Tag Archives: co-operative holidays association

Holidaymakers at Conway, August 1958

Organised outdoor activity in the UK- The Holiday Fellowship

To provide for the healthy enjoyment of leisure

To encourage the love of the open air

To promote social and international friendship

and

To organize holiday making and other activities with these objects

T.A. Leonard, a Congregational Church minister from Colne, Lancashire

T.A. Leonard, a Congregational Church minister from Colne, Lancashire

The creation of The Holiday Fellowship is down to one man, and one man alone. Social reformer Thomas Arthur Leonard (1864-1948) was the driving force behind many organisations that sought to give people in towns and cities a taste of outdoors life. He believed that such experience was good for the soul, for health, and ultimately the community by bringing people together in shared outdoor circumstance.

Leonard had formed a rambling club in 1891 and 32 members of the Dockray Square Congregational Church in Colne, a Lancashire Mill Town,  joined him on a four night rambling holiday in Ambleside. Such was the success of this early venture that they became an eagerly looked forward to annual event. The Congregational Minister looked to further ways to get greater numbers in to the countryside. This led to the foundation of the Co-operative Holidays Association (CHA) in 1897. The CHA sought to provide- “recreative and educational holidays“. Laudable that the association was, by 1912, Leonard was at loggerheads with the CHA General Committee who, he felt, sought to appeal more to the middle class than working class. Additionally, he felt that a more international outlook was required. He announced his leaving the CHA to set up the Holiday Fellowship.  

Holiday Fellowship pin badge used by those staying at Newlands

Holiday Fellowship pin badge used by those staying at the Newlands Holiday Fellowship centre- a former graphite mill in the Lake District

Pin badge for the Holiday Fellowship

Enamelled pin badge for the Holiday Fellowship- worn with pride and fond memory, 1950s

A former pencil mill in the English Lake District, known as Newlands, had been leased from 1905, and was later bought, for £1,270 by the Holiday Fellowship. Purchased by three local businessmen in 1989, outdoor activities are still provided, by another commercial venture from the same location today. This centre saw thousands of holiday makers pass through and provided a base for group walks up in to the surrounding hills. Such was the experience that many holidaymakers would set up walking groups on their return home.

Miss Iris Hole paid £1, 9s, 6d for a weeks board and lodging at Derwent, in the English Lake District, in 1937

In December 1937 Miss Iris Hole paid £1, 9s, 6d for her holiday with the Holiday Fellowship. This was approximately equivalent to the daily wage of a skilled workman and bought her a week’s board and lodging at Derwent, in the English Lake District

From their earliest incarnations, both the Co-operative Holidays Association and the Holiday Fellowship encouraged the interaction of sexes, within limits. Accommodations remained separate but sexes met socially for dining, singing, discourse and outdoor activities. This was regarded by many as scandalous and was not the norm. Many other organisations, such as Scouting, Boys Brigade, Girls Brigade, church groups and worker’s societies discouraged such mixing. Early holiday camps were careful to remain single sex or took great steps to prevent promiscuous activity, largely to avoid external criticism and local outrage. Social norms were only now being broken down by the Holiday Fellowship and just a handful of other organisations. Following demand, in 1920 the Holiday Fellowship began Over the Hills, priced at 4d per copy, the magazine was published two or three times a year and lasted until 1982.

Newlands Centre in Keswick, English Lake District. Maud, writing from here to her friend Della in 1932 records:

Postcard showing Newlands Centre in Keswick, English Lake District. Maud, writing from here to her friend Della in 1932 records: “having a good time, weather not too good, have been doing a lot of climbing”

1927 advert of The Holiday Fellowship

1927 advert of The Holiday Fellowship

Flowers on the table and communal dining for those staying at the Holiday Fellowship Newlands Centre

Flowers on the table and communal dining for those staying at the Holiday Fellowship Newlands Centre

Programme for those staying at the Holiday Fellowship centre at Penzance, Cornwall, 1958

Programme for those staying at the Holiday Fellowship centre at Penzance, Cornwall, 1958

“and hear glad laughter and sweet speech

and friendly voices’ cadence reach

the ear in soft, caressing waves, and meet free men that are not slaves

of city toil and city hire,

but know Earth’s call and nature’s fire”

poetry extract from holiday centre programme

 

While Leonard favoured more spartan accommodation in remote areas, he was often at odds on this with his colleagues on the Holiday Fellowship committee, who largely preferred more comfortable facilities. Each holiday centre had a programme detailing the local arrangements and organised excursions. The Holiday Fellowship were well aware of the lives that many of their clients were escaping, albeit momentarily, and extolled the benefits of fresh air, camaraderie and worthy excursions for activities such as bathing, boating, rock climbing and walking. Holidaymakers were advised to bring simple first-aid, rucksack and nailed footwear ‘for safety’. Visitors were also encouraged to bring music if they could sing or play.

