Youth Hostels Association (England & Wales)
|Abbreviation||YHA (England & Wales)|
|Formation||10 April 1930|
|Legal status||Company limited by guarantee|
|Purpose||Youth accommodation and education|
|Region served||England and Wales|
|Membership||Individuals and community groups|
- This article is about the Youth Hostels Association (England & Wales), for other topics related with the abbreviation "YHA", see YHA
The Youth Hostels Association (England & Wales) is a charitable organisation, registered with the Charity Commission, providing youth hostel accommodation in England and Wales. It is a member of the Hostelling International federation.
- 1 History
- 2 Attitudes
- 3 YHA Today
- 4 Explanatory Notes
- 5 Footnotes
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
The whole concept of youth hostels was started in Germany in 1909 by Richard Schirrmann and it took 20 years for the ideas to reach fruition in the United Kingdom. In 1929/30 several groups almost simultaneously formed to investigate establishing youth hostels in the UK. Foremost among these was the Merseyside Centre of the British Youth Hostels Association. On 10 April 1930 representatives of these bodies met and agreed to form the British Youth Hostels Association. Shortly afterwards it became the Youth Hostels Association (England & Wales) with separate associations for Scotland (Scottish Youth Hostels Association) and Northern Ireland (Hostelling International Northern Ireland). Ever since its inception it has been known as YHA using the abbreviation YHA(E&W) when necessary to distinguish it from other associations.
As its charitable objective YHA stated it as
“To help all, especially young people of limited means, to a greater knowledge, love and care of the countryside, particularly by providing hostels or other simple accommodation for them in their travels, and thus to promote their health, rest and education.”
The first hostel to open was at Pennant Hall near Llanrwst in North Wales. Opened in December 1930, it closed in 1931 due to problems with the water supply. The water came from a nearby brook but this was contaminated by sewage from the farm next door. As was commented at the time:-
[the farmer] saw no sin in mixing manure with drinking water.
1931 saw the first widespread opening of hostels and by the end of 1931 75 hostels had opened although at the end of the year 15 closed their doors not to reopen. The prices of an overnight stay were 1/- (1 shilling) per night for Senior (over 25) members and 6d (6 pence) for Junior (under 25) members. Annual membership was 5/- for Seniors and 2/6 for Juniors. Life membership was available for 3 guineas (£3 3s). Of the hostels opened in 1931, two remain open to this day, Idwal Cottage and Street.
All hostels provided accommodation in single sex dormitories. Most hostels had accommodation for both sexes but in a few towns e.g. Southampton, separate hostels were provided for men and women. Self-catering facilities were provided at all hostels and many hostels provided a meals service.
Each hostel was run by a manager known as a warden and all the hostels in an area were administered by a number of Regional Councils. Initially there were 14 Regional Councils but the number grew to 19 by the end of 1935. A National Office to co-ordinate policy and standards was established in Welwyn Garden City.
Membership was required to stay at a hostel and all people staying at a hostel were required to assist in the running of the hostel by undertaking what were known as 'duties'. These ranged from washing up, to cleaning the hostel and in hostels with no water supply on site, replenishing the water supply.
Bedding was supplied. The sheet sleeping bag was used from the outset and supplemented by pillows and blankets.
The emphasis was very much on a communal atmosphere within each hostel. The use of dormitory accommodation and common rooms in every hostel reinforced this. Also the shared interests, mostly walking and cycling, of those using the hostels contributed to this spirit.
It did not take long for the fledgling organisation to obtain royal approval and in 1932 the then Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII) opened Derwent Hall hostel in Derbyshire. With its panelled walls it became a flagship hostel for the Association.
Not surprisingly the war had a significant effect on YHA. Membership levels in 1940 and 1941 slumped as men and women joined the armed services and leisure travel was discouraged. The number of hostels open decreased with up to a third being closed for the duration due to their location in militarily sensitive areas. The low point was 1941 when only 170 hostels remained open and overnight stays were reduced accordingly. It wasn't only the war that led to the closure of hostels, among the hostels that closed for good was Derwent Hall, flooded as a result of the Derwent Water Board project and the creation of Ladybower Reservoir.
