Leslie's Guiding History Site


Trefoil Guild, LINK, SSAGO

Trefoil Guild

The Trefoil Guild, according to all the official sources, started in 1943.  So if you want to skip straight to the era when the Trefoil Guild itself started, you may wish to scroll past the first few sections on this page.  If, however, you wish to consider why the 1943 date is at least debatable, perhaps even nonsensical, then the following details of the Trefoil Guild's 'pre-history' may be of interest.


By 1917 the early Girl Guides were outgrowing the section, and Senior Guides were started, as a 'finishing school' for the girls who had come through Guides - and as a more suitable starting point for girls who joined Guiding at 16 years or over, rather than have them learning Tenderfoot with the 11-year-olds.  So already, the need was seen for something 'beyond Guides'.  

At that time, the girls of 16 and over fell into two distinct categories - and the split was by class.  

Girls of the upper and upper middle classes would stay in school until they were 18 or 19 years of age, after which the majority would go home, where they would stay until they were married - they would not normally take on any paid work, but might well do 'good works' in the community such as supporting charity fundraising, visiting the sick or poor, and sitting on community committees.  Work of this sort could include running Guide or Brownie units - at this time there was a definite emphasis on Guiders being the 'right sort', people who would be well-spoken and naturally set an example of polite behaviour and manners - hence when a unit was to be set up in a locality, it was a committee formed of such people as the lady mayoress, school mistresses, wives of doctors, lawyers or clergy, who were tasked with nominating a 'suitable Captain' to Guide headquarters. World War 1 and the subsequent influenza epidemic had an impact on the upper and upper-middle classes particularly - in the war, the largest number of casualties was among the junior army officers, who were young upper and middle class men in their late teens and twenties - and the flu especially attacked the same age group.  The by-product of this was that a lot of the young upper and middle-class women in the late 1910s and early 1920s who had assumed that they would be married, running a house, and perhaps raising a family before long - found that instead many were either single or widowed without children, and with the prospect of a long-term single life, given there were simply not enough young men to go round.  For those who did marry, they lived in houses with servants who would take on the bulk of the housework and childcare, leaving them with leisure time available.  It was this availability of potential Guiders which allowed Guiding to expand significantly in the 1920s, and in doing so, allowed Guiding to become more socially acceptable, and mainstream.    

For girls of working or lower middle class, on the other hand, most would leave school at 14 to start full-time work - at this stage, the professions open to girls were mainly 'service', factory work, shop work, nursing or farm work - so by the age of 16 they would tend to be well established in a career as a live-in scullery maid, laundry maid or maid of all work, shop assistant at a shop or a department store, farm labourer, or junior clerk.  They would usually marry at an earlier age than nowadays - their late teens or early twenties was common - at which point they would automatically leave their paid employment in order to run the house, and perhaps in time bring up children.  But that didn't mean they couldn't have the occasional evening out with their old Guide friends.


So Rangers were created to solve two problems.  The first was the problem of the girl who didn't join Guiding until she was 16, and found herself in the uncomfortable position of having to do Tenderfoot work with the 11-year-olds, and Second Class with the 12-13 year olds, instead of being with their peers.  The second problem was that of the long-serving Guides of 16+ who had earned all the badges and awards they were going to, and were starting to outgrow the fun Guide games and activities but didn't want to leave the movement, creating a logjam which restricted opportunities for the next-oldest.  As you might expect, Rangers helped with the first problem, but did not really solve the second at all - just postponed it a little longer - for now the problem was what to do about those in their twenties or more who did not want to leave Rangers, especially since there was no upper age limit for Rangers at that time - eventually Rangers in their 30s, 40s and sometimes beyond were not unheard of!

Many Guide and Ranger Companies sought to encourage their older members to move on from the unit and let the next generation of older teens have their turn of being the seniors, whilst trying to keep in touch with the former members whose lives were moving on - particularly where there was a risk of their former members losing all contact with active Guiding.  It was important, however, that this was kept as an extra or a sideline, and was not to the detriment of running the programme for the current members of the Ranger unit, who needed to get a fair turn of being the Patrol Leaders and taking charge of running the unit - nor at the expense of having an attractive programme suited to welcoming wary young 16 year olds from the Guide Company and making them feel that they were doing a more advanced form of their Guide activities, not joining a club aimed at adults. 

In April 1919, the Lone Guide section was reorganised, into "Branch A" and "Branch B".  Branch A being for Guides between the ages of 11 and 20.  Branch B being for Guides over the age of 20.  The 1921 edition of Organisation, Policy and Rules stated:

"The object of Branch B is:-

a) To enable Guides and Guiders to keep in touch with the Movement when through force of circumstances they have been obliged to give up active work with a Company.

b) To enable those to join the Movement who have found their work, study, ill-health or duties at home too great a handicap to their joining a regular Company.

c) To make it possible for those to join the Movement who are interested in Girl Guiding and anxious to do propaganda work, but who do not wish to take up the practical side of Guiding.

Lone Guides in Branch B are formed into Circles.

Each Circle contains nominally 12 Guides, with a Leader.  A Circle must be registered in the same way as a Company.  The registration fee is 5 s.

