Orchard House, near Ninebanks in Northumberland, has been a hostel for 75 years, and for 31 years of those years has been run by its owners. They are now planning to sell the hostel, creating an opportunity for someone else to own this hostel in the beautiful North Pennines.

The sale of a privately owned youth hostel seems unusual. The official Youth Hostels Association (YHA) owns or at least directly manages most of its network of hostels. But a few are privately owned and managed, including Bridges in Shropshire which has been privately owned for as long as Ninebanks, and Okehampton near Dartmoor.

Once that situation was common, with privately owned and run hostels providing the biggest share of YHA’s accommodation. When youth hostels were first being established in Britain, and when YHA had limited funds, the organisation was happy to accept any help it could get to open, and run its hostels.

Youth hostels opened and closed frequently in those years, and records can be sparse, making it difficult to know about operating agreements with certainty but in 1938, for example, at least 100 of the 270 or so youth hostels were privately owned and run.

In some cases the arrangement proved long standing. One hostel, at Gidleigh in Devon on the edge of Dartmoor, running from 1932 until 1987, was in the hands of one family, the Osbornes, for all that time, making it YHA’s longest running, privately owned hostel.

But, gradually, and especially after 1950, the balance shifted. YHA was increasingly concerned about standards of facilities, and management in hostels.

It was also becoming a more financially successful, and viable organisation. With hostels often making a financial surplus, YHA found it easier to lease or rent its own properties, or to borrow money to buy new property.

Finally, concerned that a private owner could close a hostel with little notice, the emphasis shifted to direct management of hostels.

Today, the bulk of hostels are directly managed by YHA. But it continues to have private owners managing, and running their own hostels as part of the network. In some cases when YHA sells one of its own hostels, someone else buys that hostel, and continues to run it as part of the network, as happened when YHA sold Ninebanks hostel in 1991.

This flexible way of running hostels has proved a success throughout YHA’s history, and now at Ninebanks there’s a chance for someone else to join the ranks of those private owners in the YHA network.

More about the history of Ninebanks youth hostel, profiled by John Martin

More information about Ninebanks youth hostel and its sale

Image Ninebanks Youth Hostel in 1957 courtesy YHA Archive at the Cadbury Research Library

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