1971 Dave Cook (below) reports to the CPGB EC that new arrangements are in place for running Coppice Camp. No doubt as a result of Bob Shannon and perhaps other’s departure.
I have no information on the rest of the 1970’s. Can you help with some of the missing history. Were you one of the people who camped at Coppice in the 70’s or even helped run the camp? We need your stories and experiences to complete the story.
We pick up the story a decade later.
1981 CPGB agrees to sell bungalow to Brian and Josie Green who have lived in it as unpaid camp caretakers for some years.
At this time the existing Coppice Camp Trustees are Dave Cook, Tom Bell, Denis Ellwand and Margaret Woddis. They are replaced by Nina Temple, Ian McKay, Dennis Walshe. Margaret Woddis stays on as a trustee.
1982 The CPGB agreed a grant £200 per issue of Challenge (The YCL Magazine) paid from the Coppice Trust Fund
1984 Three camps are organised at Coppice for the children of miners involved in the Miner’s Strike.
1986 A YCL document reports that income from the use of Coppice for International Camps has been paying the wages of a second YCL full-time worker but this funding had now stopped and the writer was appealing for it to be reinstated.
George Bridges confirms this arrangement in his memories of the camp.
1986 £537 was taken from the Coppice Trust Fund to fund the CPGB National Student Committee’s attendance at the Annual NUS conference.
1988 CPGB Minutes report a £2,500 loan from The Coppice Camp Trust to the Midlands District of the Party.
1988 CPGB Minutes report an outstanding debt by the Party Executive Committee of £4,000 from the Coppice Trust.
Around 1990? Progressive Tours, the communist party owned travel agent run by Landon Temple (Father of last CPCB Gen Sec Nina Temple) used Coppice for incoming holiday groups from the USSR and other Socialist countries.
These groups are often critical and disappointed by the location and conditions of the camp site, a million miles from the decadent central London location they had expected.
Interestingly Progressive Tours still existed in 2011 filing annual accounts in that year showing assets of just short of a quarter of a million pounds. I do not know who now owns it or if it is still trading.
1990 Margaret Woddis writes to CPGB EC about buying new premises for a national headquarters. She suggests selling existing properties including Coppice.
1990 Brentwood Secret Nuclear Bunker sold back to original owners.
1991 A CPGB financial paper reports that Coppice camp has been sold for £69,287. The Party had hoped it might make £100,000.
But the Communist Party has much bigger worries than Coppice Camp this year. The Soviet Union has collapsed, The leadership of the CPGB, led by Nina Temple, decide to disband the party, and establish Democratic Left, a left-leaning political think tank rather than a political party.
During the Coppice sale negotiations a Loughton member of Democratic Left, Pete Relph, approached the Party to buy Coppice. He has £100,000 and a plan to set it up as an environmental centre for the wider Labour movement.
Pete had been a regular visitor to Coppice over the years and had studied the wildlife on the site.
He remembers the natural dell where frequent campfire singsongs were the highlight of a visit to the camp. Curious deer, badgers and foxes would peer in to see what was happening. Bats would swoop silently overhead.
Pete says his offer was ignored by the Party. “They just wouldn’t respond to my communications”. Then I heard a rumour it had been sold. Sadly I gave up.
In the 1992 General Election Relph and almost the entire Loughton Democratic Left were expelled by the National Democratic Left Centre for standing a candidate against the Labour Party. Relph and his Loughton rather unconventional comrades still function as a Democratic Left Branch within the Alliance for Green Socialism.
1992 Brentwood Secret Bunker opens as a museum. It is certainly worth a visit.
Between 1991 to 1995 It seems a parcel of land adjoining School Road may have been sold and a new house built.
1995 In January the camp site is purchased by a local man from School Road, Kelvedon Hatch, Brentwood, Essex, CM15 0DL for £170,000.
A widely held view is that Coppice Camp had been bought or legally owned by the Young Communist League itself during its history. My research suggests that it was owned by Dr Cullen, then gifted by him to a four person trust controlled by the Communist Party of Great Britain Executive Committee until it was finally sold off by the current Trustees in 1991.
I can find no written references to it “Being left to the YCL” or being “A young communist camp in perpetuity” although many have claimed it was. They certainly have the moral right on their side if not the letter of the Law.
Over time various committees with various permutations of words like Coppice, Camping and Committee assembled into various titles but none of these ever had any legal status or ownership of the Camp.