The Leader should be a former Guider so that she may be able to give practical assistance on Guiding to the Tenderfoot or those who wish to work for badges.

As those who join this Branch have seldom the time or the opportunities for taking up active Guiding to any great extent, they are not expected to work for badges unless they wish.

Those who are interested in the Movement and who wish to do propaganda work, but who do not wish to take up the practical side of Guiding, may wear the Tenderfoot badge without passing the Tenderfoot test.

The Leader runs her Circle as far as possible to meet the needs of her Guides.

Members of a Circle are kept in touch with each other and with the Movement by means of discussions and the exchange of ideas on interesting Guide subjects, the various papers and letters being circulated round the Circle."

Although "Branch B" is not listed as being part of any official Trefoil Guild history, it is clear from the age group served, the objects stated, and the structure of small local groups - that Branch B is clearly a forerunner of Trefoil Guild, fitting exactly with the purpose given to Trefoil Guild 24 years later in 1943.

In  July 1925 it was announced that the Society of Ex-Guiders had been formed, run by the Head of Lones - in June 1929 it was announced that it would "be allowed to lapse."

In May 1930, "The Guider" included an article on "The Problem of the Older Ranger".  It posed the problem of girls who had been Rangers for five or more years - and Guides before that - where the Guider felt they had reached the stage where they had done all the badges and awards they were destined to, and learned all the skills.  Some could become Guiders but "there will be many who have not the time or the inclination or the ability to do so".  And as it stated "we always have younger Rangers growing up, so that unless we can think of some way of dealing with the situation, we are going to be faced with a problem.  Either the old ones will hang on and continue to take the lead from force of habit, even though they may try to efface themselves - in which case the younger half of the company will suffer; or else we can push them gently but firmly out, and thereafter gradually lose touch with them, and perhaps deprive the Guide movement of some very useful members."  The first option the unit had tried was a 'senior patrol - "The Oaks".  But this did not work very well as it was apt to make cliques.  Next they tried pairing a senior and junior together so the senior could help the junior - but this didn't work well as it left the seniors in the lead again.  Finally it was decided that the seniors should be Acorns, and the younger Patrols be Oaks, Beeches and Birches.  The Acorns are attached, and can attend meetings occasionally - and they have a quarterly meeting of their own.  They also have a circular letter, to which each adds her news before sending it on.  The one obligation is some kind of service.  

In the summer of 1933, the letters pages of "The Guider" had an extensive discussion on the question of the 'Guider-Ranger' - the adult who was serving as a Brownie or Guide Guider, but still wanted to be a Ranger in order to take part in activities with those of the same age.  Some correspondents were supportive, suggesting that they were helpful to the Ranger Guider, but others suggested that their presence was offputing for other, especially younger, Rangers - with suggestions that a separate group would be better.  Discussion on this topic resumed in October 1934, without reaching a clear conclusion.

1935 brought proposals for a 'fourth branch' for former and current Leaders, with the subject being discussed at the Commissioners' Conference held in April.  "It was generally agreed that the time has come when such a Branch is needed to absorb those women who, for one reason or another, are obliged to give up taking an active part as Commissioners, Secretaries, Guiders or Rangers, but who still wish to maintain their association with the movement."  There was also support for the 'fourth branch' being open to those who were active in the movement in adult roles.  Despite concerns that it might attract Guiders away from their units, it was agreed that it would be a positive step.  It was agreed that a "Recorder" be appointed at Headquarters, who would receive and analyse suggestions, and draw up a simple scheme.  Once created, Local Recorders could be appointed by Commissioners to focus the work of the 'Fourth Branch' in their areas.  The request was made "Will anyone who is interested in the scheme and has ideas on the subject of a Fourth Branch, whether favourable or adverse, send these to The Recorder of the Fourth Branch".  "Suggestions as to another suitable name and for the composition, functions and administration of the Branch will be especially welcome."  

The August 1935 magazine gave more details of the discussion at the conference, and the initial suggestions received.  Whilst some opposed a fourth branch, maintaining that the Ranger Branch could cater for young adults, the majority expressed a desire for a separate section.  Correspondence also brought proof that in many parts of the country, there were already groups of various kinds in operation.  Feedback was also received from the World Committee meeting which had been held in July.  "The members were drawn from ten countries, and when asked for their experiences, nearly everyone had something in the way of an experiment to describe".  "It seemed to be felt that, if the Fourth Branch is to become the natural outcome or fruition of Guide and Girl Scout training and influence, it should encourage its ex-members to go out into the wide world to take their proper places as individuals who accept their separate responsibilities in their communities and who do not persist in clinging together in companies primarily for their personal enjoyment and recreation."  In other words, given that the aim of the Guide Section was to train girls towards active citizenship, and the Ranger section focussed on direct training in various areas of citizenship - civics, public health, and the like - that by the time a girl had completed the training from age 11 to 21, the training phase should be considered as complete as it was going to be, and she should now focus on putting that training into practice through being an active citizen in her community.

In October 1935 "Guidons" was suggested as a name for the new group, and in January 1936 it was stated that a leaflet of the new Guidon scheme would be published shortly.  