Programme of walking excursions at the Freshwater Bay centre on the Isle of Wight in 1957

Programme of short walking excursions at the Freshwater Bay centre on the Isle of Wight in 1957

'Holiday Songs' produced by the Holiday Fellowship. This is a revised edition of their first songbook- 'Songs by the Way'. Published June 1935

‘Holiday Songs’ published by the Holiday Fellowship in June 1935. This is a revised edition of their first songbook- ‘Songs by the Way’.

In common with the Co-operative Holidays Association (not surprisingly, as it was also created by Leonard) group song was a large feature of life with the Holiday Fellowship. So much so that, right from its foundation, small songbooks were both published and purchased in large numbers. Songs included: Jerusalem, John Peel, Oh dear! what can the matter be?, Early one morning, Dixie Land, Clementine and On Ilkley Moor baht ‘at.

“don’t start a sing-song with a new tune; have two or three well-known songs first, just to open the pipes… If a lack of interest is shown, stimulate the company by introducing a competitive spirit, men against women, or half the room against the other half “

Flying in the face of outward prejudice, the Holiday Fellowship encouraged house-parties to form into groups of new friends- regardless of class, creed or colour.

Enamelled pin badge. The rucksack emphasises the organisation's walking ethos

Enamelled pin badge. The rucksack emphasised the organisation’s walking ethos

1960's Holiday Fellowship button badge

Cheaply made Holiday Fellowship button badge with the HF logo introduced in 1961

Published in June 1935, the song book illustrated above is a revised edition of the second produced by the Holiday Fellowship and contains 78 songs or part songs including rounds. Certain songs had fallen ‘out of favour’ hence the revised edition.

Walking arm in arm through towns and country, singing loudly, much to the occasional annoyance of locals, groups of Holiday Fellowship walkers enjoyed access to beautiful parts of the countryside that dour magazines and newspapers only hinted at. Badges and patches proclaimed their allegiance to not only their new-found comrades but an outdoor life that they often embraced long after their week away.

Appearing quite spartan and reminiscent of an internment camp, the accommodation sheds of the Holiday Fellowship camp at Conway were, nonetheless, a welcome respite for many, 1922

Appearing quite spartan and reminiscent of an internment camp, the accommodation sheds of the Holiday Fellowship camp at Conwy were, nonetheless, a welcome respite from the workplace for many. Photographed in the early 1920s

Alongside Newlands, the Holiday Fellowship also had another centre when it started up. Their headquarters was situated at Bryn Coarach near Conway, in North Wales. Leonard was General Secretary of the Holiday Fellowship until 1925 when headquarters relocated to London,

Surrounded by mountains, the associated holiday camp at Conway provided a wonderful opportunity to escape to the hills in the company of like minded souls. Many of these ramblers were enjoying a paid holiday as only a recently granted privilege.

“The centres are chosen with an eye to local interest and surrounding beauty, whether by mountain, lake or sea and, as well as the beauty and quiet of the natural scene and the attractions of local arts and crafts and local history and customs, there will be a genial welcome from the local inhabitants- all factors conducive to an atmosphere of relaxation, tolerance and friendliness among members of the house-party enjoying an H.F. holiday”

HF winter holidays brochure for 1951/52. Cover shows Windermere in winter, Kinder Scout above Edale, the gardens at the Glasbury Centre, and Derwentwater

HF winter holidays brochure for 1951/52. Cover shows Windermere in winter, Kinder Scout above Edale, the gardens at the Glasbury Centre, and Derwentwater. HF logo introduced 1939

The Holiday Fellowship also catered for those seeking more strenuous activity than that offered by a simple coach tour

The Holiday Fellowship also catered for those seeking more strenuous activity than that offered by a simple coach tour

Leonard’s influence with many walking and outdoor organisations is largely unrecognised today. He doesn’t even appear on the Wikipedia page for Colne, the birthplace of his radical social reform. When the YHA was formally founded in 1930, Leonard became one of it’s four vice-presidents. He was also a founding member of the Friends of the Lake District in 1934. The Grey Court Fellowship, with Leonard as president, was founded in 1935 to provide holidays for the unemployed and disadvantaged workers and their families from north-east Lancashire. He was president of the Merseyside Ramblers’ Association, first chairman of the National Council of Rambler’s Federations and first president of the Rambler’s Association. Leonard was awarded the OBE in 1937 for his work in outdoor activity, no doubt this also took account of much unsung work, such as his founding of the Family Holidays Association set up after the Second World War to make former training camps available as holiday homes.

Leonard remained the Holiday Fellowship’s International Secretary until 1930. On his retirement in 1932, the Holiday Fellowship gave him a house in Patterdale, eastern Lake District.  He became their President in 1938. Ever one to look at opportunity, Leonard lent Goldrill House to the YHA as one of its first hostels. He died in 1948, the organisations he had founded continued.