From the low of 1941 things began to recover so that by war's end over 200 hostels were open and membership was back to pre-war levels. Partly this increase in the latter part of the war was due to government encouragement for factory workers to take short breaks away from the cities.
Post war recovery
With peace the resurgence of YHA continued until in 1950 the peak number of hostels open was reached with 303 open in that year. Membership continued to grow and passed the 200,000 mark in 1950. Overnight stays grew from 1.1 million in 1950 to 1.45 million in 1970.
In 1955 the National Office moved from Welwyn Garden City to St Albans where it remained until 2002 when a further move was made to Matlock. The buildings in St Albans and Matlock were both called Trevelyan House in honour of the first president of YHA, Dr G M Trevelyan.
In 1964 the number of regions was reduced to ten and financial changes made to make it easier for each region to manage its own affairs.
Significant modernisation of hostels had occurred during the 1970s but by the early 1980s it became clear to YHA that it needed to change as the stresses and strains of running what was a large organisation began to show on what was almost entirely a volunteer run body. Direct management of the hostels was removed from the regional committees and a professional management structure was put in place. The regional committees were themselves reformed into four regional councils; North, Central, South and Wales.
With a new management YHA continued to thrive and by 2000 overnight stays had reached a new peak of over 2,000,000. Reflecting changes in the needs of young travellers, much effort was put into meeting a desire for less spartan facilities in hostels e.g. smaller rooms, more showers, abolishing washrooms.
As well as upgrading facilities in existing hostels, other experimental approaches to attracting young travellers were made. In 2000 a series of summer only hostels utilising university student accommodation were opened in locations near airports e.g. Luton, Leeds. The experiment wasn't repeated in following years.
A much more successful innovation was the introduction of the RentaHostel scheme. Under this scheme groups could hire whole hostels for their own use and without normal hostel rules applying. Rentahostel was available during the winter months to improve usage of hostels that were otherwise closed or doing very little business. The scheme continues to run to the present day but is now known as Escape To.
Foot and mouth 2001
The outbreak of foot and mouth disease in the United Kingdom hit YHA hard. An estimated £5,000,000 of income was lost as a consequence of hostels being closed and a drop in overnight stays from just under 2,000,000 to 1,667,000. Some hostels, such as Baldersdale, were totally inaccessible as they were within quarantine zones. This left YHA in a serious financial crisis and severe measures needed to be taken. The board of trustees agreed to sell 10 hostels at the end of 2002, the sites being Aysgarth, Linton (North Yorkshire), Dufton, Elton, Buxton, Copt Oak, Thurlby, Norwich, Windsor and Holmbury St Mary. Internal and local pressure saved Dufton and Holmbury St Mary from closure and Thurlby was sold to Lincolnshire County Council who rented it back to YHA to continue as a hostel.
2005 saw a change in the charitable objective of the association. From the original objective it was changed to
“To help all, especially young people of limited means, to a greater knowledge, love and care of the countryside, and appreciation of the cultural values of towns and cities, particularly by providing youth hostels or other accommodation for them in their travels, and thus to promote their health recreation and education.”
In 2006 YHA announced the largest plan of network renewal. YHA regularly monitors all its hostels to establish if they are still viable and if necessary closes those that are no longer viable or have no prospects of becoming viable again in the future. However the network renewal project was on top of this regular review and was a proposal to close and dispose of 32 hostels when it was announced. The aim of the exercise was to reduce borrowing and to provide funds for re-investment into the network. The closures were to take place over a three-year period, over and above the 13 others disposed of in the same period. The hostels involved were not necessarily poor performers but ones where the amount of investment required to bring them up to a desired standard was excessive e.g. Steps Bridge, or in some cases because the site value was very high e.g. Stainforth. When the news broke there was a storm of protest not only among the membership, but also in local communities  and local and regional government.
