As most Girlguiding members know the fight is on to save the Activity/Training Centres. With Foxlease being the nearest one to the Island, Island members are getting behind the plans of ” Foxie’s Future” a charity set up to try and secure the future of Foxlease.

Recently St. John’s Church, Newport held a Christmas Angels Sale to raise funds for the church but the church members also kindly invited representatives of Foxie’s Future as well as 10th Newport Brownies to have stalls to raise funds for their charities. ( Picture above shows the leader of 10th Newport Brownies (centre) with two members of Foxie’s Future.)

Foxlease , whole site, is in the hands of Estate Agents with an asking price of £4 million. However the trustees of Foxie’s Future have a business plan supported by New Forest District Council so raising this sum is realistic, over a number of years.

Anyone wishing to help with Foxie’s Future campaign can contact them via their website.

For those who do not know the history of Foxlease here is a brief history:

Foxlease, Lyndhurst Hampshire has been a Training (later activity) Centre run  by Girlguiding since 1922.

The property covers 65 acres and comprises camp sites and activity areas as well as the main house (Princess Mary House) , Princess Margaret Lodge, The Coach House and The Barn.

It is  known for hosting the First World Camp  in 1924 (which 5 pioneering Isle of Wight members attended- pictured below at Wootton Railway Station)  the Third International Conference and the Sixth World Conference.

The main house is a Georgian house renamed in honour of Princess Mary’s marriage and it still has Adam fireplaces and a Strawberry Hill Gothic lounge. Individual rooms have been adopted by Guides from around the world and personalised by them. This includes an “Isle of Wight Room” which has been looked after and refurbised by IW members.

In 1834 Henry Weyland Powell (1787–1840) and a distant relative of Lord Baden- Powell, gave Foxlease as his address when he was Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire. Following their marriage in 1909 Armar Dayrolles Saunderson (1872–1952) and American Anne Mills Saunderson nee Archbold (1886–1968), bought Foxlease. Their marriage turned sour, and in 1921, Foxlease was put up for sale. Hampshire Girl Guides asked for and received permission to camp there and several training weeks were held there during 1921.

In January 1922, upon her divorce, Anne was the owner of Foxlease. She fled the country with their children but wrote to the Executive Committee of the Girl Guides Association, offering to give them the house and 60 acres to be a training centre for Guiders. Despite the suitability of the property and the need for such a venue, the committee’s considered opinion was that the Guides did not have sufficient resources for the upkeep and it would not be wise to accept the gift.

This offer coincided with the preparations for the marriage of Princess Mary, who happened to be president of the Girl Guides Association at that time. All girls who were named Mary and were Guides in the British Empire, had given contributions to a Wedding Gift for The Princess and it was thought that these monies could be put to good use. Less than a week before the Royal wedding, Rose Kerr, on behalf of Olave Baden-Powell who was unavailable, made contact with Lady Mary Trefusis who was on the committee of a fund to which all the Marys of the British Empire had contributed. The princess insisted that she could only accept a portion of the fund as a personal gift. Trefusis proposed to Kerr that the remainder be spent buying a training centre for the Girl Guides, a cause close to the princess’s heart. Kerr suggested that the fund could furnish and equip Foxlease, but this was not immediately accepted as the fund wanted a place that would be associated with Princess Mary’s name.

Soon after, Olave Baden-Powell went to see Princess Mary at Buckingham Palace. Anne Saunderson was consulted and the outcome was that her gift was accepted and the house was renamed The Princess Mary House. Princess Mary gave £6,000 from the fund to furnish and equip the house. Later she gave £4,000, half the proceeds of the exhibition of her wedding gifts, towards the upkeep of the property.

Alice Behrens was appointed the first Guider-in-Charge. Each room was adopted by Guides from a country or county of Britain and furnished by them.

Foxlease was opened on 2 June 1922 and celebrated its Centenary last year.

Over the years after visiting Foxlease on several occasions members, including a number of Isle of Wight members, have become “Friends of Foxlease” and undertaken fund raising events.

Plans were being drawn up for the creation of a “Museum of Guiding” to hold the extensive Guiding archives currently in store, but on 18 May 2023. the Girlguiding  national trustees announced that Foxlease was to be sold along with four other training and activity centres in the UK.