Pax Lodge is the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) World Centre in London, England. It was opened in 1990 but was not the first World Centre in England. It was preceded by Olave House (1959-1988), named after Olave Baden-Powell which was preceded by Our Ark (1939-1959).
Like all World Centres it provides a home away from home for Girl Guides and Scouts and is a centre for educational sessions, international events and other activities. The other World Centres are: Our Chalet in Switzerland, Our Cabaña in Mexico, and Sangam World Girl Guide/Girl Scout Center in India.
By the early 1930s, there were more than one million Girl Guides and Girl Scouts around the world within the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. A World Bureau for the Association had recently been established in London and it was becoming apparent that the Girl Guides who visited London needed a place to stay. The World Bureau regularly received requests for accommodation and during the World Committee meeting in Scotland in July 1937 the idea of a World Centre in London was discussed.
The Committee agreed that a Guide hostel should be built in London. It also decided that the World Bureau would need more space and there would be many advantaged of building the World Bureau and World Centre next to each other. Dame Katharine Furse, the first director of the World Bureau, became the driving force behind the project and wrote to all the member countries of the World Association about the proposals.
The new centre, of course, could not be built without money. So Dame Katherine launched the ‘Pennies Appeal’ in her Thinking Day letter to the WAGGGS member countries. “We already have £300 to enable the office to start in its new premises…but we need money to provide the house…If every Brownie, Guide, Ranger and Old Guide…would send us one penny on Thinking Day we should receive 1,320,000 pennies, or £5,500. Just think what a world house we could set up with that!”
On 22 February 1938, the pennies began to pour in and soon there were enough to purchase the chosen site: three houses on Palace Street, one of which was to become the World Bureau, with the remaining two forming London’s first World Centre. Our Ark, 11-13 Palace Street, London.
The Palace Street houses had been built in the 17th century over the Tatchbrook – one of the many streams used to flow out to join the River Thames, but which are now hidden beneath the paving stones of London. The buildings were in a convenient, central location, across the road from the side entrance to the British Guide Headquarters and very close to Buckingham Palace. From the windows, Her Majesty’s Footguards could be seen marching by.
The first guests started to arrive a few months before the official opening. In line with the international emphasis of the World Centre, the very first visitor was the Swiss wife of an Englishman who led an American Girl Scout troop in Peking. On 2 May 1939, The WAGGGS’ second World Centre was ready. Guides from Hungary, India, Norway, Luxembourg, Sweden, Switzerland, South Africa, and the USA formed a guard of honour to welcome Lady Bowater, Lady Mayoress of London, who performed the official opening ceremony. Our Ark was created to be a place where Guides from all countries could meet and feel at home.
Our Ark remained open throughout the Second World War, becoming a safe haven for many Guides and Scouts from across the world. By the end of the war, Our Ark had already established a few special traditions. Flags were kept on tables to represent the various nationalities present, visitors could come for house tours, the staff had animal nicknames, and rooms were named after countries or places which had helped pay for the furnishings.
During the 1950s, Our Ark’s popularity continued to grow. But by 1956 the 21-year lease was coming to an end and both the World Bureau and World Centre had outgrown its space. The World Conference, held in Brazil in 1957, decided to appeal to all members to raise the money to house both the World Bureau and Our Ark under the same roof. Girl Guides and Girl Scouts from all over the world sponsored bricks, and British Guides raised money for the garden.
The search for a new location for Our Ark continued and finally led to 45 Longridge Road, Earls Court, a small hotel occupying two Victorian houses, which would be able to accommodate 43 guests and six members of staff on five floors. The World Bureau, however, decided to establish their offices in the old premises of the Boy Scouts International Bureau.
In 1963, during a special ceremony presided over by the World Chief Guide, Olave Baden-Powell, the Centre was renamed Olave House in her honour. The ceremony took place on Our Ark’s Silver Jubilee, on 5 November 1963. For the next twenty years, Olave House continued to be a vibrant centre for Girl Guides and Girl Scouts around the world. Representatives from over fifty countries stayed in the hostel each year.
By 1978, however plans were underway to move the premises again. The idea of the Olave Centre Project formed and three years later, the Project had a site: 12c Lyndhurst Road in the residential suburb of Hampstead. An area famous for its artistic and literary connections, as well as for Hampstead Heath, 800 acres of open land high up on the hill overlooking London.
A new name had to be found for the empty lot that was to become the World Centre and it was decided to name it ‘Pax Lodge’ as a tribute to the Baden-Powells who had used the Latin word for peace ‘pax’ in the names of their two homes, Pax Hill in England and Paxtu in Kenya. The name also highlights that peace is an important part of the Girl Guiding/Girl Scouting Movement.
The groundbreaking ceremony for Pax Lodge was held on 8 November 1988. The following year on 6 May, The Honorable Mrs. Betty Clay, daughter of Lord and Lady Baden-Powell, unveiled the foundation stone – on the fiftieth anniversary of Our Ark and 100 years after the birth of the World Chief Guide. The building took around 18 months, but by July 1990, staff was ready to move into Pax Lodge. The new Centre could accommodate 59 people and had a large dining room, kitchen, lobby lounge, library, resource centre, shop, TV room, guest kitchen, and a staff/resident wing.