Despite the protests YHA proceeded with the plan. Some hostels e.g. Liverpool, have obtained reprieves either temporary or permanent and are still open but most of the other disposals have taken place. One positive result has been that a number of the hostels disposed of have reopened either as independent hostels or as Enterprise [nb 1] hostels within YHA.
|Acomb||closed and now a private house|
|Alston||sold to a private individual and now operating as an Enterprise hostel within YHA|
|Bellingham||leased building, closed and returned to landlord, the Duchy of Northumberland|
|Blackboys||sold to a private individual and now operating as an Enterprise bunkhouse within YHA|
|Byrness||sold to a private individual and now operating as an Enterprise hostel within YHA|
|Dartington||leased building, closed and returned to landlord|
|Earby||continues to operate. Building sold to Pendle Borough Council who rented it back to YHA|
|Elmscott||sold to a private individual and now operating as an Enterprise hostel within YHA|
|Greenhead||sold to a private individual. Operated as an Enterprise hostel within YHA until 31 December 2009 and now operating as an independent hostel.|
|Hastings||sold, current use unknown|
|Keld||sold, now operating as a small hotel|
|Kirkby Stephen||sold to a private individual. Operated as an Enterprise hostel within YHA until the end of 2011. Now an independent hostel.|
|Meerbrook||sold, current use unknown|
|Steps Bridge||sold, now operating as an independent hostel|
|Trefin||leased building returned to landlord. Now operating as an independent hostel|
|Ty'n Cornel||sold to private individual who leased it to Elenydd Wilderness Hostels Trust. Now operating as an Enterprise bunkhouse within YHA|
|Wooler||sold to Glendale Gateway Trust and now operating as an Enterprise hostel within YHA|
|Bakewell||sold, current use unknown|
|Brighton||leased building returned to landlord|
|Capel-y-ffin||sold, current use unknown|
|Castle Hedingham||sold, current use unknown|
|Dolgoch||sold to Elenydd Wilderness Hostels Trust. Now operating as an Enterprise bunkhouse within YHA|
|Dover||closed, current status and use unknown|
|Ivinghoe||closed, current status and use unknown|
|Langsett||closed, current status and use unknown|
|Lynton||sold, current use unknown|
|Matlock||sold. The property was converted into private flats.|
|Quantock Hills||closed, current status and use unknown|
|Sandown||closed, current status: building demolished, new housing development|
|Stainforth||sold, current use unknown|
|Chester||closed September 2009. Sold to the University of Chester to use as student accommodation|
|Liverpool||still operating, will only close when another location in the city is ready|
|Llangollen||sold 2007, now operates as an independent hostel specialising for groups|
|London Thameside||still operating, unlikely to close before 2012. Possibly will remain open longer than 2012.|
The sales of all the above properties has netted YHA over £20 million. However YHA continues to make a small operating loss. The value of the property portfolio As of February 2010[update] prices was £77.15 million.
In 2008 as part of the move towards raising standards, the sheet sleeping bag was replaced by a bedding pack comprising a bottom sheet, duvet cover and two pillow cases.
Duties have also disappeared although hostel users are encouraged to maintain the communal spirit and assist staff by cleaning up after themselves.
In May 2010 YHA announced that in a further realignment of the network and to support long term financial stability called the "Capital Strategy" that two new hostels would open in 2010 and eight would close. The two new hostels were Southease in Sussex and Berwick on Tweed. Those closed were Capel Curig (Gwynedd), Exeter (Devon), Grasmere Thorney Howe (Cumbria), Hunstanton (Norfolk), Kendal (Cumbria), River Dart (Devon), Saffron Walden (Essex), and Scarborough (North Yorkshire).
By the beginning of 2011 Capel Curig and Grasmere had both been sold and negotiations were in progress to sell the remainder (with the exception of Exeter - now expected to close at the end of Summer 2011). On 8 February 2011 a further update to the "Capital Strategy" was announced that will see £4 million invested in the hostels at Black Sail (Lake District), Woody's Top (Lincolnshire) Wilderhope (Shropshire), Rowen (Snowdonia), Grinton Lodge (North Yorkshire), Salcombe (Devon), Poppit Sands (Pembrokeshire), Tintagel (Cornwall) and Wells-next-the-Sea (Norfolk). At the same time the closure of a further nine hostels was announced, with the intention to begin the sales at the end of Summer 2011. The hostels to close are Derwentwater, Helvellyn, Hawkshead (all Lake District), Osmotherley (North Yorkshire), Salisbury (Wiltshire), Arundel (Sussex), Totland Bay (Isle of Wight) and YHA Newcastle (Northumberland).
