The history of youth hostels, YHA and its people

What made youth hostels, the history, people and ideas behind them, the things that did and still do make hostels and YHA special. And other stuff too, along the way.

If you’ve ever wondered how youth hostels came about or what makes hostels special, answers are here, and more in two books about hostels and their history.

Youth Hostel Pioneer will be out in the spring of this year, a follow-up to Open to All and a look at the life of Jack Catchpool and his enormous influence on the development of youth hostels in Britain and around the world, covering the pioneering years of youth hostels from 1930 to 1950 and the following years of expansion around the world.

Open To All charts the story of youth hostels from their beginning in 1930. Written by an insider, who worked for the Youth Hostels Association of England and Wales for more than thirty years, the book offers a definitive history of the fascinating organisation that changed people’s lives.

Richard Schirrmann invented youth hostels. His idea grew through two world wars, the rise of the Nazis and economic depression to cover the world. He wanted the best for young people, and never built his idea into a brand, never sold it to anyone. He was a volunteer and an amateur in the best sense of the word. 

Header image for the site is courtesy of Gillian Hutchison and John Martin, and shows a walking group in North Wales, c 1932, with Tom and Ena Fairclough (third and fourth from the left). Tom became the first secretary of the Merseyside youth hostels’ group.

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