Fosterdown or Pilgrim Fort: a London Mobilisation Centre
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Surrey County Council
Tandridge District Council
OV344344 (534422, 153341)
The nearest postcode is an aid to location, and does not necessarily reflect the actual address of the monument. Most scheduled monuments are not occupied buildings and have no postal address or postcode of their own. In rural and coastal areas, the nearest geocodable postal address may be several miles away.
Is there anyone out there who remembers the School Camp weeks at Pilgrim Fort, sleeping in tents?
I went in the 1950's from Portland Sec.Mod School, Oakley Road, South Norwood. Accompanying teachers were Mr Grigson & Mr Frizell.
We had fantastic fun, with a few more serious visits & activities throughout the week, ending with a huge camp fire on the Friday evening - roasting spuds & bangers around the fire. Which of you perishers knocked my banger of my stick into an untimely cremation ?
Do you remember the little Tuck Shop through the woods near View Point?
We returned on Saturday morning, as we had arrived, in a Croydon Council school bus.
Great fun!! Eric Green (left school in 1954)
Eric Green, 14 June 2012
Yes! I remember Pilgrim Fort Camp - we went in May 1967 from Benson Primary School Shirley, Croydon. We also had fantastic fun - even though it rained almost everyday so walks to quarries etc had to be cancelled and we spent a lot of time on craft studies inside and hanging around the hot pipes in the blanket drying room in the car park. There was a tarzan rope behind the tents which was another port of call apart from the view point and the tuck shop. And yes, we had the last night bonfire with sausages on sticks, baked potatoes, baked beans and marshmellows .....I even have my camp diary and our tent came first for tent inspection and I chose The Observer book of dogs as my first prize.....And we went on a walk to Chalden to the medieval church with the frieze of hell and deadly sins...
Penny O'Connor, 9 October 2012
Went to Ashburton School and we went to Pilgrims Fort about 1959.I lived in New Addington and thought Caterham was a million miles away.
We also went to Chaldon Church and I still have the postcard!
monika gadd, 6 July 2013
During the 1960s, my dad (Frederick Poole) taught at The Oval and West Thornton Primary Schools in Croydon and in summer - either June or July - was in charge of parties of kids camping at Pilgrim Fort for a week.
The dining hall cum classroom beside a main drive seemed incredibly basic as were most fascilities at the camp. I seem to recall the bath house within the former gun emplacements was... pretty grim.
I was invited out a few times. I liked Viewpoint - in those days the view was amazing, the hillside wasn't nearly so wooded then. Dad and one of his teacher colleagues used to sneak off to a pub down the road (The Harrow) in the evening now and then.
And the kitchen at the northern end of the dining hall was rather cramped and I remember being offered jam sandwiches or a bowl of cornflakes for my tea on one visit.
Today, the conditioons at the fort would be considered unhealthy and somewhat hazardous to say the least.
Steve Frederick Poole
Steve Frederick Poole, 22 August 2013
I remember Pilgrims Fort in 1973. I went to Woodside Junior School in Croydon, I remember for us it really was another world, very different from the streets we were used to. A beautiful natural space, with woodland and all the intrigue of the old military installations our imaginations went wild!...we used the old washing and drying rooms set into the hillside...and that zip-line!... Living in very basic canvas tents on concrete plinths. One night after supper we had a couple of musicians turn up with electric guitar and drum kit which was a first for all of us, as was our obligatory introduction to washing up for everyone!
My first encounter with clay was there too.(I later went on to study Ceramics at degree level!) We collected it from a site down the hill where they were leveling and clearing land for a very big road...it must have been the beginnings of the M25? We struggled lugging big clods of it back up the hill and made some pots which dried nicely in the sun, none of us could understand why we had to leave them there because they needed "firing"!
David Kelly, 20 January 2014
I remember going to Pilgrim's Fort in May or June 1962 with Oval Road School. I was very pleased to be there as, initially my name wasn't drawn for the visit and I replaced someone who dropped out. We were transported in the back of a box lorry, with the top back door being left open. I remember walking through the wild garlic in the woods to visit Bletchingley (before the M25 was built)to study the geography and buildings on the way. I also remember peeling mounds of potatoes and the washing up! The toilets and bath houses were very primitive but at least our teachers didn't make us strip off to paddle wash in the communal bath like the other school sharing with us were rumoured to do. I'm not sure how effective our washing was with our clothes on. The Tuck shop was the highlight of each day, as was sleeping under the canvas. I also remember waiting in the dining hall for relatives to visit on the Sunday afternoon and being heartily relieved when my brother eventually turned up on his bike.
