Holiday Fellowship

The Holiday Fellowship: origins

Leonard resigned from the CHA in 1913 to form the Holiday Fellowship in a renewed effort to establish holidays that would be genuinely working-class in appeal and composition.  It was at the CHA guest house ‘Woodbank’ in Matlock Bath, Derbyshire, in May of that year, that the principles of its constitution were agreed.  In the words of a circular released at the time: “The Holiday Fellowship is the outcome of a desire on the part of the General Secretary of the Co-operative Holidays Association to extend the work begun twenty years ago by that movement”.  The vision was to organise simple types of centres in parts of the country inaccessible to the CHA and ‘to run them with a minimum of comfort, convenience and good order’.  The objective:

“To organise holiday making, to provide for the healthy enjoyment of leisure, to encourage the love of the open air, and to promote social and international fellowship.”

The split with the CHA was reasonably amicable, with the HF taking over the CHA’s centre at Newlands in the Lake District and a centre at Kelkheim in Germany.  The objects of the new organisation were similar to those of the CHA but with a greater emphasis on international relations.  There was no thought of competition between the two organisations.  The HF had the use of the CHA song-book and advertised in the CHA’s publication Comradeship.  

The HF’s first headquarters were established at ‘Bryn Corach’ at Conwy in North Wales at Easter 1914, an inauspicious time to be establishing a new holiday enterprise.  Undaunted by the impending conflict, other centres were opened at Ingleton in the Yorkshire Dales and at Portpatrick in Galloway, Scotland and trips were organised to Kelkheim and Norway.   

There were only minor divergences from the CHA model.  Centre officials consisted of the Host and Hostess, who were volunteer members, and the Centre Secretary, usually a University student on summer vacation.  The Host and Hostess organised the weekly social programme.  The purpose of the evening gatherings was ‘to weld the house party into a group of friends, irrespective of class, creed or colour’.  The Centre Secretary organised the walking programme and led the longest walk (the “A” party).   Manageresses were in charge of domestic arrangements and many became legendary personalities.  

The HF continued with the Free and Assisted Holiday Schemes initiated by the CHA, later to become ‘Goodwill’ Holidays.  Local groups were set up, along similar lines to those of the CHA, to organise social, educational and recreational activities.  In 1920, the HF’s own magazine Over the Hills appeared in a similar format to the CHA’s Comradeship.  The most significant difference between the two organisations, which was to have an important bearing on their respective futures, was that the Co-operative Holidays Association, although a non-profit making organisation, was registered as a company limited by guarantee whereas the Holiday Fellowship was registered as a society under the Industrial and Provident Societies Act.

The Holiday Fellowship: the inter-war period

Thomas Arthur Leonard, founder of the Co-operative Holidays Association and Holiday Fellowship was born at 50 Tabernacle Walk, Finsbury, London on 12th March 1864. He died at his home ‘Wayside’ in Conwy, North Wales on 19th July 1948.

By common consent, the CHA originated in 1891 when T A Leonard, Minister of the Dockray Square Congregational Church in Colne, Lancashire, took 32 members of the church’s social guild on a four day’s holiday to Ambleside in the English Lake District.

T A Leonard resigned from the CHA in 1913 to form the Holiday Fellowship in a renewed effort to establish holidays that would be genuinely working-class in appeal and composition. The split with the CHA was amicable and there was no thought of competition between the two organisations.

There is a wide-ranging bibliography of books, Government reports, journal articles, theses and dissertations relevant to the study of ‘Rational’ holidays and the history of the Co-operative Holidays Association and Holiday Fellowship.