In "The Guider" in March 1936 the Lone Guide page mentioned the new 'Guidons' and indicated "In it's main lines it follows the Lone Guider's Circles so closely that eventually, no doubt, the two will become one, and all ex-Guides, whether Guides, Rangers or Guiders, unable to do active work, and ineligible for Lone Guide or Ranger Companies, will join the new Branch, if they want to keep in touch with the Movement.  The Recorders will keep details of members in just the same way as Leaders of Lone Circles have kept track of their Circle members, and those willing to give practical help to a limited degree will be encouraged to do so.  In counties where Guidons are already organised, ex-Guiders, wishing to keep in touch, should explore the possibilities of joining them before deciding to join the Circle."  

A suggested scheme was also published, written by Joan Fryer, Headquarters Recorder, while making it clear that it was only suggestions, not necessarily a final plan:

"The idea behind this new step is that there should be a World Wide Fellowship of Guiding, consisting of all those who have taken the Promise, but who, for some reason or other, are unable to carry on actively with their companies or packs, districts or counties, and who desire keenly to remain part of the Movement and to keep the Guide ideals alive in their hearts.  The name Guidons was suggested by the Founder, a Guidon being a pennant which was carried by leaders of the knights when showing the way to their followers.  (Guidons are also carried to-day by Dragoon Regiments).  The Chief Scout felt that the name Guidons was appropriate in that old Guides, knowing what Guiding meant to them as Guides and in many cases as Guiders, and what the ideals have meant and still meant to them, can be the Guidons of the Guide Movement - showing the way the young should go and where possible lending a hand.  A suggestion has been made that the World Order of Guides (and possibly of Girl Scouts) might be used as a name for the whole Fellowship and that the title Guidons could be used for groups formed in Great Britain or elsewhere.  It is quite probable that if this scheme was taken up in other countries they would wish to have their own name, as several schemes with different titles are already in existence.  Organisation - It is suggested that each county, division, district or even company shall form its own group with a Recorder to undertake the secretarial work.  Each group would be run according to its needs, in co-operation with the local Commissioner.  Membership would be open to all those with a year's Guide service in any capacity (minimum age to be decided later).  Suggested Activities - When possible Guidons should be given the opportunity to: a) Attend an Annual Reunion on Thinking Day, and any other meetings that may be arranged.  b) Take an interest in Guiding locally, nationally and internationally.  c) Give occasional help to the Movement and join in events connected with old company or district.  d) Welcome and offer hospitality to other Guidons and to Guides and Girl Scouts from Overseas.  It is hoped that this scheme will also help to absorb some of the older Rangers.  Guiding is, and always must remain, a Movement for Youth, and the children must always come first.  Surely a leaven of "Old Guides" with their experience and love of Guiding, still linked with the Movement they loved and which meant so much to them, can only help to strengthen our Movement.  There may even be some who in the past have slipped away, but now as members of the Fellowship would give occasional help to Guiders or Commissioners, companies or packs.  Again, it would be the present-day Brownies and Guides who would benefit.  The "Old Guides Fellowship" is not a new idea, for it has been simmering in the minds of many, both in this country and Overseas, and quite a number of local schemes have been started."

In November 1936, a further article appeared in "The Guider".  It was headed "Old Guides" - so it looks like in less than a year the "Guidons" name had already been dropped.  "Old Guides.  As conditions vary so much in each locality, Headquarters are most anxious that there shall be no red tape nor a set scheme laid down for Old Guide groups.  In some cases county, division or district groups are being formed, in others companies already have their own schemes for keeping in touch with their old members and the two following reports may give ideas to those who are thinking of starting an Old Guide group or circle attached to their own company."  information was given on the 1st Putney Old Guides Circle, and 1st Streatham Hill Company's Old Guides Association.  The article then continued "I am continually being asked if Guiders who are doing 'active Guiding' may join Old Guide groups and if Rangers who are also Guiders or Cubmistresses in other companies and packs are eligible if they still want to keep in touch with their old company.  Here again there need be no hard and fast rule, for I am quite certain that past and present Guiders would tremendously appreciate the chance of meeting together sometimes and therefore active Guiders will always be welcome at Old Guide gatherings.  Guiders and Rangers who are also Lieutenants or Tawny Owls, will naturally not be able to attend all Old Guide activities as their time will (or should) be taken up working with their own companies and packs, but it is most natural that a Ranger who is now a Guider will occasionally like to feel she can meet her old friends who were with her in the Ranger company, and there is no reason whatever why they and other Guiders should not join in Old Guide activities when it is possible.  Joan Fryer, Headquarters Recorder, 'Old Guides'."

In January 1937 was advertised a meeting for Old Guides groups at County, Division, District and Unit level.  In 1937 the first national Old Guides conference was held, at which it was decided that a special tie would be worn, in navy with red and green stripes - but they opted not to have a special Promise badge.  

