Who was Nellie Payne?

Girl Guides chair and table, Foxlease, England. Carved 1924-26.

DB84 chair
DB165 desk

Foxlease is an activity centre for Girl Guiding near Lyndhurst, Hampshire, UK. The estate has been owned and managed by the Guides since 1922. The main house is known as The Princess Mary House in honour of her marriage.

Update 2022:

In 2022 Westbury & District Historical Society, who look after the Nellie Payne website, were asked by Foxlease if there was any information regarding the initials ER carved on the left hand panel of the desk.

After a bit of detective work we think that the initials ER on the Nellie Payne desk refer to Miss Enid Robinson. She was a “red corded diploma guider” who came out from the UK to train guiders in Tasmania in 1926. In the same year Miss Alice Behrens, first guider-in-charge at Foxlease also visited Tasmania as part of a visit to Australia and New Zealand.



The desk has been conserved in 2022 and is now in a good condition.


Some time after the marriage in 1906 of Armar Dayrolles Saunderson of Ireland to the American Anne Archbold  they bought Foxlease. The marriage turned sour, and in 1921 Foxlease was put up for sale. Hampshire Girl Guides asked for and received permission to camp there and several training weeks were held there during 1921. In January 1922, upon her divorce, Anne Saunderson, now the owner of Foxlease, fled the country, wishing to sever all ties with Britain lest her husband obtain custody of their children. She wrote to the Executive Committee of the Girl Guides Association offering to give them the house and 60 acres to be a training centre for Guiders. Despite the suitability of the property and the need for such a venue, the Committee’s considered opinion was that the Guides did not have sufficient resources for the upkeep and it would not be wise to accept the gift.

The offer coincided with the preparations for the marriage of Princess Mary, who was President of the Girl Guides Association.  There was a fund to which all the ladies named “Mary” in the British Empire had contributed for a wedding present to the Princess.  The Princess insisted that she could only accept a proportion of the fund as a personal gift, so she gave 10,000 pound towards the upkeep of the property, thus enabling the gift of the house and land to be made by Anne Saunderson.

Foxlease hosted the Guides’ Third International Conference, the Sixth World Conference and also the first World Camp. In addition to the many Georgian buildings at Foxlease there are several campsites, a 9m climbing wall, a low rope course, a high rope course and a covered, heated swimming pool. Kayaking and rafting facilities are also available. There are also nature trails.

Each room was adopted by Guides from a country, British county, or school and embellished and furnished by them, hence Nellie’s carved chair being sent from Tasmania.  Nellie was passionate about the Girl Guide movement, as her grand-daughter Rosemary was a Girl Guide Captain.

Foxlease was opened on 2nd June, 1922.

The Third International Conference and the first World Camp took place from 16-24 July 1924 at Foxlease.
1100 girls and women attended, 600 of which were from overseas. Forty countries were represented.  Miss Nina Frances Cragg from Launceston  (1901-1980 married Sinclair Jeavous Thyne in 1928) attended from Tasmania. In all she spent close to a year in the UK, also attending the British Empire Exhibition. Miss Cragg was the Launceston Commissioner of Girl Guides.