fleur-de-lis.

The photograph on the right shows a very dapper B-P (right) with his old Headteacher, Dr Haig-Brown (centre), and the then current Headteacher; the Rev. Gerald Rendall (1897-1911). It was taken on B-P's triumphant return visit to Charterhouse in 1901 after his success in Mafeking.

Dr. Haig-Brown was something of a character and a revolutionary educator in his day. B-P tells many affectionate stories about him. The most revealing I think recalls Haig-Brown enabling his charges to 'get one over' on some butcher's boys from the neighbouring Smithfield Market, in a bit of skirmish between 'town and gown', by using his key to open a gate, resulting in the street lads being outmanoeuvred. Sadly, Dr Haig-Brown did not live long enough to see his former pupil's greatest achievement - the founding of the Boy Scout movement.


Frederick KW Girdlestone, B-P's old Housemaster, was instrumental in organising a dinner for B-P which he attended on 25th September 1901 at the Cecil Hotel, London, "the latest date possible before he (B-P) sails again for South Africa. ". The dinner was given to B-P by Old Carthusians by those from the school that like him had served the nation in recent hostilities either "in the South African, China or Ashanti Wars" however non military Carthusian's could be included if they were prepared to buy a Host's Ticket at Fifty Shillings that paid for not only their own seat but for one of the qualifying military guests. The Dinner was 'chaired' by The Lord Chief Justice of England who was no doubt a fellow Old Carthusian.

BADEN-POWELL returned to Charterhouse to unveil a memorial in a new extension to the 35 ex-pupils who died in the hostilities. This seems to be an amazingly high figure for school with less than 400 pupils at the time. W Francis Aitken, in a contemporary biography of Baden-Powell, claims that there were 226 Old Carthusians at the front in South Africa. If we assume that they would have been officers, the Carthusians account for just over 3% of all officer fatalities, and these were only the ones that died; there must have been other survivors besides B-P! Although a major conflict, the Boer War was not a World War. The British Army also had many regiments, presumably including some Carthusians, committed elsewhere.

Amongst those fallen early in the Siege on October 31st, 1899, was a Captain Douglas H Marsham, whom a Mafeking diarist notes was 'beloved of all'. Though Captain Marsham was not a contemporary of B-P, he must have been the only other ex-pupil from the School in the besieged town, as B-P advertised in the 'Mail Slip' for other "Old Carthusians with whom to celebrate the School's 'Founder's Day'". He was moved to write to his mother that, of the 1,000 or so Europeans in the place, not one had responded to his advertisement. Later in his life, in 1923, Baden-Powell was made the President of the Old Carthusian Club and steward of the Founders' Day Dinner.

The extraordinary number of ex-pupils involved in the Boer War bear testimony to the rôle that the School has always traditionally played in providing 'officer material' to the armed forces. The memorial lists the major sieges and battles with no special prominence given to that of Mafeking. Interestingly, the device at the top of the memorial is of St. George and the Dragon and was often used by Baden-Powell to symbolise the rôle he hoped that Scouts might play in overcoming evil and in helping the weak.

Campfire BADEN-POWELL'S son and his nephew both attended Charterhouse, and claimed to have found the place where B-P 'sloped off' to snare rabbits and cook meals - successfully evading the Masters who came to look for him. B-P verified this on a visit, though some doubt has been shed on the exact location of the copse. B-P said that it was off to the right and downhill from the football pitch.

Peter, B-P's son, was not a natural scholar and was at Charterhouse for only two and a half years, between 1927 and 1930, as he repeatedly failed to gain his School Examination Certificate. This was naturally a disappointment to B-P, but retrospectively his wife Olave realised that Charterhouse was not best suited to the boy. (The life and times of Peter will be more fully covered in a future Milestone - Nature or Nurture.)

Whilst in his first year at the School, Peter was able to play his father in the 'Masque' performed every four years. Against a tableaux of Mafeking and Boy Scouts pushing their trek cart, the orator intoned:-

Now the old heroes of a former day
Have struck their shadowy tents and stol'n away
The voice is still, and hushed their music's strains
The legend of the living man remains;
Who youthful yet at three score years and ten,
To manly service trains the sons of men.
In our copse he learnt his tracker's art
Wherewith to unlock the door of boyhood's heart.
Called the world's youth to adventurous brotherhood,
And generous efforts for the common good.
Now young and old alike his work proclaim,
And bless our School for Baden-Powell's name.

Chapel window

IN 1927, the School opened its new cathedral-sized chapel, which was, amazingly, built by Charterhouse's own ground staff to a design by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott (1880-1960), who was also responsible for the then-new Anglican Cathedral in Liverpool. As parents, B-P and his family had been invited to attend the consecration. His judgement was succinct - "It would make a good airship hangar". Coincidentally (and there were many coincidences in B-P's life!), one of the young men singing in the choir that day, John King, was later to marry Heather Baden-Powell, who could not have realised as she sat in the congregation that her future husband had, like her father, played in goal for the First XI.