In December 1938 "The Guider" stated 'an Old Guide who has been previously Warranted as Commissioner, Secretary or Guider may wear an Old Guide Cockade in uniform, which is navy blue with a green and a red stripe, like the 'Old Guide' tie.'  It was also stated that 'Old Guide' Recorders will be Warranted and wear the appropriate level Secretary badge.  There was also an Old Guides column by the Headquarters Recorder in the same issue: "Old Guide Groups are springing up in a most satisfactory manner (six registration forms arrived by the same post one day!) and we are delighted to find every kind of former Commissioner, Secretary, Guider and Guide coming in as an 'Old Guide'.  Many who previously have not seemed interested in Old Guides suddenly consider it to be an opportune moment to start a Group when a keen Commissioner or Guider has to give up active Guiding - and so it begins, and soon others who 'used to be Guides' are found - and in a very short time a keen and flourishing Group appears.  We are delighted to find a number of former County Commissioners as 'County Old Guide Presidents', as this provides an especially nice link - and this can also be said of ex-Division and District Groups."  "Although the keynote to Old Guides is fellowship and the Spirit of Guiding, Old Guides are helping active Guiding in every kind of way.  In some counties Old guides are especially helping with Extension Companies and Packs, visiting Post Rangers, Guides and Brownies, helping them with test work and handicrafts, arranging their transport to rallies, parties and camps.  As most of this can be done during the day and at times chosen by the Old Guide, it is a piece of very valuable service which is within reach of many.  Old Guides are also helping in the following ways:- a) Taking occasional meetings when a Guider is ill or away.  b) Instructing in badge work and special subjects.  c) Helping with camps, acting as Life Savers, Q.M., etc.  d) Acting as stewards at rallies, sports, etc.  e) Planning and judging Guide competitions.  f) Finding employment for Rangers.  g) Helping to raise funds.  h) Helping to find Guiders.  i) Helping with entertainments, properties, etc.  j) Providing 'teas' at Annual Meetings, etc.  k) Offering hospitality to speakers, trainers, overseas Guides, etc.  l) Secretarial work.  m) Helping with transport at rallies, camps, Brownie revels, etc.  n) Speaking, training, testing.  o) Helping with P.L.'s Conferences, Brownie Revels, etc."

But - Trefoil Guild was founded in 1943.  So all of this is not officially considered to have any connection to Trefoil Guild history. 

In "The Guider" magazine of August 1943 there was an article about the meaning of 'Guild' suggesting that it was a group 'larger than the family', formed for protection, instruction, conviviality and good cheer whilst watching over and protecting the interest of the craft or trades, to see if they were honourable, solvent and to help needy members, and to ensure equal pay.  It also indicated that with the introduction of the upper age limit of 20 for Rangers in 1942, a section for over-21 year olds had been discussed by the Executive Committee and it had been agreed to form a Trefoil Guild.  Details would appear in the September magazine . . .

In the September issue it stated "Did you read the article in August Guider?  It was published for more than its historical interest.  A coming event casting its shadow before it; in that story of old associations of master-craftsmen, banded together, for "the guardianship of the craft".  It foreshadowed the founding of our own Guild of Guiding - a Guild that one day may be as ancient and as honourable as that of the merchant adventurers.  As our guild rises out of Guiding in response to and as the fulfilment of a very definite need.  It will lie with its first members to crystalize it into a definite form, to decide how it can best be organised to give service to Guiding and the community and will need to be modified and adapted according to local needs and possibilities"

In an article in "The Guider" in 1945, it was stated:

Everyone readily agrees to the basic idea of the Trefoil Guild, it has the simple soundness of a fundamentally good thing.  There must be a number of people who, leaving active Guiding for all manner of reasons, yet wish to still live by the rule of the Guide Law, and wish also to feel themselves as still belonging to the Guide Movement.  these are a great potential strength, and might add tremendously to the influence of Guiding.

Between any desirable ideal, and its practical carrying out on a large scale, lies a good deal of planning and organising, and it is often extremely difficult to translate the ideal into practice without changing or losing it.  

In launching the Trefoil Guild, the Imperial Executive committee (largely because of war-time difficulties of central organisation) put the responsibility for its inception on the County authorities.  Each County was to make its own plans and to work it according to its own needs.  I was asked to be a sort of official question answerer for the Executive.  Actually of course the whole Trefoil Guild scheme is so untried that I did not know the answers any more than anyone else, but if answers were to be given it seemed as though the result would be more consistent if one person supplied them.  This appointment of course led to my being asked how to start and how to run Trefoil Guilds.  I could not answer this with any confidence as I had never tried to do it, and had no information from anyone who had done so, the best I could attempt was a rather sketchy outline of what I should do if I had to organise it in a County.

Now, after a year, I have had enough material from County Trefoil Guild Secretaries and the Secretaries of branches, to make it possible to give notes of how it is going in various places, and the answers given to some of the questions asked, in case they may be of help to others.  As there is no registration at Headquarters and no warranting of the Trefoil Guild Secretaries, I can only know about the progress of the Guild in places from which I have had letters.  Thank you very much all the people who have troubled to write, and please will others write too if they are trying out anything new so that I can pass ideas on to the people who ask for them?

Here are some of the questions:

Why have something new, why not Old Guides?