By the beginning of 2012: YHA Totland Bay was bought by the standing manager and remains a Youth Hostel.
In the first years of YHA (1931–1934) due to the rapid change in the number of hostels available the handbook was issued more than once each year. From 1935 the pattern settled into an annual publication issued to all members. In 2003 this became a biennial publication. One was due for the period 2009–10 but has been delayed. Instead a slimmer update booklet containing less information than in previous years has been issued.
The Rucksack was YHA's first magazine. First issued in 1932, it ran until 1956 when it was retitled The Youth Hosteller, although issue numbers continued the same series. Publication varied between quarterly in the early years to monthly in later years. The contents consisted of hostel reviews, travel articles, regional and local group news, a letters column and updates to the handbook. Publication ceased after the February 1972 issue (volume 39, no. 7, priced at five new pence, and reduced to bi-monthly appearance following December 1970), when an editorial explained that the magazine was to be "transmogrified".
The successor to The Youth Hosteller, Hostelling News ran from Spring 1972 until Summer 1985 (issue no. 54). A quarterly newspaper-style publication, free to members, it followed in much the same vein as its predecessors. Hostelling News was replaced in Autumn 1985 by YHA Magazine, a colour magazine in A4 format, which was rebranded as YHA Triangle in Summer 1989 (issue no. 15) and which thereafter continued as a quarterly publication until Autumn 1994 (issue no 31). From Spring/Summer 1995 (issue no 32) it became a biannual publication, continuing until the Autumn/Winter issue of 2006 (being the fifty-fifth issue, although no longer officially numbered as such). Following a further rebranding exercise, Triangle was replaced by the smaller format Discover but this only lasted for three issues (Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter 2007, and Spring/Summer 2008) before publication was put into abeyance.
In Spring 2009 a shorter eight-page A4 colour publication YHA Life appeared (an undated four-page pilot version, with a focus on fundraising, was issued in 2008).
YHA News appeared between 1992 and 2005. Unlike all the other publications after Spring 1972, which had been made available to all members, YHA News was only available by subscription. Its contents were much more aimed at those involved more actively with YHA. The opinions expressed were not necessarily those of YHA.
Over the years there have been many regional handbooks produced showcasing hostels in a particular region.
The YHA Songbook was first published in 1952. Common room sing-songs were popular and the songbook was published by YHA as:
Many a common room sing-song has been marred because few of the hostelers know more than the first verses of the songs, and all too frequently the item that begins as a rousing chorus ends as a faltering solo. A few keen singers find a place in their rucksack or saddle-bag for a song book, but if as a result some half-dozen song books are available, it is usually found that they are all different and even the songs that are in common to several appear in differing versions.
The songbook only contained the lyrics, not the music, the assumption being that someone would know the tune.
YHA had from the beginning sold items directly necessary for using hostels e.g. sheet sleeping bags but in 1950 started selling goods for walkers e.g. rucksacks by mail order from National Office. By 1953 not only was an annual sales catalogue issued by YHA had opened a shop at 21 Bedford Street, London. Three years later the shop moved across the Strand to John Adam Street. Over the years this shop expanded into Travel and Information Office and other shops opened in major cities. In 1990 the store management bought the stores from YHA and formed YHA Adventure Shops PLC. The company was wound up in 2004.
From the earliest days YHA made it clear that motorists were not welcome. Regulation 4 as printed in the handbook read:-
Hostels are intended for Members when walking or cycling, and are not open to motorists or motor-cyclists (unless they are using the hostel for the purpose of walking or climbing. In any case motor-cars and motor-cycles must not be garaged at a hostel).
Instead great emphasis in the handbook was placed on the availability of public transport with distances to nearest railway stations being given and the availability of bus services (something that continues to this day).
In 1951 this point was made even stronger as it was promoted to regulation 1:-
Youth Hostels are for the use of members who travel on foot, by bicycle, or canoe; they are not for members touring by motor car, motor cycle, or any power-assisted vehicle.
By the mid 1960s with the decline in rail services YHA changed the policy slightly and allowed members to use cars to reach a hostel but not to motor tour. It remained policy however that cars could not be parked at hostels.
