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Olave House

olave house the early years
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olave house the early years


If you've discovered the history page, you probably know that there is a WAGGGS world centre in London. You may even know that it's called Pax Lodge. But do you know how Pax Lodge came to be? Let's step back in time for a moment to July 1937.


The Beginning

Mrs Mark KerrsFive years after the first World Centre, Our Chalet in Switzerland, welcomed its first guests, Mrs. Mark Kerr's idea of a World Centre was discussed at a dinner meeting of the World Committee in Scotland. There had been requests from many Guides for a place they could stay while visiting London. As the World Bureau was in need of more space at the time, it was agreed that a centre be built to accommodate a Guide Hostel and the World Bureau together.

The new centre was named Our Ark. The name was chosen because the ark is a symbol of peace and refuge in the Jewish and Christian faiths. At the time of the construction of Our Ark, there was much instability in the world and this name offered the assurance of safety many people sought.

Our ArkOur Ark was situated in two existing buildings and work had to be done to make them suitable for a hostel. A special appeal for funds was launched through the 1938 Thinking Day Fund. Many donations and gifts were received from around the world.

Lady BowaterAfter two years of planning, construction and organizing, Lady Bowater, Lady Mayoress of London officially opened Our Ark May 2, 1939. Our Ark was located at # 11-13 Palace Street, close to the current UK Guide Headquarters and to Buckingham Palace. The World Bureau was next door at # 9 Palace Street.

olave house flagsMany individuals, groups, and countries donated items to Our Ark. The Danish Guides gave the centre a set of small flags of each country of the world. The flags of the countries of the guests and staff were kept on a table in the dining room. Later, when the centre moved to Longbridge Road, they were moved to the mantle. These flags are still in use at Pax Lodge today.

The War Years

When Our Ark opened in May, the world was preparing for an international crisis. The second World War was declared on September 3, 1939. Our Ark remained open during the war. The Committee "decided to carry on even if Our Ark doesn't pay." It became a place of refuge for many Guides and Scouts from around the world. During the war they had a fire-watching duty, ration coupons and many air raids during which they took cover in the basement of the World Bureau. The staff of Our Ark kept a log book during the war.

At the end of Dame Katherine Furse's report on Our Ark in February 1940, she included the following: "May Our Ark, the symbol of refuge, safety and motherhood, weather the storm and together with Our Chalet open its doors…to the Guides and Girl Scouts of the world."

A New Home

Our Ark remained at Buckingham Palace Street until 1959. By 1956, the world of Guiding and Scouting had grown so much and so many member wanted to visit Our Ark, that it was time to consider moving. The World Bureau also needed a larger space to deal with their growing membership. As well, new laws in the city of London prohibited businesses and housing to be located in the same building.

An appeal for funds to re-locate Our Ark was made at the 16th World Conference in Brazil in 1957, although many contributions had already been received. Guides could also send money to "purchase" a brick for the new building. The Guides of Great Britain raised money for the garden at the new World Centre.

As visiting a world centre was an experience that only a few members of WAGGGS are fortunate enough to have, it was decided that something should be available to them to show that they had been to Our Ark. A badge was introduced in 1958 for those who had slept at Our Ark.

Olave HouseOur Ark moved to 45 Longbridge Road in September of 1959. The World Bureau was not far away on Ebury Street.

January 26, 1960 a house warming party for the new Our Ark was held! Lady BP at Olave House warmings

Lady Baden-Powell (centre) with unidentified companions at the house warming of Our Arks's new location.

A New Name

Lady BP 1963In 1963-1964, Our Ark celebrated its 25th anniversary. The World Centre was re-named Olave House to honour the World Chief Guide, Lady Baden-Powell. The World Chief Guide performed the re-naming ceremony on November 5th, 1963.

Olave House could accommodate 43 guests and had about six staff members. It had 5 floors. There were single rooms and shared rooms of 3 to 7 beds, a dining room, kitchen, a lounge, a writing room, a laundry room, and a small guest kitchen. Danish Dolls

Many gifts were given to Olave House and can now be seen around Pax Lodge. A model of Our Ark, complete with animals, hung in the garden at Olave House. It has since been repainted several times, and once hung outside the entrance to Pax Lodge. It is currently being restored. The blue dishes from Olave House are now in the guest kitchen. In 1969 a set of wooden dolls in national uniforms were given to Olave House by Denmark as a 30th birthday present, now in the lobby lounge at Pax Lodge. A chaise lounge, matching chair and dresser belonging to Lord and Lady Baden-Powell were given to Olave House, these items are now at Pax Lodge, as well.

