Dr Douglas Hope is a PhD graduate from the University of Cumbria whose fascination with Thomas Arthur Leonard, founder of both the Co-operative Holidays Association (CHA) and the Holiday Fellowship (HF), has led to several years of intensive research and the publication of a book that details Leonard’s achievements and legacy.
In addition to founding the CHA and the HF, Leonard was instrumental in the establishment of the Youth Hostels Association in 1930 and the formation of the Ramblers’ Association in 1935. On Leonard’s memorial tablet on Catbells, he is described as the ‘Father of the open-air movement’.
Leonard, a congregational minister in Colne, Lancashire in the 1890s, began the movement to provide respite from the drudgery of the living and working conditions of many mill workers by organising a week-long walking holiday in Ambleside in 1891 for 32 participants. It was the first time many of these people had ventured out into the wilds of the Lake District and he wrote later: "In those days we were content with very primitive arrangements, so long as they gave us the joy and freedom of the open fells."
Douglas’ book tells the story of the CHA, founded in 1893, to provide “simple and strenuous recreative and educational holidays”, offering “reasonably priced accommodation" and promoting "friendship and fellowship amid the beauty of the natural world”. Essentially, the CHA pioneered financially accessible walking holidays for working people. The book describes how the CHA faced the challenges of changing social, economic and cultural conditions during the twentieth century and became a national and international provider of outdoor holidays based on healthy recreation and the quiet enjoyment of the countryside until its demise in 2004.
Val Harvey, the CHA’s last chairperson, says: “Douglas Hope’s book records the genesis, successes, failures and eventual demise of an organisation that lasted for over a century, a century of great social, political and economic upheaval, during which many tens of thousands of guests of the CHA enjoyed the fellowship and camaraderie of a break away from working life. It captures the essence, the highs and lows, of an organisation still missed by many.”
Douglas has had a number of articles published on different aspects of his research and his biography of T.A. Leonard appears in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. He has presented papers on various aspects of his research at conferences, been interviewed on radio and television and has spent a day filming in the Lake District with Paul Heiney and the ITV ‘Countrywise’ team.
To find out more about Douglas’ research, log on to his website www.douglashope.co.uk.
Douglas’ book ‘Thomas Arthur Leonard and the Co-operative Holidays Association: Joy in widest commonalty spread’ is now available from Cambridge Scholars Publishing here.