There were many successful Old Guide groups, but on the whole the idea did not catch on on a large scale, possibly because it had a rather backwards-looking name.  It suggests "the good time we used to have."  The Trefoil Guild looks forward to the good that will be done by its members, and membership should be a privilege and a promotion, not just a wistful getting together because too old for Rangers.  Some Old Guide groups did not like being suddenly changed (without being consulted) into Trefoil Guild.  They felt that the word "Guide" represented a definite idea in the minds of the public, and "Old Guides" meant something and described what they were, but no one would know what "Trefoil Guild" stood for.  To these I suggested that they should at first call themselves the "Trefoil Guild of Guides" until the name became well known.

Can there be any exception to the age limit?

The question of allowing Rangers (under the age of 21) to join the Trefoil Guild was again discussed by the December Executive and it was agreed that those Rangers who cannot continue active Guiding may join the Guild under the age of 21 at the discretion of the County Commissioner and the County Ranger Adviser, and that no definite qualifications should be laid down but each individual case should be considered on its merits.

What does a County Trefoil Guild Secretary wear?

She wears the uniform and distinguishing marks of a member of the Trefoil Guild as laid down in the Trefoil Guild leaflet.  As she is not warranted she cannot wear the secretaries' crossed pens.  It is suggested that at Country Conferences, Guiders meetings, etc., she should wear a small label saying that she is the Trefoil Guild Secretary so that she can be recognised.

Does a Ranger automatically join the Trefoil Guild when she is 21?

There is nothing automatic about the joining though she must of course leave the Rangers.  If she wishes to be a member of a Trefoil Guild branch she must be proposed by the Commissioner or Guider to whom she is personally known.

Do Trefoil Guild members leaving the County remain members of the Trefoil Guild in their old county or in the new one?

This can be as they wish.  There are obvious advantages in joining the Trefoil Guild in the place where they are, but many keep in touch with Guiding in their old county through the Guild.  County T.G. Secretaries should put members of County Guilds who are living out of the County in touch with the Branch Secretary where they are, so that they can be invited to Guide events.

Can ex-Guides and Rangers helping in Wolf Cub Packs be members of the Trefoil Guild?

Yes.  Trefoil Guild members undertake to do some service for the community if possible and this is excellent service.  I do see the difficulty if active, Guiders cannot join, and active Cubbers can, but it would seem very grudging to refuse them continued membership of Guiding through the Trefoil Guild because they are doing this service.

How can active Guiders be in touch with Trefoil Guild branches?

Active Guiders cannot be members of the Trefoil Guild because it is clearly right that they should keep their time and energies in Guiding first and for their own Companies and Packs; on the other hand Trefoil Guild members and active Guiders will want to meet.  Hampshire has found a good solution in the idea of "Associates".  Associates are active Guiders who attend branch meetings of the Trefoil Guild but have no power to vote or to hold office.  In some cases this has led to the return of ex-Guiders to active work in the movement.

Why did Headquarters not organise it centrally?

For two reasons, first because of war-time shortage of staff, and secondly because the success of such a scheme must depend on it being very adaptable to local needs.  That this policy is proving the right one can I think be seen from the different ways in which Counties are tackling the formation of the Trefoil Guild, all seem agreed the thing is worth-while, and that by having freedom to work it out themselves they can best find what is wanted in their own area.

1946 saw the setting up of an ad hoc committee to inquire into the development of the Guild idea.  In 1947, the Old Guides, Ranger Clubs, Guidons, and new Guilds were amalgamated under the title of Trefoil Guild, and a structure of a National Recorder, and County Recorders, established.  Soon after, a special Promise Badge was introduced.

A Trefoil Guild was started in Lewisham in 1946, and their immediate focus was on service in Guiding, through carrying out the testing and teaching for First Class and Proficiency badges.  They also sought to contact girls who were leaving Rangers, to encourage them to attend Guild meetings, and to contact women returning from the services with a view to recruiting them to Guiding, as Guiders or as Trefoil Guild members.  As a further act of service, they gathered up used clothing to send to the GIS team in Germany, sending up several parcels, and formed a rota to help temporarily with a Guide Company whose Leaders had had to resign.  The All-England Conference was held on 21st and 22nd May 1949, with a number of resolutions voted on by representatives from each Guild.  In 1949 a badge for Trefoil Guild members was designed, and was available from 1950.

In July 1951, the first Trefoil Guild magazine, "Notes and News" was produced, as a half-yearly bulletin, price 2d, postage 1 1/2d.  In the first issue, as well as an account of the AGM were requests for "a good collective name for Members of the Trefoil Guild!  'Trefoilers' and 'Guilders' have both been tried." and "Also Wanted.  A more original name for this bulletin."    

Within a year it had increased in size, and in price, to 3d!  It late 1955 it was renamed "The Trefoil", and in time became available in braille, and tape-recorded versions.   The first Trefoil Guild Conference was held in Swanwick in 1951.   In 1952 Trefoil Guild became a self-governing, self-financing, independent body.  In 1953 a new fabric armlet was produced, with "Trefoil Guild" embroidered in yellow, which could be worn when helping at Guide activities.  The constitution was ratified in 1954, with a central office at Commonwealth Headquarters and a governing body being set up in the same year.  

In 1960 the Trefoil Guild set up the Trefoil Guild Jubilee Trust Fund for the UK Training Centres with a starting balance of £1000.  It was in 1962 that Trefoil Guild 'Fellowship Day' was established, now marked on 25 October each year.