Jean Mitchell, nee Scaife, 12 March 2014
I have fond memories of spending a week at Pilgrim Fort in (I think) June 1981. It was the final year of primary school (Purley Oaks) and my first time away from my family.
I hadn't wanted to go, and remember reluctantly getting on the mini bus clutching my pillow which I refused to do without, and the teachers struggling to manhandle in the enormous case my mum had packed for me.
The tents and camp beds were green and basic. Thick grey blankets. All army issue, I think, considering it was a fort. I loved climbing up the outer bank of the fort to look down on a courtyard around which were the toilets and washing rooms. Full of spiders and black cobwebs, dark and as I recall smelling heavily of Jeyes Fluid. There wasn't much washing done that week!
The dining hall churned out a truly heroic number of spam sandwiches, spam fritters and cocoa with skin on. Tuck was available at certain times. According to a postcard I sent my parents and recently rediscovered 'bedtime was 10pm and we could play after tea until 8pm!'
We walked down 'Chewing Gum Lane' on our ramble to Outwood Mill; Picking our way around craters formed in mud by horses hooves that had then set in a prolonged hot spell to a ceramic moonscape. From Outwood we walked into Godstone. I remember the ducks on the pond, and buying my mum a berry-scented votive from a dear little gift shop there.
We played cricket in a tiny clearing through the woods which had a sharp drop the other side of some bushes......as our teacher found out when he made a flying catch!
The final night had the traditional sing-song around a bonfire. Our teacher played the guitar while we sang with a lot more enthusiasm than accuracy.
When packing my case the next morning the tent fell on me. I chose to think it was hugging me goodbye, as although I hadn't wanted to come, I really didn't want to go home.
Tracey Pyke (nee Reeve), 17 June 2014
I now live at Pilgrims fort Caterham, and am fascinated by all your stories.
I live in what you would know as the mess hall, hasn't changed much from the outside, still has the double doors that you used to que outside to get your lunch, just a little different inside. About a month ago a little old lady appeared with her grown up son on my lawn ??? She was the dinner lady that worked here for about 20 years, and asked her son to take her back to where she used to work. "Very Sweet" . I doubt very much if any one of you are still paying much attention to this site any more, but if you are and fancy a bit of nostalgia, then I would love to meet you, and take you around possibly one of your oldest memory's
Woodland Carriage Company
Stephen Paice, 27 November 2014
I attended Portland Road infants school,south norwood,also Ashburton junior school.We went to pilgrims Fort,which did seem miles away.I went with Janet Wilson,Carol Savage,Mark Savage (carol's brother) Mark Streeter,Geraldine Barretto.My age now is 57.I don't remember much about it,other than the tents and sitting around a fire.I have a photo of it somewhere in the albums.
Susan Woolmore nee McDonald, 17 January 2015
I went to Pilgrims Fort in 1939 with Norbury Manor School. I don't remember much except that we did a lot of walking, drawing and examining wild flowers. My general impression is that it was a happy time.
I am writing up my memories and googled it to see where it is located.
Barbara Bond, 22 March 2015
I went to Pilgrim Fort in 1966 when I was at Whitehore Manor Junior School (I still have my camp diary 50 years later!). I also went there many times in the following years for weekend camps when I was in the 68th Croydon Scout troop. Always loved it there!
I remember there being two maps on the wall of the main mess hall - I wonder what happened to them?
Colin Vogt, 1 April 2015
My connection with Pilgrims Fort was via Scouting in Croydon. For some reason a mix of Rover Scouts and Ranger Guides set out from Selsdon to hike to Pilgrims Fort on the first Sunday of the new year. (I don't know which year but my first trek would have been about 1950/51.) It rained or snowed, whatever, but they reached their destination rather damp! Like drowned rats, in fact.
And so began an annual trip of the Drowned Rats. If you arrived dry, that didn't last for long because the new rats initiation rite involved getting really wet. Anyway, I became a Member of the Ancient and Honourable Order of Drowned Rats and still have the card to prove it.
My association ended by 1960 or thereabouts but the group on those first Sundays had increased to somewhere near 400, Rovers & Rangers coming from miles around.
At the end of every hike we all gathered in the main hall, having the use of kitchens, ablutions etc just for that day. After that the homeward journeys put heavy demands on the modest public transport systems available from Caterham late on a Sunday afternoon.
At one time I and a friend (the late Dr Brian Abbott) constituted a mobile First Aid capability on motor cycles, there were 6 separate parties that year and we thought we were waiting on Worms Heath for the last one, in fact they'd crossed the road before we got there. While they lunched in a nearby quarry Brian and I sat in the snow at the roadside to eat our sandwiches - somewhat to the amazement of the occupants of a Green Line coach that passed while we did so.
