HISTORY OF BE PREPARED – THE STORY OF SCOUTING AND GUIDING (AKA: THE LITTLE GEM)
On 24th June 1998, the Trust was registered by the Charity Commission to advance the education of the public in the history of the Scout Movement. The first Trustees were Keith Fenton, Samuel Lee, Michael Loomes, Ron Loomes, Celia Nuttall, Colin Ovenden and David Thornton. The Trust took over responsibility for the Baden-Powell and Scout History Collection. In 2000 the Trust achieved its objective of a Museum, dedicated to Scouting, at Waddecar Scout Activity Centre in Lancashire. It was funded by Michael Loomes with the help of a legacy left to him by his friend Dr John Frederick Wilkinson. This is the first purpose-built Scout Museum in the UK. It provided over 130 square metres of display and storage space. There are over 2,000 books and publications in the Library. The building was designed by Roy Fisher MBE BArch JP DL FRIBA FRTPI and built by Richard Palmer (Building) of Preston. The display cabinets were made by M & P Gildert of Penwortham. Known as the Little Gem the Museum was officially opened by the Chief Scout George Purdy CBE on 21st July 2001.
Colin Ovenden, one of the original Trustees, was awarded the MBE in 2002 for services to the community of Preston. Colin also established The Friends of Be Prepared – The Story of Scouting in 2002.
On 6th April 2003 Lieutenant Colonel Michael Glover of the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment unveiled a bronze memorial in memory of Stanley Boughey V.C., a former Scout from 1st Blackpool Scout Troop, and all other former Scouts who gave their lives for their Country.
The Trust lost its esteemed Founder Chairman Sammy Lee on 9th October 2003. Following his untimely death, the Trustees appointed David Thornton as Chairman and welcomed Audrey Forster MBE as a Trustee. With the sad death of Celia Nuttall on 6th January 2006 the Trustees invited Elizabeth Rothwell to become a Trustee.
On 8th July 2006 our splendid Honorary Architect, Roy Fisher MBE, officially opened the new John F Wilkinson Wing which presents the Story of Guiding. As the rest of the legacy, he left Michael Loomes met all the costs of the new building, the Trustees decided to name it in his honour. Wilkie was a most generous friend and splendid Scout. They invited Roy to officially open the extension to acknowledge his wonderful work. He most generously gave of his time and expertise for this project and many more throughout the Region for Scouts and Guides without making any charge. The Wing incorporates the Guide Storeroom named Patricia’s Store to acknowledge the large archive donated by Patricia Butterworth, the World Chief Guide’s Tame Artist and friend, to the Trust. The invited guests, including Wendy Graham, Chief Commissioner Girlguiding UK representing the Chief Guide, and many others, witnessed what Roy has achieved together with the builders, Palmer Building (North-West) Ltd and M & P Gildert of Penwortham who, again, made the excellent display cabinets.
Royal Mail North used our building for the launch of the Scout Centenary Stamps in 2007 and again in 2010 for the launch of the Guide Centenary Stamps. The large ‘stamps’ used for both events are now on permanent display in the Little Gem.
The Friends of Be Prepared – The Story of Guiding was introduced in 2010. On 27th October 2010, the Charity Commission approved our revised Objectives to read – To advance the education of the public in the history of the Scout and Guide Movements.
With Keith Jamieson’s leadership an Additional Storage Facility was added to the rear of the building in 2011. This additional storage was funded by a legacy from Patricia Butterworth’s estate, to the Trust, following her death on 30th December 2007. In 2012 the Chief Commissioner Wayne Bulpitt visited the Museum and in 2013 we welcomed the Chief Scout Bear Grylls together with the Hon. Michael Baden-Powell and his wife Joan who were visiting from Australia. In 2014 the Museum hosted James Braxton from BBC1’s Antiques Road Trip where a five minute contribution to the show was filmed.
Matt Hyde, Chief Executive of the Scout Association, visited in 2015 later followed by Graham Haddock, Chief Commissioner for Scotland. Michael Loomes funded, with the leadership of Keith Jamieson (who was appointed a Trustee on 29th October 2015), a third extension to improve the facilities of the Little Gem . With the great loss of another Founder Trustee, Ron Loomes, on 17th April 2016 the Trustees invited Patricia Brandwood, a member of Girlguiding UK, to be a Trustee on 22nd March 2017. The Trust suffered another great loss with the death of another Founder Trustee and Treasurer Colin Ovenden MBE on 28th May 2017. The Trustees invited Elaine McGougan, another member of Girlguiding UK, and Jack McGrath to be Trustees on 18th October 2017. At the same meeting, the Trustees approved the purchase of software and hardware to enable the Trust to document electronically all our artefacts and memorabilia. Trustees visited the Fusilier Museum in Bury to see ‘Modes Complete’ in operation and six key people were trained in the use of Modes in March 2018. In addition, steps are being taken to have the Museum officially accredited. Following the retirement of Audrey Forster MBE as a Trustee on 28th March 2019, Cheryl Sadler, also a member of Girlguiding UK, was appointed a Trustee on 16th October 2019 with Mike Glover being welcomed as a Trustee on 14th October 2020 following the resignation of one of the Founder Trustees, Keith Fenton.
In June 2022 Michael Loomes, the Founder and ‘guiding light’ of the Little Gem Museum, was honoured by the late Queen Elizabeth II, in her final Birthday Honours List with the award of the MBE (Member of the British Empire). Although Michael knew about the award he was unable to have it presented as he passed away (‘Gone Home’ in Scouting terminology) in September. His award can be seen in the Museum, displayed together with his Silver Wolf (The Scouts highest award for Exceptionally Good Service to Scouting) and his Paul Harris Award for his service and contribution to the Rotary Club. Since the death of Michael the Trust have appointed Colin Knightly and Peter Bird as Trustees.