1966 saw the foundation of the "Traveler's Guild", catering for those living overseas in areas without a local Guild, and also those whose lifestyle involves regular travel rather than a consistent home base.

As Policy, Organisation and Rules stated, "The Trefoil Guild was formed by the Guide Movement to provide an organisation for all enrolled members who, on ceasing to be actively connected with Guiding, wish to remain in the Movement.  Members accept the following responsibilities: 

a) To keep alive the spirit of the Guide Promise and Law

b) To carry that spirit into the community in which they live and work

c) To give support to Guiding."

In the 1970s Trefoil Guilds varied, but each was self-supporting, electing it's own office bearers, controlling it's own finances and organising it's own programme.  Each County had a Trefoil Guild Adviser who was a member of the County Executive committee, and acted as the link between the active Guiding in the County and the Guild or Guilds.  As "The Guider" magazine in January 1972 stated, "Most, but by no means all, Trefoils are past the early married years when one is so busy with a young husband, a new house, and a newer baby, and Guiding slips out of one's life for a while."  Roles carried out by Guilds included babysitting for Guiders attending training, secretarial help in County offices, as well as serving as Unit Helpers.  

In 1970 the Trefoil Guild Holiday Fund for Guiders and Guild members was launched, as a result of the money raised from the Diamond Jubilee "Three Cheers" challenge.  It's aim was to provide bursaries for Guiders, ex-Guiders or Trefoil Guild members in need of a holiday or break, but for whom financial pressures or family circumstances seem to make it impossible.

In 1971 the minimum age for Trefoil Guild membership was lowered from 21 to 18, and Country/Region Advisers were appointed, in line with the restructuring taking part in Guiding - they were renamed as Country/Region Chairmen in 1974.

Following the 1971 age change, it was felt that a group within Trefoil Guild was needed to cater for it's younger members - so LINK International Fellowship was founded in 1973 to cater for 18-30 year old Trefoil Guild members, male and female.   In 1980 "Talking Trefoil", a service which recorded "The Trefoil" magazine on audio cassette, was launched - replacing the previous braille magazine "The Trefoil Adventurer".   In 1982, LINK approached the Trefoil Guild about the possibly of absorbing the LINK members into Trefoil Guild once they passed the upper age limit for LINK.  As a result of this, with LINK having been a mixed-gender group, a resolution was passed to admit men into The Trefoil Guild in 1984, although numbers have always been small, and tend mainly to be spouses of members.  The mid to late 1980s saw fundraising efforts towards the appeal for study bedrooms in the new World Centre, Pax Lodge.

In 1993 the Guide Promise was revised, and a new logo and design for the Promise Badge was designed, including a new Trefoil Guild Promise Badge in the same style as for the mainstream Guiding sections, but with red enamel - and the launch of the new Trefoil Guild File.  This coincided with the celebration of the Golden Jubilee of Trefoil Guild, with a celebration weekend at Swanwick in Derbyshire.  1994 saw the start of a consultation on the possibility of a name change, as it was felt that "Trefoil Guild" was not self-explanatory.  However, the suggestions were whittled down to two options - "The Guide Trefoil Guild" or "The Trefoil Guild" - a 2:1 majority in favour of the latter resulted in no change.

In 1996 the 'Starter Pack' scheme began - with Guilds encouraged to sign up to donate packs of equipment worth £25 to new units opening up in their area, together with games, equipment and activity ideas.  It also saw the creation of the first national Trefoil Guild website.

In 2000 a new handbook, 'Welcome to the Trefoil Guild' was introduced, and following fundraising which began in 1997, a Trefoil Guild plot was created at the National Memorial Arboretum, in Staffordshire.  2000 also saw the Trefoil Guild millennium cruise.  2001 saw the introduction of a new award, the "Trefoil Guild Brooch", for outstanding and devoted service.  The first brooch was awarded to Ruth Tett of Devon Lone Guild.

2003 brought celebration of the Diamond Jubilee, with a commemorative badge, a Diamond Jubilee Scarf, and a specially produced songbook.  in 2005 the first range of Trefoil Guild 'occasional wear' was introduced, and in 2007 the Trefoil Guild became a corporate member of Girlguiding UK.  To celebrate Guiding's coming centenary, Trefoil Guild organised events at each of the World Centres - at Our Cabana in 2007, Our Chalet in 2008, Sangam in 2009, and Pax Lodge in 2010.  

2008 was the year that LINK disbanded, merging into the main Trefoil Guild.  It also saw the publication of the new Trefoil Guild Handbook, to replace 'Welcome to the Trefoil Guild'.

Guiding celebrated it's centenary in 2010, and Trefoil Guild chose to mark the occasion by setting a challenge for a Centenary flower bed to be established in each Guiding County of the UK, organised by local Guilds.  In 2011 it withdrew from the International Scout and Guide Fellowship (ISGF) (of which it had been a founding member in 1955) due to unresolved issues.  

2013 saw the launch of the Voyage Award, following a pilot in Anglia Region.  This offers individuals the change to follow an award scheme as adults, developing their skills and supporting their community.