A Series of Firsts

participants first sessionsNow in its new location, and with its new name, Olave House was experiencing many new firsts. The first ever residential session, London Adventure, was held at Olave House in September of 1970. There were 22 participants and the theme was the history and culture of London. The first WAGGGS seminar took place at Olave House, the Young Adults seminar.

By 1978, Olave Centre was again in need of more space. At the 23rd World Conference held in Iran that year, the idea for the Olave Centre project was born. It was agreed to use the World Chief Guide Memorial Fund to fulfil Lady Baden-Powell's dream of reuniting the World Centre in London with the World Bureau. Together Pax Lodge and the World Bureau, which share the same address, are called Olave Centre.

The Realization of a Dream

The World Bureau moved to Hampstead first, in 1984. Before the Bureau could move in, the existing building, Rosslyn Lodge, the Earl of Rosslyn's home, was renovated and converted into offices. The World Bureau was officially opened in 1985. In 1988 Dr. Odile Bonte, chairman of the World Committee, performed the ground breaking ceremony for Pax Lodge. Betty Clay, daughter of Lord and Lady Baden-Powell, unveiled the foundation stone for Pax Lodge.

The Newest World Centre in London

In July of 1990, the staff moved into Pax Lodge. They welcomed the first guests, on August 1, 1990. On September 29, 1990, the door opening ceremony was performed by Natasha King, the granddaughter of Lord and Lady Baden-Powell.

The Pax Lodge logo was a winning design submitted by Girl Guides of Australia. The Trefoil represents International Guiding, while the dove bears an olive branch to represent peace. The dove is in the form of and ark and together with the water echoes the original symbol for Our Ark.

patricia princess mayor wbchairsPax Lodge was officially opened by Her Royal Highness Princess Benedikte of Denmark on March 15, 1991.

Opening FlagsFunds for Pax Lodge were raised many different ways: All of the rooms (with the exception of the Rose Room) were sponsored by countries, regions and areas of the world, bricks, roof tiles and chairs were sold individually and many other fundraisers were held. Today each room at Pax Lodge is named after the country that sponsored it and all of the chairs have "name tags" which refer to the person, group, or country that donated the money for it.

On opening day the Guider in Charge and members of the staff walked across London from Olave House to Pax Lodge carrying the world flag. The sponsored walk raised over five hundred pounds for Pax Lodge.

On March 15, 2001 former staff members and house assistants gathered at Pax Lodge for its tenth anniversary party.

Pax Lodge can accommodate 59 people in 2, 3 and 4 bedrooms. There is a dining room and kitchen, a lobby lounge, a library and resource centre, a shop, a tv room, a guest kitchen, staff and resident wings, laundry facilities, as well as two conference rooms. The building is wheelchair accessible. Pax Lodge is open to all members of WAGGGS, WOSM and the International Scouts and Guides Fellowship, and their family and friends.

Both Our Ark and Olave House had two distinctive guest areas: the blue and green houses. The blue house had blue bed coverings, and the green house had green! The same tradition carries on at Pax Lodge today. First floor is blue and second floor is green!

Pax Lodge was chosen as the name for the new World Centre in London for historic reasons. The family homes of Lord and Lady Baden-Powell were called Pax Hill and Paxtu. The Latin word for Peace is Pax and with its history, Pax was an appropriate choice. The property where Olave Centre is situated was called Rosslyn Lodge when it was home to the Earl of Rosslyn and to keep a connection with the old name, Lodge was chosen.

The Pax Lodge pin is a very special pin. You can only get it at Pax Lodge and you can only get it because you have been to Pax Lodge. It cannot be traded or given away. It is only for you!.

We hope you have a better understanding of the history of Pax Lodge and the World Centre in London. If you have any comments or suggestions, please send us feedback by email (see Contact us). If you would like to learn about the history of the Girl Guide and the Girl Scout movement click here:

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