The 1962 brochure from the Holiday Fellowship advertised a wide range of European Centres where holidaymakers could stay, alongside walking and climbing tours, coach and specialist interest holidays

The 1962 brochure from the Holiday Fellowship advertised a wide range of European Centres where holidaymakers could stay, alongside walking and climbing tours, coach and specialist interest holidays. HF logo introduced 1961

The Holiday Fellowship always had the aim of promoting social and international friendship and their number of UK based guest houses quickly expanded beyond their initial two at Conwy and Newlands, by the 1960s they owned 32 Centres in the UK and dozens more based in hotels or pensions in twelve countries across Europe.

Button badges from the 1990s/2000s

Holiday Fellowship button badges produced from 1973 to 1987

In common with many other organisations (other than the YHA which remains an anomaly), the Holiday Fellowship underwent a rebranding exercise in 1982 and is now called HF Holidays. It remains one of the largest providers of outdoor holidays in the UK. Proudly stating that they remain the UK’s only co-operative holiday provider, HF Holidays continues the outward ethos propagated by Leonard and arranges international holidays, encouraging comradeship across borders.

1962 advert for canoe camping holiday in the former country of Yugoslavia

1962 advert for canoe camping holiday in the former country of Yugoslavia

Three Points of the Compass has never holidayed with HF Holidays, it is not particularly ‘my thing’. I much prefer independent travel, or to at least make my own arrangements when ‘on the ground’. However, since its inception, this organisation has facilitated over five million people in getting outdoors, experiencing new found comradeship and international travel that they may never had enjoyed otherwise. It is to their credit that the company continues today, albeit as a commercial model in direct competition to the many hundreds of rival providers that have followed, quite literally, in their footsteps.

2019 brochure from HF Holidays advertising walking and activity holidays

2019 brochure from HF Holidays advertising walking and activity holidays

There is a timeline of many of the other most important or influential UK outdoor organisations over on my main website. I will occasionally write on a few more of these over the coming months.

Holiday Fellowship holidaymakers at the St. Edmunds School, Hindhead, Surrey

Holiday Fellowship holidaymakers at the St. Edmunds School, Hindhead, Surrey. Probably photographed between the wars

1927 advert for the Co-operative Holidays Association

Organised outdoor activity in the UK- Arthur Leonard and the Co-operative Holidays Association

There are some movers and shakers from the earliest days of organised outdoor activity that are barely known today. Mention their name to anyone on the hills and and only a handful would know who you are referring to and how connected they are to the activity that they are enjoying. One such individual is T. A. Leonard.

T.A. Leonard, a Congregational Church minister from Colne, Lancashire

T.A. Leonard, a Congregational Church minister from Colne, Lancashire

Thomas Arthur Leonard, OBE, 1864-1948, was born in London. His father, a watchmaker, died when he was five and his mother raised him almost alone. She ran a boarding house and, being the daughter of a Congregationalist minister, it is not surprising that this influenced the young Thomas enrolling as a student at the Congregational Institute in 1884.

Marrying in 1888, he took pastoral roles in Barrow-in-Furness and Colne. It wasn’t long before another influence guided his movements and energies for the remainder of his life. In June 1891 he arranged for 32 male members of his Young Men’s Social Guild to holiday in the English Lake District. Just four days long, this was a great success and he believed that encouraging working males to holiday together in the countryside, with no alcohol and enjoying simple, spartan pleasures, daily walks and, most importantly, group singing, was the way forward.

Factory workers in the north of England, in common with the lower paid workers elsewhere had only recently had conditions slightly improved by the various Factory Acts, a series of UK labour law Acts, that sought to improve the conditions of industrial employment. Workers sought to escape the confines of still dangerous and unpleasant work environments. Rambling became a respite and popular recreation amongst the working class. In addition to this, mills and factories would close down on an annual basis for maintenance. ‘Wakes weeks’ had their roots in the Industrial Revolution and were particularly prevalent in the north of England and industrialised areas of the Midlands. They started as unpaid holiday and poorly paid workers had little choice on how to spend their newly found leisure time. There was little or no work to be had elsewhere as almost all industrial works within a locality coincided their closure period. This was the root of the annual summer holiday and entire families would decamp to spend their wakes week elsewhere, such as at the increasingly popular large coastal towns as sea bathing was held in high regard for its perceived health benefits.

CHA pin badge

CHA pin badge

In 1893 Leonard introduced the Co-operative Holidays Association (CHA). His holidays provided cheap, simple accommodation and an itinerary of walks, singing and evening lectures. Experts would instruct on geology, wildlife and botany. Later, painting, climbing and other pursuits were introduced. Leonard believed that the holidays that he provided were not an indulgence, but a necessity. A holiday was subject to strict itinerary however, communal activities were not only provided but participation was a requirement.

