‘Big Birthday’ celebrations afoot for Woodford Brownie units as organisation marks its centenary

PUBLISHED: 09:49 31 March 2014 | UPDATED: 09:49 31 March 2014

The 1st Woodford Brownies with their leaders at St Mary's Church, South Woodford

The 1st Woodford Brownies with their leaders at St Mary's Church, South Woodford


The passage of 100 years sees vast societal changes, and few periods in history have been as fraught as the twentieth century.

The 1st Woodford Brownies play detectivesThe 1st Woodford Brownies play detectives

But one girls’ movement, founded in the same year as Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination triggered the First World War, has adapted to meet new challenges over the decades and is now marking its centenary. The Brownies, the younger sisters to the Girl Guides, have been getting into the birthday spirit – including some of Redbridge’s very own.

Clare Reeves, 31, the district commissioner for Woodford South and leader of the 19th Woodford Brownies, said: “The Brownies are very excited to be Brownies at such an important time. They can’t believe “they” are 100 years old!

“They have enjoyed talking about parents and grandparents who have been 
involved in girlguiding and some have brought in badges and pictures to share with us. We always try and teach the girls about the traditions of girlguiding and this has been the perfect background to what we’re showing and telling them about.”

The Brownies were founded in 1914 by Lord Robert Baden-Powell as the Rosebuds, changing their name a year later. The Girl Guides had previously been formed in 1910 after a number of girls turned up at a Boy Scout rally to plead with Lord Baden-Powell to provide something for them.

Lady Olave Baden-Powell, 82, autographing a copy of her biography at Hodder and Stoughton's in London to mark its publication [Picture: PA]Lady Olave Baden-Powell, 82, autographing a copy of her biography at Hodder and Stoughton's in London to mark its publication [Picture: PA]

The Woodford South district has a Guide unit which was created in October 1914 and its three active Brownie units have been going 
“almost as long”.

Clare and the other leaders have a variety of events planned to celebrate the centenary, with each unit taking part in a “Stay Away” overnight trip.

The 9th Woodford Brownies, who meet at St Mary’s Church, High Road, South Woodford, with the 1st Woodford Brownies, are heading off to an Isle of Wight activity centre.

The 19th, who meet at the Woodford Methodist Church, Derby Road, South Woodford, are having a “time 
machine” themed break and the 1st and the 9th are also having an evening of fireworks, a cookout and a sleepover.

The 1st Woodford Brownies play teapotThe 1st Woodford Brownies play teapot

Clare said: “Residentials are definitely the highlights for our girls, we always try and do something different but in familiar settings.”


The girls are due to attend a county “Star Quest” event, which will see them participate in challenges centred on the past, present and future.

They are also completing a special challenge badge to learn new skills and celebrate the Big Birthday.

For Clare, who has been the leader of the 19th Brownies for eight years and district commissioner for nearly one year, the attractions this year will only add to the passion she already has for girlguiding.

“I was a Brownie myself and I always knew I’d be Brown Owl one day! Girlguiding is my life; it’s taught me so much about myself, how to bring the best out of girls and young women and how to enable girls to do so safely.

“It’s made me incredibly creative and resourceful and my team and I love coming up with unusual things – it doesn’t have to be big, bold, expensive, dangerous or far away to have the wow factor.”

And what is the appeal for members?

“Brownies is the best 
organisation for girls,” said Clare. “It is one of the only uniformed organisations and one of the only girl-only spaces for girls to be themselves, have a say in what we do and constantly learn and discover things that they would never normally get the chance to.”

For information on Brownie units or volunteering 

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