The Holiday Fellowship: post war expansion

In looking forward in 1934, Leonard visualised more ‘adventure’ type centres, similar to Newlands as a link between the simplicities of the new youth hostels, the inspiration for which he traced to the CHA and HF, and the country house style adopted at many centres.  He also wished to see more youth camps, such as Langdale, developed as well as family centres.  However, members increasingly questioned some of the foundations of the organisation and the traditional arrangements at centres.  

The debate on the future of the HF was re-ignited after the Second World War, when there was a strong reaction to the regimentation of life during this conflict.  There was heated debate on the subject of compulsory participation in excursions and there were articles in the HF magazine Over the Hills for and against “undue regimentation”, such as the closing time for Common Room entertainment at 10.30pm and the prohibition on socialising and singing in dormitories after 11.00pm.  At the AGM in 1956, questions were raised about the name of the organisation.  Some members thought that the name “Holiday Fellowship” was off-putting to new members.

As the 1950s progressed, although a majority of members favoured “consolidation and entrenchment”, there were growing pressures for change.  ‘Go as you Please’ holidays were introduced, with optional walks, and coach touring holidays organized for those who wished to continue to visit HF centres but could no longer manage the walks.  1959 saw the publication of the first brochure dedicated to ‘special interest’ holidays.  These included outdoor activities such as pony-trekking and riding, but also encompassed a wide range of indoor activities such as photography, art & sketching, dancing and musical appreciation.

The 1960s saw a period of consolidation but by the end of the decade, major changes were afoot.  At the 1969 AGM it was agreed that at some centres no organized excursions would be laid down; led walks would be offered only if requested; the “rising bell” would not be rung and Grace would not be said before meals.  The mood and style of the HF’s magazine Over the Hills changed over the first few years of the 1970s.  The essay competitions, humorous anecdotes and poems disappeared and there were more serious articles on the management of HF, and features and advertisements emphasising special interest holidays and family holidays at home and abroad.  According to Harry Wroe, author of ‘The Story of HF Holidays’: “If you were reading the magazine for the first time, you would have assumed that was what HF was about – walking was seldom mentioned!!” 

As the century progressed, the HF, like the CHA, concentrated its efforts on special interest holidays and family holidays.  Some of the more simple and spartan centres were closed.  The Langdale Camp continued to operate until 1965 when it was removed and no sign of it remains today.  Accommodation was concentrated in country houses, the majority of which were situated close to the coast and established holiday areas.  Accommodation became increasingly based on twin and single rooms with en-suite facilities.  Gone were the days of saying Grace before meals, lights out at 11.00pm and a prohibition on alcohol.  The fears of Leonard were being realised!!

The Holiday Fellowship: modernisation

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.