On 1 August, Pax Lodge received its first guests. The World Centre was active again after a two-year break. On 29 September 1990, the Guider-in-Charge and members of staff walked four miles across London from Olave House to Pax Lodge carrying the World Flag. They ended up raising £500 for the centre in the process. The doors to Pax Lodge were donated by members of the Baden-Powell family and, in an official ‘door opening’ ceremony, were opened by Natasha King, great-granddaughter of the Founder and World Chief Guide. In doing so they carried on a tradition initiated by Olave Baden-Powell who often gave a donation towards the doors when asked to open a new building. Her intention was to symbolically express that the doors of Girl Guiding and Girl Scouting are open to women and girls to prepare them for the outside world.
On 15 March 1991, H.R.H. The Princess Benedikte of Denmark officially opened Pax Lodge. Since opening, Pax Lodge has welcomed over 62,000 guests, including day visitors from more than 65 countries. It has become an international gathering place for friendship, education and accommodation, and it is an ideal place to stay when visiting London.
Ten years later, Pax Lodge celebrated its 10th birthday with a weekend of activities. The weekend included a day out in London visiting the London Eye and other attractions, a visit to Leeds Castle in Kent, a party for the local Brownies and an official reception for past volunteers, staff, committee members and other supporters and friends of Pax Lodge. Over 100 people attended, with some traveling as far as South Africa, Australia, Canada, USA, and Lebanon.
When the Centre moved from Olave House to Pax Lodge, a competition was launched to design the original logo for Pax Lodge. The winner was Alan Rawady from Australia, whose design is now used widely throughout the Centre. The Trefoil represents International Guiding and Girl Scouting, and the dove carrying an olive branch, the symbol of peace, is shaped like an ark to continue the idea from Our Ark and Olave House, the previous World Centres in London. In 2005, along with the (WAGGGS) repositioning, a new image was produced for Pax Lodge. The original logo is still in use but to a lesser extent.
The Pax Lodge Pin is only to be bought and worn by people who have visited the World Centre. It cannot be traded or given away, and is only available from the Pax Lodge shop.
The centre can accommodate up to 59 guests, open all year round.
Accommodation consists of: 1 room of three beds 3 rooms of four beds 18 basic twin bed rooms And 4 En-Suite twin rooms with their own toilet and shower.
The guest kitchen The guest kitchen is located on the first floor for preparation of light snacks. There is a small area seating eight people, as well as a guest fridge, oven and microwave.
Our World Lounge The Our World lounge is the main space for guests to relax.
London Room This room is packed with information for guests about attractions and sightseeing in London.
Rose Room This is the only room in the building which has not been sponsored by a country, the money raised to complete this room was collected from the sale of the ‘Guiding Spirit Rose’. The Rose Room also holds many items that have been donated us, from Girl Guides and Girl Scouts across the world. We also have some items from ‘Our Ark’ and ‘Olave House’ the previous two World Centres in London.
Conference Room The Conference Suite is a multi-purpose room with the capacity for up to 100 people. It can also be split into two smaller rooms, which are available for private bookings and is also used for many international events and educational seminars throughout the year.
Breakfast is available from 07.30 – 09.00 and is a continental style. Breakfast includes warm rolls, eggs, cereal, yogurts and fruit. Tea and coffee is also available. Earlier breakfasts can be arranged, please contact the Pax Lodge Office. Breakfast is included in your room rate.
Lunch is the set meal of the day and is served at 13.00. Packed lunches can be prepared for your group; a comprehensive range of fillings are available. Your sandwiches can be made on either sliced bread or baguettes. Packed lunches cost £3.00 or £3.50 respectively and included your sandwich, boxed drink and piece of fruit. If we have pack lunch order for 20 people or more groups may be asked to help with the preparation of the sandwiches.
Dinner is a set two course meal and is served at 18.00.
We are able to offer cream tea’s at the cost of £2-50. These are available for groups in the afternoon between 14.30 and 15.30.
Drinks and Snacks
Hot drinks are always available in the dinning room, these included tea, coffee and hot chocolate. We also have a selection of bakery items for sale. Our shop sells a selection of cold drinks, chocolate and snacks. It is open between 08.00 – 18.00 every day.
Please inform us if any member of your group has any special dietary requirements: due to health, allergenic or religious reasons. These requirements will be catered for but we need any information at least 48 hours before your stay. If your group does have any special dietary requirements please inform the Pax Lodge office.
Long Term Residents are young people, over the age of 18, who are members of WAGGGS and are studying or working in London for the first time. Long term resident places are available for three to nine month periods for those either attending school or working. Accommodation for long term residents is in single rooms with shared bathroom and kitchen facilities.
Pax Ldoge can offer you and your group many Programmes, Events and Activities while you are at Pax Lodge.
•They offer several scheduled events and seminars throughout the year which focus on the work of WAGGGS while exploring London
•They can offer you an evening programme, either for guests staying at Pax Lodge or for local groups
•They can offer you a tour of Pax Lodge
•You can take a self guided tour of London
•You can take part in the Pax Lodge Challenge
•They can put together a tailored programme for your group. Please contact us for more information
•You can buy tickets to some of London ’s top attractions
If you are unable to visit them in London they offer activity ideas for you to try at home on their website.