Nottingham Battalion History

Only five years after its founding in Glasgow, The Boys' Brigade came to Nottingham. The first Company was started at St. Andrew's Church in October 1888 through the efforts of the late John A. Dixon, J.P., a great Christian gentleman and sportsman.

In May 1892 it was decided to form a Battalion in the City and by the end of the first year 10 Companies, 42 Officers and 450 boys had been enrolled. By 1900 the number of Companies had doubled and there were 85 Officers and 1158 boys. Appropriately, the first Battalion President was John A. Dixon, J.P.

Another well-known name in the Battalion was R. H. Swain, J.P., founder of the 8th Nottingham Company in 1897 and later the 24th and 27th Companies. He was Captain of the 8th Company for thirty years, Battalion President for thirty-two years, Battalion Secretary and a member of the Brigade National Executive as well as being Sheriff of Nottingham. The Headquarters of the 8th Company, Swain Hall, was named in his memory but was demolished in 1984 to make way for development work by Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club and the Company is currently based in the new St. Giles' Church Hall in West Bridgford.

In 1907 the 2nd Nottingham Company was formed in connection with the Dakeyne Street Lads' Club in Sneinton by another great personality, Oliver W. Hind. His great service was perpetuated by the renaming of the Club as the "Oliver Hind Boys' Club". The Headquarters of the Company and Club was transferred to new purpose-built premises in 1970 but the Company no longer operates. Its familiar name of "Dako" is still used.

The 17th Nottingham Company also has its own purpose-built premises previously known as The Beeston Lads' Club and recently re-named The Pearson Centre for Young People and which was built by S. Hetley Pearson when he became Captain in 1909. Later he purchased eleven acres of land to be used as playing fields. He was killed in France in 1917. After almost 100 years, the Company is expected to soon move to new premises to make way for development.

The year 1932 saw the opening of the East Nottingham Boys' Club on Northampton Street in St. Ann's as Headquarters for the 20th Company, formed originally in 1919 at the Wesley Chapel, Broad Street. The financing of this Club was entirely due to the efforts of the founding Captain, Ralph Carr. Despite the redevelopment of the entire neighbourhood around the Club it is pleasing to note that it kept going until very recently. The premises are currently used for Battalion Headquarters and the Battalion Supply Shop.

The Battalion was visited by the Founder of The Boys' Brigade, Sir William A. Smith, on three occasions: at the Battalion Annual Demonstrations in 1903 and 1912 and again in 1913 during the Battalion 21st Celebrations when the old Colours were Trooped and new ones handed over by the Lady Mayoress of Nottingham.

At the Annual Demonstration in the Albert Hall in 1911, Lord Guthrie, the Brigade President was present. In the same year the Battalion took part in the Coronation Day Parade along with other organisations and afterwards were given a lunch at the Empress Skating Rink.

Nottingham Battalion has acted as host to Brigade Council on no fewer than six occasions, the first in 1906 and subsequently in 1920, 1947, 1957, 1972 and 1992 (our Centenary Year). In August 1983 we hosted the Brigade World Conference at Nottingham University. In 1927 the Battalion Church Parade Service at Wesley Chapel, Broad Street, was broadcast, the first time that such a Service had been heard on the radio in Nottingham. 1957 saw a major event in the history of the Battalion – as far back as 1903 there had been Annual Demonstrations and Displays in such venues as the Mechanics Hall, the Albert Hall and the old Hippodrome and Empire Theatres, but to coincide with the visit of Brigade Council in 1957 the Theatre Royal was booked for one week when the Battalion show "Nottingham Rock" was launched with considerable success. The Show has been staged at two year intervals since that time and now takes place at the George Street Theatre where it will be held from 27th to 30th October 2004.

In 1913 the Battalion was divided into three Districts – Northern, Eastern & Central and Southern, similar to the present day where we have Northern, Eastern and Southern.

At the beginning of the Second World War in 1939 the Battalion played its part, along with other boys' organisations, by maintaining a Boy Messenger Service under the City Air Raid Precautions Scheme. The following year a Squadron of the A.T.C. (No. 1059) was formed within the Battalion with seventy members.

When the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme was introduced it was soon realised that here was an opportunity to provide progressive activities and the Scheme was enthusiastically taken up by the Battalion in 1957. The first Awards to be gained by anyone in Nottinghamshire were gained by three members of the 20th Company and the number of Awards presented in the Battalion to date are 603 Bronze, 322 Silver and 164 Gold.

In 1958 a North Atlantic ship's lifeboat was acquired by the Battalion and suitably fitted out and named "Stedfast". It served to train in Seamanship on the River Trent until 2003 and the activity itself continues.

In 1992 the Battalion celebrated its Centenary included in which was the hosting of Brigade Council at Nottingham University and events at The Royal Concert Hall. Earlier that year the premises on Northampton Street had been gutted by an arson attack but under the leadership of Roy Wadd as President the Battalion rallied and the full celebrations went ahead.

H. A. Brown began his service for the Battalion in 1919 as the first full-time Secretary. Harold Spires joined us in 1955 and retired in March 1982 to be followed by John Irons as Field Officer/Battalion Secretary. John resigned in 2003 and we are currently seeking funding to appoint a Development Worker supported by a part-time Administrator.

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