Key dates in the camp's history

St John Bosco Children's Camp - history timeline

  • 1920s & 30s - SVP South of England Camps, Isle of Wight
  • 1951 - First SVP London Boys' Camp, Aylesford
  • 1952 - SVP London Boys' Camp, Aylesford
  • 1953 - SVP London Boys' Camp, Burnham-on-Crouch
  • 1954 - 1985 - SVP London Boys' Camp, Gosfield Lake
  • 1986 - present - SVP London Childrens' Camp, near Colchester


The St Vincent de Paul Society (SVP) is an international lay Christian organisation, Catholic in origin, character and tradition.

The SVP has a long history of providing rural holidays for city children. Today the St John Bosco Camp is one of the SVP's largest holiday projects, serving the Dioceses of Brentwood, Southwark, Westminster and Arundel & Brighton. We are a special work of Brentwood SVP.

The SVP Summer Camps that existed in the South of England in the 1920s and 1930s were the blueprint for our project. In 1951 , after the disruption of World War II, Brentwood SVP invited several experienced leaders to form a committee to organise again a Boys’ Camp during the school summer holidays. The first three Camps were spent at Aylesford (1951 and 1952) and Burnham on Crouch (1953) until in 1954 a suitable site was found near Gosfield Lake in Essex, and the Camp was dedicate to St John Bosco, the Patron Saint of children and young people.

For over thirty years SVP Conferences, Parishes and Schools sent boys for a summer break. Though the Gosfield site was small, it was possible to use the village recreation ground and common land a short walk away. Many of the activities for the boys were similar to the ones we have today, but the facilities – though adequate for them – in no way compare to the ones we have now.

The only building on the site for over twenty years was an army style hut which was used as a kitchen. Everything else was under canvas, including offices, First Aid and toilets. There was no hot water for washing, and the holiday then was more similar in style to a Boy Scout Camp. The boys were expected to peel potatoes once a week, wash up their own plates and pitch their own tent. Round bell tents were used, and remained in use until 1979 when they were sent to Italy as aid following an earthquake.

1976 saw the building of a new kitchen block, with space for offices and storage. A great improvement. It was partly the successful experience of fundraising for that new building that provided the impetus to move the location of the Camp. The Bosco Camp did not own the Gosfield site, and an urgency grew to find somewhere we could purchase and develop, to secure the Camp for the future and to start a much needed Girls’ Camp. Brentwood SVP gave the Camp enormous support in this venture, and continue to do so today.

In 1986 after much searching and several false starts we found and bought our present site, near Colchester. That year we also ran our first Girls' Camp. Over the years the organisation of the Girls’ Camp has been delegated to another group, but both camps still work closely together.

A new building was ready, which contained a kitchen, offices, a First Aid post and toilets with hot and cold running water. The introduction of an industrial dishwasher abolished washing up for the children forever! A second building added in 1996 provided extra storage and a tuck shop.

Our organisation is now over 60 years old. 2010 marked the 25th Camp on the site, and the 25th Girls’ Camp. There have been many changes since those happy days of years ago. However, for the children the excitement of a holiday under canvas remains the same as ever. Large numbers return year after year for a week in the countryside, in a safe and caring atmosphere.