In 2015 another opportunity began with TOPAZ, or Trefoil Overseas Partnership Adventure with Zest, a programme for Trefoil Guild members to travel to countries to help support local Guiding and charitable causes - the first group visited Russia in 2016.  2016 also brought the distribution of membership cards to all members, and streamlining of the subscription process.  

The Trefoil Guild's 75th anniversary was marked in 2018 under the theme of 'Celebrate Together, and in 2019 a new challenge programme, "STARS" was launched, encouraging Trefoil Guild members to work together as well as individually on a range of challenges.

Trefoil Guild remains an independent partner organisation of Girlguiding UK - although it's headquarters is located within the main headquarters building, it retains it's separate membership fee and independence, together with it's own management structure.  Activities such as the 'TOPAZ' international aid ventures, and the 'Voyage Award' and 'STARS' challenge have provided programme options for members, and helped to enliven Guild programmes.

Nevertheless, the image problem remains a barrier.  Although theoretically Guilds have members of a range of ages between 18-118, and serve as an active support organisation for Guiding, that doesn't reflect the average Guild in modern times, and what it has to offer.  From the late 1970s through to the 2000s, Guiding had an upper age limit of 65 for adult Leaders - at which point they had to give up both their active-Guiding appointments and their uniforms, meaning the only way to retain any link with Guiding was by joining Trefoil Guild.  As a result, Trefoil Guild tended to become the group you joined at 65, and for many Guilds the majority of their members were 65 or older - and often significantly older.  Thus, rather than the active support group which had been envisaged, most Guides became a 'retired Guiders club'.  The other impact was that as the average age in Guilds drifted ever upwards, their programmes tended to be arranged to suit the members they had, rather than seeking to attract younger generations of members to join.  Another factor was that many Guilds moved their meetings to weekday afternoons, because their older members didn't like going out after dark in the evenings - and as their members became less physically able, activities tended to become more sedentary, focussed on craft and guest speakers rather than active outdoor activities or active service.  

There are a few exceptions, often in the form of specialist Guilds such as internet, singing circle, or narrowboating Guilds, where a particular interest or means of accessing meetings draws together a wider age range, or 'young Guilds' which have started in some areas.  But for most it remains an unsolved problem.


In 1971 the minimum age for Trefoil Guild was lowered from 21 to 18, and in 1973 a special group, 'Link' was set up to cater for younger members aged 18-30 from both Scouting and Guiding.  The idea had originated with Lady Alport, the then President of Trefoil Guild, to create a group which would link ex-Rangers and ex-Venture Scouts.  Discussions took place between the Girl Guide and Scout Associations with a view to forming a joint support group for the new section, unfortunately due to a difference of opinion this was rejected by the Scouts, so the Trefoil Guild proceeded with the plan alone.  LINK began as part of the Thinking Day celebrations in 1973, with their own special badge.  Although it aimed to cater for former Guiding and Scouting members, it was also open to people who hadn't been part of either organisation.  The aim of the programme was to combine three areas - social, service, and training.  Within that, each LINK group planned and ran it's own programme.  Lady Alport was invited to be LINK's honorary president in 1977, a position she held until her death in 1983.  LINK held two annual get-togethers each year, in the Easter and August holidays, each hosted by a different LINK group.  The idea was to provide a voluntary club where former members of either Association could take part in adventurous activities and voluntary work, which would help the Guide Association in a range of active ways, whilst also giving social and outdoor activity opportunities to it's members.

Although the idea of a youth section for Trefoil Guild was welcomed, membership of LINK tended to be confined to a few enthusiastic groups, who often struggled to attract new younger members to replace those approaching the upper age limit.  LINK eventually closed down in 2008, with the members being absorbed into the Trefoil Guild.


SSAGO is the Student Scout and Guide Organisation.  It was officially founded in February 1967, but it’s roots go back further than that . . .


Naturally, many of the students going to University, even from comparatively early on in Guiding and Scouting history, had been Scouts or Guides.  The earliest records traced to date are in 1915 for University Scouting clubs.  Among the first were Oxford, Cambridge, Manchester and London.  Each of these was an independent club whose members linked in to the movement locally, and took part in activities alongside local Scouting/Guiding members. 


The first records of inter-club activities can be traced back to the publication in 1919 of a magazine for all “Intervarsity Scout Clubs” run and edited by Oxford.  There were also Intervarsity camps between 1920 and 1927.  Most of the members would have been Rover or Senior Scouts, or Ranger Guides.


The independent clubs at each university carried on through the war years, despite the disruption, and the postwar rush of students into universities brought forth fresh enthusiasm for the clubs.  The Birmingham club resumed the rallies which had stopped some 20 years before, with a camp at Beaudesert in the summer of 1947 which incorporated a conference.  This was followed by events in the following two years, this time organised by Scout headquarters.  In 1950 organisation of the rallies was again taken on by the clubs, who have continued to organise almost every rally. 


At that time the number of Universities in the UK was low (around 20-30) and colleges were not admitted to membership, other than a small number of specialist colleges such as Loughborough.  In 1956 the Federation of Scout and Guide Clubs in Training Colleges was formed, and soon became Intercollegiate.


