11th Teesside BB Company

The 11th Teesside BB Company is part of Norton Methodist Church, High St, Norton, Stockton on Tees, TS20 1AE. It first met on the 11th of February 1941 and was named the 1st Norton Company & its Captain was Mr Keen. The Life Boys connected to the company had started a year earlier in 1940. Subsequent Captains were Dick Watchorn (1942), Sid. Bell (1968), Graham Youngson (1982), David Peacock (1984), Colin Bell (1989) & currently David Maddison (since 1994). When Teesside Battalion was formed in 1968, the company was renamed 11th Teesside.

The company meets every Monday evening (except during school holidays) in the hall behind Norton Methodist Church. The full range of badge work is covered in all sections & an annual camp is held each year. For more information on the Church and the other activities on offer please visit Norton Methodist Church .

The Company is split as follows:

Anchor Boys (School years 1 - 3) - meets Mondays between 6.15 pm and 7.45 pm

Junior Section (School years 4 – 6) - meets Mondays evenings also 6.15 pm

Due to a current lack of leaders, both Anchor & Junior sections meet together and take part in a range of activities aimed at achieving the current badges offered by the Brigade as well as various games.

Company Section (School years 7 +) meets between 7.30 pm and 9 pm and follows a similar routine.

If you would like any further information on the company please contact David Maddison

1st NORTON BOYS’ BRIGADE FOUNDED 1941 – A personal recollection by Audrey Parkin

If the “host organisation” really means the Church to which the Company belongs….then 99 years is how long it has been “set up.” But this is how BB happened. In 1940 Duncan Jackson was a member of the 6th Stockton Boys Brigade. His mother suggested to Rev. Dr Percy Scott (Minister of Norton Methodist Chapel) that a B.B. Company could be formed at Norton. They started with the Life Boys section (Junior Section now) and it was led by Gordon Carruthers and Geoff Ord. They met in a small room behind the Chapel, and started with about 24 boys. Although there were adequate church premises on the same site, these were not available at all during W.W.2 as the premises were requisitioned as an Emergency Hospital (it was never used; it stayed empty all the war!). So this little room was all that was available.

However at the beginning of 1941 they moved to Frederick Nattrass School, an all-age Council school, which was very conveniently situated and had good premises, & was the school which most of the boys attended. Funding for the premises? Not known. So that’s when the Company was formed. 1941; at the early part of W.W.2

The need for such an organisation was obviously seen by Dr. Scott and some parents, but we have no other clues as to “why”. Perhaps Dick Watchorn came to Norton just at that time with his B.B. background?

Frederick Nattrass School was ideal for the Company. Due to the numbers involved, both halls were used every Tuesday. Badge classes were started in the small room behind the Chapel, and boys joined in also with other Companies badge work. Tuesdays were the only time the School was available. In winter the Boys played football, cross country runs etc. In the summer cricket. On Wednesdays a P.T. class was run in the local Girls Secondary Modern School, by a Mr Reckless. (!?)

1st Captain was Mr. Keen, who left after 1 year, and Mr. Dick Watchorn became the Captain. He was the main inspiration for the success of the 1st Norton for many, many years. As a bachelor, he was able to become completely single-minded in his “advancement of Christ’s Kingdom among boys” as the B.B. motto states. He was captain from 1942-1966. He worked at I.C.I. and had come to the North East from Retford, where he had been an Officer in a B.B. Company. His tireless work for the boys was amazing and he was a born leader. He moulded them into a unit. Officers were Ron Edwards, Bob Featherstone, Elwyn Davies, Gordon Carruthers. Then ladies were allowed to work with the younger boys. Gwen Adams, Joan Kirk, Marjorie Todd became Life Boy Leaders, and later Jenny Geldart and Jean Skelton and later Joyce Dickinson. It is presumed that the officers went through some form of Training. Gordon Carruthers was a young teacher, but later moved back to Scotland. Capt. Dick Watchorn had previously been a B.B. Officer.

Funds were raised at Coffee mornings and donations would be plentiful as Dick was a great persuader! Equipment, Band Instruments, Company Colours….everything that was needed seemed to arrive without effort. No-one now seems to know where the money came from other than the Church and friends of the Company (of which Dick made sure there were many!)

Growth was extremely fast in those early days….50/60 boys in 2 Sections. The various classes for badge work were very popular as a means of getting promotion through the ranks. Team games and competitions with other Companies. Rewards in the form of badges worn on the arm and the highest prize of all…“The King’s Badge”. Dick was famous for instilling “esprit de corps” into his boys!! There were Annual Displays which were excellent, and the uniform for the boys at that time was remarkably cheap and within the reach of all, and they were proud to wear it.

A remarkable happening of this new venture was the mixing of all types of boys with great success and lasting friendships. Council School boys and Grammar School boys all worked, played and forged relationships “underneath the banner of the Boys Brigade”, (another quote!). These ties have lasted over the years, and while not living close to each other, whenever they meet there is recognition of beginnings shared. Perhaps it is interesting to know that future Professors and Managing Directors of multinational companies were part of this brotherhood, alongside local boys whose lives were very ordinary. Was it the war and its aftermath? What was it that bound these boys together? The Brigade? The Captain? The times they lived in?

Memories are made of this, as they say, and the binding together in those early dark days and for many years afterwards are amazing and lasting, as this short history illustrates.

Instead of answering the question of why the Company is not as it was, we have to report that there still is a B.B. company at Norton Methodist Church (we don’t say Chapel anymore!). It’s the 11th Teesside now, and numbers are not good. And in those sentences we can see two examples of “change”. Life HAS changed. There are still wonderfully thriving Companies of the Boys Brigade. How have they overcome the “change” factor? That’s for the experts, but the clues are all in the history.

Where to find us.