Karl W Smith, 4 May 2015
I think it must have been 1952 or 3 when we spent a week at the Fort. We were from Birchanger Road Primary school and from memory I think i was 10 and a half. I don't think we had any rain; each day we started with a good breakfast and I remember the porridge was the best I had ever tasted. We had this in the mess hall where I think we had these lessons on nature and history before setting off on our daily walk where we were supposed to find samples. I have a photo of me and my 4 compatriot's sitting on the 12" block of concrete that the tent was mounted on (if you want a copy to refresh your memories, email me as I cant attach it to this document)the beds where very rickety and just blankets, no sheets. I think we were allowed visitors on the Wednesday as I have a letter I sent to my parents asking them to come (in those days we had 3 deliveries a day and all on the same rate of postage)
And like you others the Friday evening ended with a large camp fire and sausages and baked potatoes. I am still in contact with at least two of those that we shared a tent with, now al in their early 70's. Oh happy days.
David V. Morrison.
David Morrison, 8 June 2015
I have such happy memories of many Pack Holidays spent at Pilgrim Fort in the 1980s with Brownies from North Cheam. 40 minutes from home by coach, the girls thought they were in the depths of the countryside. We used to take them for a walk to look at the M25! I spent many hours in the kitchen making them meals from scratch which after a day outside were enthusiastically eaten. It didn't matter about the weather because we had the use of the wonderful drying room. Girls who were suspected of not washing properly were threatened with the big concrete bath before they went home, never used. If we could keep them quiet enough they were treated to a close of view of all sorts of animals practically on our doorstep. Our last night camp fire was the highlight of the week, a treat usually reserved for Guides. I can't remember the Wardens' names but they were always so helpful to us. The shopkeepers of Caterham were very understanding when faced with 15 or so young girls desperate to spend their pocket money. Yes, it was very basic but that was all part of the fun. Does anyone remember the day when, having thrown Jack's magic beans out of the window at bedtime, in the morning (thanks to my late parents' nocturnal visit) they had grown into full sized bean plants? 30+ years on I am still Guiding, now on the Isle of Wight. I have just been to visit our Brownies at camp, even in these more sophisticated days they are having just as good a time as I remember we did.
Susan Horton, 18 August 2015
I stayed at Pilgrim Fort with the Brownies in 1963/64? I lived near South Norwood Lake and thought that the fort was waaaaay out in the country! We had a fabulous time there. I especially remember the tuck shop.....I have a photo on the wall of me in my Brownie uniform, with the woods in the background, proudly holding up a penny chew that I'd just bought! I remember charging about in the woods and the freedom we had there. Climbing a steep bank back up to the fort. The most startling thing for me was when, having moved to Purley, I crossed the level crossing at Whyteleafe and it triggered a memory of that journey to Pilgrim Fort some 30 years earlier! Although, with hindsight, that seems an odd route to take?
Carol Crawford, 25 September 2015
I have a vivid memory of going camping at Pilgrims fort. I went to Fieldway primary and we went camping there last year of primary school. I can just remember on the trip a lake and seeing dragonflies. I still try and look this lake up to this day, would love to know where it is. This would have been in the early eighties. I remember I thought caterham was miles from the real world. Funny I now live in Caterham.
Ally, 6 October 2015
I attended Beulah Junior School in Thornton Heath, and our 4th Year's would visit Pilgrim Fort every year. My sister Kate went in 1963, and I went in 1965.
I had a lovely time there, although it did seem to rain a lot. It was the first time I slept under canvas on a camp bed. Our families visited on the Sunday, and we all had great fun explaining to them what we had been up to. We walked into Godstone to visit a local primary school, we walked into Catering Town, and also went to Bletchingly.
One of the things that we had to do was to name our tent and make a banner. We called ours 'The Squirrels Nest' and we embroidered a squirrel and the word on a pink pennant.
For children that lived in towns and hadn't really seen much in the way of wildlife, it was an amazing experience. One that I have never forgotten.
Pauline Elgar (now Hurrell), 7 February 2016
I remember having a wonderful time at Pilgrims Fort. There's even a song that comes to mind. Although I went to Rockmount Primary in Norwood, I seem to think the trip was related to my time in the Brownies in Norwood, rather than to do with school.I guess I went in 1975 maybe early 1976. It came to mind recently when a family member went on a school trip to Windmill Hill which is also a residential children's activities holiday centre
Sue Adams, 17 June 2016
I spent the week 30th April - 7th May, 1966 there with Ashburton Junior School. Although I'm now 61 the memories are still very strong. In fact I still consider it the best week of my life (sad, I know). Who could forget the tents on concrete, the washhouse where no-one ever washed from neck to thighs I don't think, the dining room/hall, the potato-peeling roster, the bluebells in the woods, or the chalk slide nearby. What a pity we can't take the world back those 50 years; it was a much better place. Anyway, it's great that this website exists for people to reminisce. Thanks to all who have contributed.