It wasn’t all plain sailing, those fortunate enough to reside in the towns and villages of the Lakes, regarded with suspicion those who sought simply to visit and ramble in ‘their’ hills. Any such influx was resisted. John Ruskin, amongst others, penned numerous letters to the local press decrying any influx of working class holiday makers. But, obviously, this was a tide that could not be stemmed.

By 1907, workers in the Lancashire mills were guaranteed 12 days annual leave, including Bank Holidays. This had increased to 15 days by 1915. Many would take time off in Blackpool and Morecambe, drink too much, party too hard and generally get up to various activities that Leonard and his fellow ministers frowned upon. Leonard believed that a simple communal life, with compulsory daily walks was far preferable.

At first, holidays were mostly based in the Lake District but quickly spread further afield. The Co-operative Holidays Association moved beyond the English Lakes, beyond Snowdonia and the Peak District, in to Europe, to bring travel, exploration, camaraderie across ethnic, social and class barriers, an ethos, and singing, to thousands. This was an entirely new form of ‘holiday movement’ that led the way for other similar businesses and organisations. Near derelict buildings were rebuilt and restored. This was also an era where large country mansions were put on the market and some were purchased at relatively low cost. However, modest income struggled to meet the upkeep of large houses and grounds.

Daily walks of 18-20 miles were compulsory. Sing-alongs were encouraged, both on the walks and each evening. An official songbook was produced. At first these were mostly psalms but over time became more secular. Everyone would join in and rounds were part of the routine. Despite the best efforts of the organisation however, such group singing had become less popular by the inter-war years. Alcohol was only permitted from the 1960s though no doubt there were those who flaunted such restriction prior.There were many walking and cycling groups and societies starting up and the social and physical aspect of these was invigorated by those who had just returned from a week’s rambling with the CHA in the company of like-minded souls. The idea of escaping to the hills once escaped from the collieries, factories and  dark satanic mills had been propagated.

Postcard showing the Moor Gate guest house owned and operated by the Co-operative Holiday Association

Postcard showing the Moor Gate guest house in Derbyshire, owned and operated by the Co-operative Holidays Association

By 1913 the Co-operative Holidays Association had 13 British holiday centres which catered for over 13,000 guests annually. This increased to 30 centres attracting 30,000 guests by the 1960s. However Leonard had long before become disaffected with the organisation. Leonard was an idealist who quickly became disillusioned with projects and his life choices when he felt that outward influences were compromising his ethics. He took up and resigned his position as a congregational minister three times, serving as a minister for just eight years in all. He dismayed at improper dress and attitudes on the fells. Anything that smacked of elitism and excluded the working classes was, he believed, to be resisted. Middle class workers expected the comforts of home, hot water, boots polished for them and no chores to perform while on holiday, however such things came at a price. Both figuratively and practically. This did not hold with other practices such as the offering of free or subsidised holidays to people who could not afford the fees that were still out of reach of those most disadvantaged.

The Co-operative Holidays Association committee began to aim its advertising at the middle-class rather than the working-class. The advertisement at the head of this post dates from 1927. Believing that the Co-operative Holidays Association was heading away from his ideals and wanting to spread his vision still further on the international stage, Leonard distanced himself from it to start another, back-to-basics, organisation- The Holiday Fellowship.

A group photograph of a happy bunch of people enjoying a weeks holiday with the Co-operative Holiday Association at Grasmere in 1958

A group photograph of a happy bunch of people enjoying a weeks holiday with the Co-operative Holidays Association at Grasmere in 1958. Few, if any, of these would have been working class and the organisation had by this time moved away from its roots

Referred to simply as the ‘CHA’, there were now as many women as men attending their holidays and despite fraternising between the sexes being slightly frowned upon, particularly amongst unmarried youngsters, there were those who referred to the organisation as the ‘Catch a Husband Association’!

The Co-operative Holidays Association was renamed Countrywide Holidays Association in 1964, operated independently until 2002 and stopped providing holidays the same year.

Leonard himself wasn’t finished with organised outdoors activity. The CHA had been encouraging youngsters in to the outdoors from early on, decades before the Youth Hostel Association and Leonard was involved in the formation of the YHA, standing as its first vice-president. He was president of the Ramblers Association from 1935-46. He founded the Friends of the Lake District in 1934 and worked with a number of different organisations increasing access to the outdoors and holidays for the poor or disadvantaged. He was made an OBE in 1937 and died in Conway in 1965. There is a memorial plaque, now by-passed by a redirected path, on Catbells, near Keswick in the Lake District. On this, Leonard is hailed as the-

founder of co-operative and communal holidays

and

“father” of the open-air movement in this country

There is a timeline of many of the most important or influential UK outdoor organisations over on my main website. I will occasionally write on a few more of these over the coming months.