The Campbell Room: Self catering accommodation for groups in Somerset's Quantock Hills

The Campbell Room Story

The Campbell Room has been providing self-catering group accommodation on the Quantock Hills since 1981. Prior to that it used to be the meeting place of the local Woman’s Institute, though it had been standing empty for some years before it’s conversion to residential use.

In 1975, the local Youth Officer advertised the redundant building as possibly suitable for a youth group. The advert was spotted by Derek Briggs who, at the time, was Head of the nearby Greatwood Camp residential centre, and who was also ex-Assistant District Commissioner (Activities) and the new District Commissioner for the Sedgemoor District Scouts. He was thoroughly convinced of the social and adventure values – especially to young people – that were possible through the exploration from a residential centre of the varied Quantock Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Fortunately, many of his Scouting colleagues of the time, together with his wife, Pat Briggs, who was also District Commissioner for the local Guides, shared the enthusiasm.

Conversion for residential use

A joint Scout and Guide management team was soon formed to develop the vision and realise the potential of the building. The team had two objectives. First to provide good basic accommodation at an affordable cost for supervised groups of young people. Second, to be financially self-supporting and to plough back any surplus income into improving the accommodation. Both aims were achieved.

The building was initially a shell, a fact recognised by the local Trustees of the building in its lease for, initially, just £10 a year! The only heating was from a cast-iron coal stove with a stovepipe chimney, the kitchen had a large empty storage cupboard, a small stove and shallow stone sink with a cold water tap. There were also two small cloakrooms with a chemical toilet in each. The door of one bore the legend 'Yer Tis' – that door is deliberately preserved as the present drying room door.

Before it could open, much fundraising and physical effort was required. Self-help was essential, aided by the Scout and Guide units in the district, along with partners, family, friends and skilled acquaintances. All the work necessary to repair and convert the building, including the creation of the first essentials – a toilet-block and updated kitchen – was carried out by these volunteers over the course of many weekends. Publicity and fund-raising events were many and varied, and spanned several years before and after the eventual opening. They included a Youth Tattoo on Bridgwater's Fair Field, public Fun Days at Bridgwater YMCA, sponsored walks, silences and discos, as well as coach trips and train excursions.

Opening and subsequent development

Finally, six years after the initial advert, the Campbell Room welcomed its first Brownie Guide and Cub Scout residents in summer 1981. It opened officially in May 1982 after the installation of gas  heating.

Since opening, facilities have much improved, though not always at the speed hoped for due to budgetary constraints. Time-consuming but successful grant applications have also helped to re-roof the building, add 2 extra showers and build the multi-purpose Briggs Cabin, which opened in 2010 to allow more flexibility of use.

The Briggs Cabin was named in 2016 in recognition of the fundamental role provided by Derek Briggs in inspiring and leading the conversion of the Campbell Room for residential use, and his ongoing active involvement through until his death in 2015, together with the contributions of Pat Briggs and the other members of the family.

Transfer to the YMCA

During 2013 it was recognised that new, younger people were needed to refresh Sedgemoor District Scout’s management committee if the Campbell Room was to continue. This eventually resulted in a public appeal for volunteers, aided by the local press, which resulted in several welcome offers of help, including from YMCA’s local Somerset Coast Group.

As a result the subsequent discussions, the Scouts decided that the best way to secure the Campbell Room’s long term future was to transfer its management to the YMCA. The YMCA subsequently took over from the Scouts on 1st July 2014. Several of the Scouts’ committee members transferred to the YMCA’s management committee, helping to ensure continuity.

The YMCA have a very similar ethos to the Scouts, and under their management the Campbell Room continues to welcome a similarly wide range of organised groups, as well as being used by the YMCA.

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© 2008-2019 The Campbell Room Management Committee.
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The Campbell Room is operated by YMCA Somerset Coast Group
Registered Company 3746771;  Registered Charity 1076434;  Registered Social Landlord H4245


 The Campbell Room: Self catering accommodation for groups in Somerset’s Quantock Hills.

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