Like John King, B-P also sang in the school choir, though not of course in this chapel. In 1913 a group of Scouts visited Charterhouse, B-P could not be there, but wrote them a letter. In it, he remembered with affection that his place in the old chapel had been just in front of Thomas Sutton's tomb. His time at the school, he wrote, was the best three years of his life.

In the image opposite of a window in the new chapel, you may be able to discern the knight kneeling with his sword before an altar. B-P often used this device as pictorial illustration, sometimes in association with the 'Knight's Vigil', part of a Rover Scout's initiation.

Artillery piece

TODAY, in the Charterhouse School Museum, is a Field Artillery Piece donated by B-P. Dr. Rendall (Headmaster 1897-1911) wrote to his former pupil asking if it might be possible to obtain a piece of ordnance from Mafeking and B-P replied saying he would see what could be done. When the gun arrived at the School, and until quite recent times, it was thought to have been used in the Defence of Mafeking, but in fact it was one of the artillery pieces brought into the town by the Relief Columns which as previously stated included another Old Carthusian, B-P's brother Baden Baden-Powell.

The gun has recently been painted in a drab sand colour by the Beverley Army Museum and is, presumably, correct, although it does not look it! The plaque states that it is a Nine-pounder, but Nine-pounders were not used by the Army in the Boer War and, according to the curator of the Mafeking Museum, who has visited the school. it is a 3" Seven-pounder made in 1873 and was used in several of the Boer War campaigns - the last being the relief of Mafeking. The correct details of the gun's association with the Relief of Mafeking rather than its defence and therefore its association with Baden Baden-Powell are not mentioned. Interestingly never I have never found any mention in B-P's diary of his brother's attendance at Old Carthusian Dinners, so perhaps like B-P's son, his brother had less than pleasant memories of the school?

Reflections on Scouting at Charterhouse

NOT surprisingly, the School had a Scout Troop. In the author's possession is an undated grey manilla covered booklet, very much in the style of a 1960's school exercise book. It is adorned by a very plain Fleur-de-Lys with a line underneath for a name and the addition of a patrol in the Charterhouse Troop, the words Charterhouse Troop being printed on the cover. The A5 booklet has 14 pages of basic information- much of which could have been obtained from a more normal Scout Membership Card. The national flags comprising the Union Flag are illustrated in colour. On the second page after The Scout Law is a statement as to "What Scouting Is" which begins "Scouting is the art of looking after yourself and looking after other people.". This maybe succinct, but I doubt The Founder would have put these sentiments in the same order- Looking after yourself is I acknowledge an important part of Scouting but it does not appear in the Law or the Promise which are the key to What Scouting is. "e Scouting at Charterhouse
Because we are a School Troop, scouting(sic) at Charterhouse has some difficulties to face. We have few troop meetings, and they are short, so that they are little more than practices. But there are a great many "unoffical" activities that the Scouts do, and if you keep an eye on the notice-board your will find plenty of things going on. Whether you are to become a good Scout or not depends entirely on how much you yourself are going to do abot it. Luckily Charterhouse is so situated that you need not go very far to find good Scouting country "

The Notice Board at the time of my visit had a notice for Venture Scouts (A current section of the UK Scout Movement at that time, since replaced by Explorer Scouts). Traditionally, Charterhouse devoted one afternoon a week to service to the community both in the school and out. The Combined Cadet Force and the Scouts formed part of this programme but as there is no mention of Scouting in the current school on-line Prospectus I am assuming that the difficulties referred to the paragraph quoted above proved to be just too great. The Prospectus does however mention 'Outward Bound', Duke of Edinburgh's Award, and Expeditions to foreign countries, activities that are all to be found within the Explorer Scout programme.

Charterhouse may be proud of former pupils, but none are mentioned in the 'history' pages of the current prospectus. I gained the impression when I visited the school, that in a very English way, that it is very careful not to unduly promote B-P's achievements. That might just be seen to diminish the accomplishments of other Old Carthusians, who include many of the great and good in present and past times. Charterhouse, like most schools, can have a great effect on its pupils. B-P himself was always ready to acknowledge the formal and informal lessons that he learned there. However, no matter how famous in later life, the effect that any one pupil can have on their former school is a totally different matter. Regrettably, by the Centennial Year of Scouting 2007, Charterhouse no longer had any connection with Scouting.

Return to the "Milestones" introduction.
Colin 'Johnny' Walker hopes that you will sign the Visitors' Book, look at the Forum Page and welcomes your comments about this Site,
which is v 4.0 and was last updated in October, 2009.

This article, the text, the images (unless separately acknowledged) and the underlying coding are Copyright C R Walker©, 2000 - 2009