Chris Andrews, 8 July 2016
I fondly recall a week at Pilgrim's Fort with a group from Elmwood School, Broad Green, Croydon. It must have been about 1954. Most memorable are the concrete bases for the tents and the excellent bread pudding.
Gordon, 13 September 2016
I stayed at Pilgrim Fort during the whitsun holiday of 1962 when I was at Sydenham School, West Croydon. This was a few weeks before end of term and I would start at Lanfranc Secondary Modern Boys in Micham Road next term.
The week at the camp was shared with Elmwood Boys school.
Mr Dartnell was my teacher and Mr Harris was the Elmwood boys teacher who we new as he previously taught at Sydenham.
Sleeping under canvass was a real treat especially with the concrete base.
Cold water washes was the norm at that time - not that much different from being at home!
Field trips to Bletchingly and Outwood on glorious sunny days provided plenty of walking which everyone did all the time back in the 60's. There was also the walk to Chaldon Church and its famous mural.
The mornings always started with a run around the top of view point before breakfast.
Treasure hunt was a favourite activity. The teachers spent weeks before the trip painting stones and pebbles red and yellow, then during the week hiding them in the surrounding woods.
We'd then have to find as many as we could. What we didn't know at the time was there was a monetary value to the number collected. I got 2/6pence!
The trip to the tuck shop was also the daily highlight.
Spud bashing was a chore though!
Campfire and sausages on sticks Friday night heralded the end of the trip.
I actually cycled pass the old fort last week on a MTB and its that that made me google and find this sight.
Paul Martin, 27 October 2016
After watching a programme about the Pilgrim's Way by Tony Robinson it reminded me of Pilgrim's Fort camp . I attended the camp in May 1961 with Mr Rush and yes I do remember the tents on concrete slabs and the beds were ,I would think ,ex-army stretchers and probably x army blankets but very warm and an adventure ! Apple pie beds were the order of the day and with abundant garlic growing in the woods lots of people found their beds full of garlic! I to remember spud bashing in the cold water and cold water washing that goes along with the ice on the inside of the windows at home during the winter we all got used to that. Bonfires bangers and baked potatoes I can almost smell them now full stop I can remember a trip to Chaldon church and I still have the postcard of the wall etchings to this day. Whilst we were having our various hikes there was a competition to collect as many leaves and flowers etc for a nature collection luckily this I won and I was presented with an Observer book but not on flowers but for railway locomotives which I was much more interested in as an 11 year old ! I'm now retired in Bristol but one day I shall pop backup and revisit the Old site happy memories
chris Santry, 26 November 2016
I am fascinated by the War Department boundary markers that seem to surround the site. They are generally concrete square boundary markers with WD the arrow a date(normally 1912) and a number.
I assume that this means MoD land but for what.
John Lowrie, 29 December 2016
I went Pilgrims Fort in Spring 1974, I was at Woodside Juniors. I had a fab time, I remember the camp beds were on concrete bases and we had to build a camp fire n make tea, food was good. Best school trip ever.
Sharon Evans, 17 March 2017
Went to Pilgrim Fort from Woodside Junior School about summer 1967. Brilliant trip. Slept in tents on concrete bases. Our tent won a cup for being the tidiest. When i got home, found Mum and Dad had got our first colour tv! Fantastic memories.
Mary Coxon, 27 May 2017
Our school, St Marks in South Norwood, went to Pilgrim Fort in 1952 for a week. Fantastic for us so deprived of any of this sort of adventure. We shared it with Howard School I think. We played daily football matches against them before evening dinner. We walked everyday to places of interest, and on Sunday walked to Godstone Church. We had to spot and idetify wild flowers and compelte all sorts of thing.
Years later, about 61 or so, I returned for camps with the YMCA Inters of Croydon. We had a lot of fun up there - particularly remember the firewoks "fight" shooting them at eeach other on Guy Fawkes night once. I fell over the dge one night in the dark - no fences - was so winded I thought I was going to die. Couldn't breathe for ages but otherwise seemed unhurt! When I looked next day, I had been so lucky landing on a the only bit of soft ground around. I told mates, but they didn't believe me I think. So long ago in a much simpler world.
John Symonds, 2 July 2017
Beware! the headless horse man never sleeps...
Foster, 8 August 2017
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