Records of the Forest School Camps

Scope and Content

This catalogue comprises the administrative, financial and committee papers and photographs of the Forest School Camps including minutes of Council meetings, 1953-1989; papers of various committees, 1950-2003; constitution papers and annual reports, 1965-1996, various publications (including New Horizon School Camps, 1962-1977; Newsletter, 1954-1976; Pine Cone New Series, 1986 and 1997-2003; Org 4, 1997-2003; Magazine, 1964-1986; and, the Annual Programme, 1948-2001); camp logs, reports and diaries, 1935-1996; photographs, 1962-1975; interview tapes, 1997; interview transcripts, 1997; 'Our Story' and related papers, 1998-2001; songbooks and dance manuals, 1970s; catering and recipes, 1965-1985; and, guidelines for staff and camp chiefs, 1955-1986.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Forest School Camps were formed in the tradition of the original Forest School which dated from 1929 until World War Two. Ernest Westlake, co-founder of the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry, has purchased a site on which to build a Quaker-influence Forest School in Godshill, Hampshire. When he died before he could realise his plans, his son, Aubrey, set up the school, though his first attempt at running the school in 1929 was disastrous as all four of the pupils contracted scarlet fever and the school was forced to close! A year later Aubrey appointed Cuthbert Rutter as Headmaster and the school re-opened.

The Forest School was a progressive school in which children went on summer holiday camping hikes and learnt about survival skills and the environment. In due course the school moved to Whitwell Hall, Norfolk, in 1938 but the Hall was requisitioned by the military in 1940 and, despite attempts, was never reopened.

The talks about reopening the school led to a reunion camp at the Hall, organised by Arthur Cobb and run by John Glaister. This camp had around 30 children and proved to be such a success that further camps were organised in 1948 and 1949. The ensuing two-week camps had 'lodges' accommodating 60 children between the ages of 6.5 and 17. Although sleeping arrangements and activities were age appropriate, eating, the morning rally and evening entertainments were done as a single unit. Children learned many skills including cooking, and woodwork, and, were taught "…to know the world, to submit to the world and to change the world" (Cobb, c1953). The attainment of independence was the most important achievement. Over time the Forest School Camps became a Registered Charity and a Company Limited by Guarantee whose purpose is the promotion of holidays and outdoor activities for children and young people.

Forest School, and the subsequent camps, were directly based on the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry, established after World War One. Woodcraft aimed to "…create a Forest School where children might have a continuous education in natural surroundings", and, Forest School emulated this. Furthermore, at Forest School the children were organised into the same Woodcraft age-groups, referred to as "Elves, Woodlings, Trackers and Pathfinders" and subjected to Woodcraft tests and trials.

Forest School was also heavily influenced by progressive education. At the Forest School each child was treated individually and adults were there to supervise or provide guidance, rather than as authoritative figures. It operated "very much as a large family", in which "…the children were guided by the group feeling of the school as a whole" (Hedger, 1963), and was organised by typically progressive "democratic form of government" (Hedger, 1963). Later, the same ethos was applied to the camps.

The organisation gained huge strength in the 1950s when a number of left-wing people joined the staff and many teachers were also recruited. The basis of the camps is still the standing camps or lodges where children are taught camping and woodcraft skills but there are also a number of adventure-style camps involving canoeing, pot holing and camping abroad.

FSC was an unincorporated body until 1967 when it became a Company limited by guarantee and a Charity. In 1997 there were 34 camps advertised in the programme and over 1200 places for children and today the camps continue to be run entirely by volunteers.


Material held on digital storage media have been removed from the body of the collection and placed in the Digital Physical Media Storage Area (Jessica Womack, March 2014)

Access Information


Open, subject to signature of Reader Application Form. Some personal material may be closed.

Conditions Governing Use

A reader wishing to publish any quotation of information, including pictorial, derived from any archive material must apply in writing for prior permission from the Archivist or other appropriate person(s) as indicated by the Archivist. A limited number of photocopies may be supplied at the discretion of the Archivist.

Custodial History

The Archive was initially deposited at the Modern Records Centre at Warwick University in 1977 as MS 156. A further deposit was made by a private individual in 2002. In January 2005 the Archive was transferred to the Institute of Education, where a further deposit was made in April 2005.

Related Material

The Order of Woodcraft Chivalry Archive, Trent University Archives <>


With special thanks to Marcos Guillen and Flow (Alex) Stone for all their help with information about the history of the Organisation. Publications used to write the administrative history:Jaffe, Lucy (Ed). 'Our Story: 50 Years Under Canvas with Forest School Camps'. (1998).'How to Run Woodcraft Chivalry', The Woodcraft Way Series: No 6. The British Order of Woodcraft Chivalry in the British Isles (London), 1922. Brand, 'N'. 'Early Days in the Forest School'. (Feb 1986).Hedger, Rupert. 'The Development of Forest School and the Forest School Camps'. (1963).