Stepping stones

Youth hostels, good-will and reconciliation Youth hostels had always been practical, all about self-help, with “a vigorous tradition of eager volunteers going off on their weekends to help build or convert new hostels...” * Jack Catchpool, first national secretary of YHA (England and Wales), was sure that, in bringing young people together to work at... Continue Reading →

A good war

A short history of youth hostels and the second world war. As youth hostels define a role for themselves, in the crisis of Covid 19, here's a look at their history in an earlier crisis, which may or may not be helpful, as the times and the challenges faced then were very different to those... Continue Reading →

Pushing the boat out

26 Bedford Square, London Different people in different places, through the winter of 1929 / 1930 were trying to start youth hostels. None was making progress until the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) took a hand. The NCSS was the ideal sponsor for the new venture. Today, it’s the National Council of Voluntary Organisations.... Continue Reading →

Hostel hut history

Down a short path from the hostel at Idwal Cottage, in a grove of trees, is a piece of YHA history. In the grounds of one of YHA's longest serving hostels, it's also a link with the days when architects designed hostels for YHA. Today there's a boom in designer hostels but the idea isn't... Continue Reading →

Always intent on better lives

Jack Catchpool and a history of youth hostels The struggle to improve lives fascinates me. It’s an endeavour, sometimes called the life reform movement, that defines the first half of the twentieth century, the era out of which youth hostels leaped, and is the reason why, when I first came across a second-hand paperback copy... Continue Reading →

Youth Hostel Pioneer

Jack Catchpool was the key figure, the central force, the driver, coordinator, and chief pioneer of youth hostels. Using all his enormous skills, a wide network of allies and supporters, and his simple faith as a Quaker, he spread the idea of youth hostels throughout England and Wales to the world. This book, published in... Continue Reading →

Into the beauty

A small group of friends from Liverpool went to Germany in 1929. I've written about this before; how they emerged from different groups in different places in Britain at the the time, all pledged to start youth hostels, and how they came home, started the first regional group of youth hostels, brought the term youth... Continue Reading →

One of a pioneering era

Len Clark 1916-2019 A friend introduced Len Clark to youth hostels and walking in the countryside. Len remembered him as an amiable and rather romantic communist who took him to the Surrey Hills. They spent a night at the newly built youth hostel at Holmbury St Mary in 1937 and began Len’s interest in youth... Continue Reading →

How hostels began

On 26 August 1909, while on a walking tour from Altena with pupils, a violent storm fired the imagination of Richard Schirrmann, a school teacher who loved taking his pupils on walking holidays. When accommodation he had arranged for the night fell through, Schirrmann headed with his group to the small town of Bröl, where... Continue Reading →

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