My doctoral research at the University of Cumbria focused on the Co-operative Holidays Association (CHA) and Holiday Fellowship (HF), founded by Thomas Arthur Leonard in 1893 and 1913 respectively.  These two pioneering organisations were at the forefront of the provision of cheap and simple accommodation to serve the growing popularity of active open-air recreation during the latter part of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  Founded by Thomas Arthur Leonard, a congregational minister in Colne, Lancashire in the 1890s, their purpose was:

“to provide simple and strenuous recreative and educational holidays by offering reasonably priced accommodation and to promote friendship and fellowship amid the beauty of the natural world”.

The Co-operative Holidays Association, constituted in 1897, was re-named the Countrywide Holidays Association in 1964 but ceased to operate as a holiday provider in 2004.  For most of its life the organisation was simply known as the CHA.  The Holiday Fellowship continues to provide holidays today as HF Holidays.

The origins and foundation of these two pioneering organisations has been researched by Harvey Taylor, Susan Barton and Robert Snape, amongst others, but there has been little definitive research into how they dealt with the changing social, economic and cultural conditions after the First World War.  My research explores the ways in which increasing affluence and consumer choice, changing cultural attitudes and expectations, the popularisation of outdoor recreation and the proliferation of competing outdoor holiday providers impacted on their ability to provide simple and cheap recreative and educational holidays.  It seeks to determine how these organisations dealt with the often conflicting demands of altruism and commercial necessity and to assess the extent to which they diverted from their original ideals and philosophy in order to combat the challenges of consumerism.

The research has drawn heavily on the CHA archive in the Greater Manchester County Record Office and the HF Holidays archive now located at its centre, Newfield Hall in Malhamdale in the Yorkshire Dales.  I have also been fortunate to receive a great deal of help from former and present officials and members of both organisations, from a number of CHA and HF clubs and from a range of other organisations, including the YHA, outdoor centres and mountaineering clubs.

On this website you will find more details of my research topic and why this subject is of importance to the historiography of twentieth century countryside leisure practice. My PhD thesis is entitled: Whatever happened to ‘rational’ holidays for working people, c.1919-2000: The competing demands of altruism and commercial necessity in the Co-operative Holidays Association and Holiday Fellowship.  I am now embarking on further research for a book on T A Leonard and the history of the CHA.  

If you have any information or particularly interesting memories of CHA and/or HF holidays, please get in touch via the contact form.

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.