I’ve just spent a couple of days in the library at Friends House. I’m amazed at the peaceful atmosphere created there in the centre of London on the Euston Road.
It reminds me that Quakers involved in setting up hostels wanted to create that peace in people’s lives through youth hostels.
Plenty of Quakers involved themselves in the first efforts to create hostels. TA Leonard, often called the father of social tourism, was a Quaker. So was Jack Catchpool, first national secretary of the association of youth hostels.
John Major, Paul D Sturge and other Quakers were involved in setting up some of the early regional groups, Sturge in the Bristol and Somerset group and Major in the Wear, Tees and Eskdale group in the north east of England.
Youth hostels were about getting into the peace and quiet. We talk about the countryside but for many, the countryside is shorthand for peace and quiet.
Even for the noisiest, happiest mountain bikers there’s always those moments of peace that you find in the countryside when everything stops. Silence becomes something tangible, not a lack of noise but something alive.
When youth hostels began, in cities, on crowded streets, working long hours, people could not develop fully. They were denied their true inheritance by the chaos and confusion around them.
Quakers and other involved in the start of youth hostels wanted to create opportunities for people to escape into the countryside. They wanted everyone to share those places where silence roars.