I've been writing recently about the terrible winter in the early months of 1947 (snowdrifts; potatoes rationed; electricity cuts; buses to work cancelled) based on a diary my mum kept at the time. She was nineteen and, despite the weather, she was planning a holiday. She recorded that her friend Doreen came down to their house and they “had a talk about Holiday Fellowship.”
The Holiday Fellowship was an organisation that aimed to provide walking holidays in the countryside for young working class people for the price of an average week’s wages.
The Fellowship was founded in 1913 by the Reverend Thomas A. Leonard as a spin off from the Cooperative Holidays Association which he'd started in the 1890s.
The C.H.A. had initially offered basic accommodation, food and fell walking in the Lake District and had expanded to cover most areas that were attractive to walkers. Accommodation standards had improved to become nearer to country house hotel style and Leonard didn't consider this was in the spirit of what had originally been intended; hence the breakaway group.
During WW2 most of the Holiday Fellowship centres had been requisitioned by the military but after the war some of them were gradually being brought back into use.
Community singing, ranging from hymns to popular songs of the day, was a feature of the evening entertainment.
Rev. Leonard died in 1948 aged eighty. A lifelong social activist and pacifist he became a Quaker and was involved in the formation of The National Trust, The Youth Hostels Association and The Rambler's Association.
There is a memorial plaque at Catbells, near Derwentwater, in the Lake District, commemorating his life and work which says that he was:
Founder of Co-operative and Communal Holidays
"Father" of the Open-Air Movement in this Country.
Born London March 12th 1864.
Died Conway July 19th 1948.
Believing that "the best things any mortal hath are those which every mortal shares"
he endeavoured to promote "joy in widest commonality spread".
The Holiday Fellowship re-branded itself in 1982 and is now known as HF Holidays and continues to provide outdoor and walking holidays at a number of hotels in different parts of the country.
My mum (Doreen) and her friend Doreen, were still "discussing holidays" on February 16th but by the 4th March they'd decided where to go; saved up the money to pay for the holiday (£22/6); and, on March 5th, "sent money for holidays".
They'd decided to go to either Grizedale Hall or Llandogo Priory Holiday Fellowship Centres.
Grizedale Hall in the Lake District was used by Holiday Fellowship but actually owned by The Forestry Commission. It was a forty bedroom mansion which had been used as a prisoner of war camp during WW2. Specifically, Grizedale Hall was used to imprison the officers from German U-boats which had been sunk and aircraft which had been forced down. It was the camp from which notorious prisoner Franz von Werrer escaped before being re-captured and re-located in Derbyshire. Von Werrer was shipped over to Canada but escaped again in the USA and made his way back to Germany via Mexico and Panama. He re-joined the Luftwaffe and started flying again but his plane came down in the sea near Holland and he died in 1941. However his story continues as it was filmed as The One That Got Away in 1957.
Holiday Fellowship stopped using Grizedale Hall in 1950 and it was demolished in the mid-fifties.
Llandogo Priory is in the Wye Valley in Herefordshire and became a Holiday Fellowship venue in 1930. It was built in the 1840s on Tiddenham Hill close to and over-looking the village of Llandogo. Built on a 100 acres site, the house enjoyed magnificent views over the River Wye and its valley.
It was visited by Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Scouting Movement, on several occasions when he was a child and later it was leased by B-P's wealthy friend, Mr Arthur Burchardt-Ashton. Arthur allowed the grounds to be used to provide holidays for deprived children from inner cities who were accommodated in three chalets located at one end of the house.
These huts became the accommodation used by the Holiday Fellowship for those participating in their walking holidays. However around 1930 the whole house was bought by Holiday Fellowship to provide low cost accommodation in an area of outstanding natural beauty.
Llandogo Priory remained in use by Holiday Fellowship until 1987 when it was sold off and adapted for use as a residential care home.
On Tuesday 25th March, Doreen noted in her diary:
Went to work.
Received notification that we have got in at Llandogo.
Went round to Doreen’s.
I hope they were pleased and I hope they had a good time at Llandogo!