In 1957 SAGGA, the Scout and Guide Graduate Association started, to cater for former students who had graduated.  It was in 1964 that talks began with a view to starting a single Student Scout and Guide Organisation.  It was prompted by changes to higher education, which was moving to a higher number of Universities, and a lower number of Colleges than before.  Agreement took time to reach, but was achieved, and the new name chosen at the AGM in February 1967.  It was at a key time for Guiding and Scouting in general, with both movements making radical changes to their programmes for all sections in order to bring them more up-to-date.


Although a new group had been formed, it took time for it to establish an identity.  Finances were difficult and a number of events were cancelled, or suffered from low attendance.  Although on paper the membership was high, at some institutions all student union members were automatically deemed to be members of all the student clubs regardless of which particular ones they wanted or intended to join, thus high numbers were not a true reflection of the actual active membership.


In the mid-1980s Scouting for students underwent another review with the publication of “Scouting and Education”, which proposed that SSAGO should be extended to 16-18s, responsibility would pass to Counties, and the central committee closed.  However the project was mothballed and the eventual outcome was minimal change.


In the 1990s SSAGO moved forward, with rallies attracting higher numbers and renewed interest.  Another Scouting Review launched in 1996, which for several years again cast doubt on the future of SSAGO, which was finally resolved in Summer 2001.  Since that time SSAGO has continued as an independent organisation which supports the aims of Scouting and Guiding.  Membership is available to students at a College or University which has a SSAGO club, or students can join as an Independent member.  Rallies are held once a term, each hosted by a separate SSAGO group around the UK.  Numbers are usually around 100-250, and each has a theme chosen by the organisers.


Following the Guiding programme changes of 2018/2019, the age group for Rangers/Young Leaders was altered, from 14-26, back to the 14-19 age range it had previously been.  This caused upset amongst those who now found themselves having to either serve as Guiding volunteers or (if relevant) join SSAGO - or give up their Guiding connection.  Joining Trefoil Guild was an option, but as it was a separate organisation to Guiding, it did not provide membership of Guiding.

Between 2018 and 2020 there was talk of there being an 'offering' for 18+ members who wanted to retain active membership but did not feel able to take on adult roles such as Leader, Commissioner or Adviser.  What this consisted of varied a little around the country, but tended to simply mean allowing ongoing 'on-paper' membership in order to complete awards such as Queen's Guide or Commonwealth Award - and perhaps participation in forums or occasional activity weekends.  Provision was very patchy.  

It was in November 2020 that a name was finally announced for the section - Inspire.  At the same time it was confirmed that the programme for Inspire would consist of nine 'pathways' - Adventure and Challenge, Beyond the UK, Events Experience, Sharing Skills, Leading the Way, Developing Others, Voice and Action, Learning and Awards, Just for Me.  

Adventure and Challenge - planning outdoor adventures and gaining outdoor qualifications to use with Guiding members.

Beyond the UK - GOLD (Guiding Overseas Linked with Development) projects, WAGGGS opportunities, volunteering at International Guiding/Scouting events, volunteering for WAGGGS

Events Experience - volunteering at Girlguiding festivals, or local events, or organising residential events.

Sharing Skills - becoming a volunteer at units or joining a County Skills Pool

Leading the Way - training as a Leader or Commissioner or Adviser.

Developing Others - becoming a Guiding Trainer or Mentor.

Voice and Action - joining the Advocate Panel, British Youth Council Delegation, supporting Girlguiding campaigns.

Learning and Awards - Queen's Guide, Girlguiding Trainer.

Just For Me - taking advantage of Girlguiding opportunities, nationally and locally.

It was up to individuals in local areas to set up 'Inspire' groups, plan activities and carry them out.  Initially, few groups formed, partly because of the limitations caused by Covid lockdowns and limitations on gathering.  And even as Guiding emerged from Covid, there seemed to be little sign of the group finding it's feet.

Trefoil Guild AGMs

Trefoil Guild AGMS were held in venues around the country.  Here we have the beginnings of a list of them - we'd be happy to add more entries as information becomes available!

1951 - Swanwick

1953 - Swanwick

1955 - Swanwick - The Hayes (billed as Fourth Biennial Conference)

1993 - London, Church House, Westminster

1994 - Cardiff All Nations' Centre

1995 - Glasgow, University of Strathclyde

1996 - York, University of York

1997 - Belfast, Royal Belfast Academical Institution

1998 - Exeter, University of Exeter

1999 - Guildford Civic Centre

2000 - Buxton Pavilion Gardens

2001 - Carlisle Sands Centre

2002 - Peterborough, The Cresset

2003 - Llandudno North Wales Conference Centre

2004 - Dundee Caird Hall

2005 - Bath, The Forum.

2006 - Belfast Queen's University

2007 - Leeds Town Hall

2008 - Eastbourne Winter Garden

2009 - Telford International Centre

2010 - Preston Guild Hall

2011 - Southend-on-Sea

2012 - Cardiff St David's Hall

2013 - Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

2015 - Derry/Londonderry Millennium Forum Theatre

2016 - Harrogate

2017 - Brighton

2018 - Birmingham Symphony Hall

2019 - Southport

2020 - Postponed (due to be Southend)

2021 - Virtual Meeting

2022 - Llandudno