Girl Guiding in Bury St Edmunds has been giving girls and young women (and young at heart women!) incredible opportunities for over 100 years.
The 1st Bury St Edmunds Company of Guides was formed in 1911 under the direction of Captain Miss Mary Hunter and Lieutenant Miss Sibyl Oliver. Their aim was to provide girls with “healthy drill and exercise…instruction in elementary ambulance work… [and to] exercise their powers of observation.” Guiding was also supposed to help “inculcate a spirit of unselfishness and obedience”…Not sure how that last element would go down today!!
1st Bury Guide Company began with 16 girls who met at Langton House School in Hatter Street on Saturday mornings. They learned a range of new skills including indoor and outdoor cooking, gardening, first aid, map-reading, and signalling. They also joined the local Boy Scouts for church services, camps, and hikes.
Guiding in Bury came into its own during the First World War, when patriotic feeling ran high and everyone wanted to do their bit for their country. 1st Bury Guides contributed a huge amount of effort and free time during this period by acting as messengers for the V.A.D (Voluntary Aid Detachment) field hospital, gardening at the West Suffolk General hospital, and making clothes and gifts for soldiers and sailors.
They also started an initiative to sell and recycle old newspapers, magazines, and booklets to raise money for the National Relief Fund. The whole town joined in to support their project and it was so successful that they received a letter of thanks from the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VIII. Bury Guides and Brownies got to see royalty when they assembled for the Queen in the Abbey Gardens during her visit to the town in 1961.
From the 1940s, Guiding in Bury grew to encompass 6 Guide companies, Brownie packs, and Land Rangers. The girls continued their community service by helping at nursing homes and orphanages, and doing odd jobs for people in need throughout the town (including baby-minding for their Childcare badge!) They also had plenty of time for fun with parties, competitions, gang shows, and trips to places from the Lake District to Luxembourg.
Today, GirlguidingUK is the country’s leading charity for girls and young women, and it’s still going strong in Bury St Edmunds. 3 Rainbow groups, 6 Brownie Packs, 4 Guide units, and a Ranger group are full of girls having fun and gaining important life skills through activities including traditional camps, radio station takeovers, and pop concerts! Although the Childcare badge has now gone, service to others is still central to Guiding and groups in Bury have raised hundreds of pounds for local charities.
All of these brilliant activities happen thanks to an enthusiastic bunch of volunteer Leaders, Young Leaders, and helpers who run weekly meetings across the town for girls of all ages and abilities.
If you are interested in getting involved with Guiding in Bury, as a young member or volunteer, please visit: www.girlguiding.org.uk/get-involved/