About > Early life

Early life

Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell was born at 6 Stanhope Street (now 11 Stanhope Terrace), Paddington, London on February 22, 1857.



Robert Baden-Powell's birth certificate


He was the sixth son and the eighth of ten children of the Reverend Baden-Powell, a Professor at Oxford University. The names Robert Stephenson were those of his Godfather, the son of railway pioneer George Stephenson. When Robert was three years old, his father died.



Robert, around two years old.



School days

Robert was given his first lessons by his mother, then he went to Rose Hill School, Tunbridge Wells, where he gained a scholarship to Charterhouse School. Based in London when he first attended, it relocated to Godalming, Surrey, a factor which had great influence in his later life. He was always eager to learn new skills. He played the piano and fiddle. He acted - and acted the clown too at times. He practised bricklaying, and it was whilst a scholar at Charterhouse that he began to exploit his interest in the arts of Scouting and woodcraft.



In the woods around the school, Robert would stalk his masters as well as catch and cook rabbits, being careful not to let the tell-tale smoke give his position away. During the holidays, he and his brothers were always in search of adventure. One vacation was spent on a yachting expedition around the south coast of England. On another, they traced the Thames to its source by canoe. In all this, Robert was learning skills, that were to prove so useful to him professionally. He was certainly not a 'swot' at school, as his end of term reports revealed. One records: 'Mathematics - has to all intents given up the study', and another: 'French - could do well but has become very lazy, often sleeps in school'.



Robert's school report from Charterhouse


Nevertheless, he gained second place for cavalry in an open examination for the Army and was commissioned straight into the 13th Hussars, bypassing the officer training establishments, and subsequently became their Honorary Colonel for 30 years.



Robert in his Army cadet uniform


Click here for Army Career


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