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Stories from the Studio

Celebrating Maker Camp's Centenary of Connecting People To Nature

Celebrating Maker Camp's Centenary of Connecting People To Nature

As part of the move of our Shop and Studio up to Maker Heights, which is happening this August, I thought you might be interested to know a bit more about the history of Maker Camp which celebrates its centenary this year (1923-2023).

In 1976, I was one of the children who stayed at Maker with my classmates, as did so may other school children in Plymouth that hot summer. It was the first time I had been away from home and my time at Maker made a real impression on me. My memories are of metal beds in long rows in dormitories, wool blankets, rounders matches, the walk down to the beach at Kingsand and the sense of freedom.  They are things that I know that I, and countless other children like me really valued and have never forgotten.

Maker Heights Entrance

Find out more about Maker Camp's centenary in this blog, written by Cathy Green from the Rame Conservation Trust., the charity responsible for protecting and promoting the heritage assets at Maker for public benefit.

Centenary Logo created by Andy Knights

Major Milestone

2023 marks a major milestone for Maker Camp which has connected children to nature for a hundred years. To mark the centenary, a short film, which tells the fascinating history of the camp, was commissioned by Rame Conservation Trust and Maker Memories, an award winning community archive project. The film premiered at Maker Heights on 19th July 2023.

Many Cornwall and Devon residents have fond memories of visits to Maker Camp during their school days in the 1960s and 1970s. Recollections include eating a delicious home-cooked meal in a canteen located on a Parade Ground, eagerly waiting for a tuck shop to open so that sweets could be purchased, sleeping in camp beds lined up in rows in an imposing soldiers’ barracks, walking to local beaches in Kingsand and Cawsand, enjoying music and dancing and participating in sailing, outdoor art classes and nature discovery activities.

Children By The Sea During A Maker Holiday

Children from other parts of the country also visited. Sue Williams who accompanied a group of children from Cumbria to Maker Camp in the 1970s wrote: “Do you know where you were when Elvis died? I know exactly: Maker Camp! On 16th August 1977, we met a colleague who’d been to the canteen for an early breakfast; he told us the sad news that Elvis had died and that one of the servery ladies had been in tears.”

Nancy Astor's Role at Maker Heights

Yet the history of Maker Camp extends back further. The first organised holiday for children at Maker Heights took place 100 years ago in 1923. Use of the military site was negotiated with the War Office by Lady Nancy Astor, the first female MP to sit in the House of Commons. At the time, Lady and Lord Astor had established the Virginia House Settlement in Plymouth, an early social welfare scheme. This provided training, education and other support for children, young people and adults in a deprived part of the city. Lady Astor believed that enabling children to holiday in the countryside would be beneficial for their health and wellbeing and help build a sense of community and civic pride.

For many children who visited Maker Camp in the 1920s and 1930s, this was their first visit to the countryside, first swim in the sea and first opportunity to connect with nature. In a document held at the Plymouth Archive at The Box, staff of the Virginia House Settlement wrote of: “how often they have heard the children tell, unprompted by anyone, of the wonderful time they had last year at the Holiday Home. It’s like a fairy tale they never weary of dwelling on.”

Children Playing Rounders At Maker Camp

The site continued to host educational visits and holidays for school children until the 1980s playing a hugely significant role in introducing children from urban areas to the great outdoors. Today Maker Heights, designated a nationally important heritage site, continues to thrive under the management of the charity Rame Conservation Trust. Many of the services and activities that are available on site today, such as outdoor art classes, wellbeing activities, dance, live music and good food resonate with activities that the early visitors to site participated in, irretrievably linking the threads of the past to the present.

New Film Celebrates First 100 Years

This new film traces the history of the site from 1923 onwards, showcases the current cultural activities and heritage on site, and links the past to the present via a series of themes: connecting people to nature, art, music and health and well-being. The film can be watched here.

The 19th July film premiere was well-attended; 85 people listened to an introductory talk which described how a creative team from RCT and Maker Memories (Lyvinia Elleschild, Cathy Green, Dom Moore and Julian Gray) worked with a poet Jason Butler, and film maker Tom Kirkman, to devise the film concept, provided archive material to guide the writing of the poem and supported the production process including arranging access to archive images and film.

Tom Kirkman, film maker explains the creative process of making the film

After the screening, a centenary cake, made by MHL Director Fleur Young, was cut with the help of Lady Megan Edgcumbe.

Centenary Cake Cutting

The cake carried a centenary logo which was specially designed to mark 1923-2023 by talented Maker Heights tenant, Andy Knights.

What's Next?

Activities to celebrate the centenary will continue throughout the year. Keep an eye out on the Rame Conservation Trust facebook page and @makerheights Instagram for news on activities and events.

More information about the work of the Rame Conservation Trust to protect and promote the heritage assets at Maker Heights can be found here.

We're Joining The Community!

As a business here at Helen Round we are very excited to be joining the other businesses and creative community of artists, musicians, film makers, photographers and a host of other social enterprises ranging from music educators, foragers and fashion designers.

You can find us right next to The Canteen, which offers locally sourced food and is run by ex-River Cottage Chef Nick Platts.

With wonderful views over Plymouth Sound, the Tamar Valley and Dartmoor and Bodmin Moors we are really looking forward to our move up to Maker Heights. 

Don't hesitate to visit us if you are in the area!


  1. Make Heights still taken from film
  2. Maker Camp centenary logo 1923-2023 (credit: Andy Knights)
  3. Still taken from film
  4. Still taken from film
  5. Tom Kirkman, film maker. Photo credit: Dom Moore
  6. Lady Megan Edgcumbe and Fleur Young, Rame Conservation Trust, cutting the centenary cake: Photo credit: Dom Moore

I'd love to hear your thoughts or comments on our move to Maker or any of the products in our range.  You can email me or post your comments on social media; find us on Facebook or Instagram.

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