History of Gradbach

The story so far...

1. The Gradbach story started when Mr W Percival Williams, the late President of the Buxton Scout Association died in 1949 and left a legacy to form a nucleus of a fund for the provision of a memorial to Peter Watson.

Peter was a local Scout and an active member of the 1st Buxton Scout Group. At the age of twelve Peter contracted a terminal illness that lead to many months of pain and suffering. Despite the illness Peter showed great cheerfulness and courage, and up to the time of his death shortly before his 13th Birthday, carried on with lessons and continued to study Scouting as he lay in bed.

Peter was posthumously awarded, by the Chief Scout, The Cornwell Badge which is the Scout's Victoria Cross, 'For pre-eminently high character and devotion to duty; his great courage and endurance of pain and suffering through a long and severe illness'. A picture and tribute to Peter Watson can be seen on display in the Camp Providore.


The Camp Chapel at Gradbach Scout Camp


2. The local Scout Committee decided that a camp site and training ground would be the ideal memorial. They looked for a suitable site and ultimately found that the Harpur and Crewe North Staffordshire Estate was being sold in lots by auction. Members of the Committee and some Scouters decided that the Gradbach Old Hall Farm and land of 23 acres together with a plantation of 25 acres would be ideal. Enquiries were made and it was decided that about 800 would be required to purchase the lot if there were no other bidders. Fortunately there were no other bidders and Gradbach became the property of the Buxton Scouts for 800.

Mr Williams bequeathed 90, large firms, local tradesmen and private individuals were circularised and subscriptions and gifts were generously donated. The Mayor of Buxton, Councillor H.Hartley offered the proceeds of The Mayoral Ball to the local scouts. This was followed by the Mayor's personal appeal and over 200 was raised before he left office.

At this time the farmhouse was lived in by an elderly farmer, Mr Downs and his wife, so the scouts and many helpers began to recondition completely the old barn which for many years had been used as a cowshed and general storage place for junk, and was in a terrible state of repair.



3. The barn had been thoroughly cleaned out and reconstruction work started, when in November 1952, the roof was blown off in a whirlwind, ruining months of hard work. To save the building it was decided to have it be re-roofed by a Buxton builder who was engaged to do the work. In Spring of 1953 the work started again and a kitchen range installed by one of the scouters, a gift from the contractor who repaired the roof. One of the scouters built a stone fireplace in the other downstairs room and a lay member put in a floor for an upstairs room. A sink was installed and many other jobs such as fitting new windows, gutters, pathways etc were completed and slowly a dirty, derelict place assumed a different appearance.

Whilst all this was being done the boys made a camp fire arena, erected a flag pole and cleared camp sites and shifted hundreds of barrow loads of rubbish which was dumped in holes and buried.

In May 1954 the site was officially opened by the Duke of Devonshire who fittingly handed a key of the barn to Peter Watson's mother.