This change did not last for long and in 1969 it was decided, from 1970, to allow parking, for a fee, at certain hostels. However hostel wardens had a discretion to require people arriving by car to move on if the hostel was busy.
Finally in 1984 car parking charges were abolished and parking allowed at all hostels, subject to space.
Until 2005 it was a requirement to be either a member of YHA or a member of an Hostelling International affiliated association before staying at a hostel. YHA relaxed this rule partly due to a desire to make hostels more accessible to all and partly due to advice received from the Charity Commission that the charitable status of the association was at risk if it remained a membership only organisation.
Membership can be purchased on arrival at a hostel but a non member wishing to stay must pay a supplement equivalent to a day membership for each night of their stay.
Allowing the consumption of alcohol on hostel premises has only been allowed since the 1980s. Before then alcohol was prohibited and consumption at the hostel could result in offenders being banned from the hostel. When the decision to allow alcohol consumption was taken, initially it only applied to alcohol purchased at hostels with a table licence e.g. Edale, but later the policy became more relaxed and beer, cider and wine (but not spirits) was permitted to be brought onto and consumed on the premises as long as it was accompanying a meal.
With the reform of UK licensing laws the responsibility for the behaviour of customers falls onto the personal licence holder i.e. the hostel manager. To minimise the risk of prosecution of its staff, YHA introduced a policy  whereby only alcohol purchased at the hostel can be consumed on the premises. Where the hostel is not licensed for the sale of alcohol, the previous policy on bring your own continues.
Pre war, groups of children aged 11–18 were welcome at hostels as long as they were under the supervision of a responsible leader. All bookings had to be made in advance. Apart from price no other concession was made to these groups. They were still expected to move on from hostel to hostel and for this reason this type of business became known as School Journey Parties (SJP).
After the war YHA realised the potential of providing not just accommodation to school parties and youth groups but educational facilities as well. This scheme Youth Hostels for Health and Education, started in 1953 and was the forerunner of the services offered today. In 2008, 27% of overnight stays with YHA were as part of organised school trips.
As such a large proportion of YHA business involves children it has a very stringent child protection policy and all staff and volunteers have to have Criminal Records Bureau checks conducted before they can work for YHA. School and local authority child protection policies sometimes cause friction with individual guests as many schools and local authorities insist on sole use of a hostel meaning that unused beds are unavailable to anyone else.
YHA is a member of Hostelling International, an international federation of hostel associations. Due to its work in various fields, e.g. youth activity, the environment, education, it work in partnership with a wide variety of other organisations both within the voluntary sector, national government and local government.
YHA remains primarily an accommodation provider and supports this with the provision of food and drink, educational packages to support school groups using hostels and since 2005 Do it 4 Real a series of summer camps for children.
The dormitories (shared accommodation as YHA calls it) in hostels typically consist of a number of beds, often bunk beds, and many offer storage facilities such as lockers. Such rooms are a means of being able to offer cheaper accommodation for large numbers of people and typically contain 4 - 8 beds. Unlike some associations e.g. Canada, dormitories in England and Wales are always single sex. With the YHA's modernising efforts and its attempt to widen its target market many hostels now offer private rooms in sizes suited to couples and families. An increasing number of rooms are being provided with en suite facilities.
As of March 2009[update] YHA operates 193 hostels and bunkhouses in addition to over 30 camping barns. All but ten hostels provide self-catering facilities and 140 provide a meals service. Nearly all provide drying rooms and cycle storage. The communal areas remain a major focus of the hostels. Many of the medium and larger hostels have classrooms and meeting rooms which can be used in conjunction with a residential stay or on a non residential basis.
One aim of the YHA is to support "sustainable use of the countryside, youth hostels and their local communities". YHA strives to operate as both an environmentally friendly user and to provide environmental education.
Local Group network
YHA has traditionally been supported by a network of local groups dedicated to supporting the network by patronising the hostels and being a source of voluntary labour. Some of these groups are thriving social and outdoor activity clubs which are continuing to attract new members.
In recent years there has been friction between the remaining local groups and YHA, much of it due to concerns about compulsory insurance policies, and the use of the YHA brandname.
There are a wide variety of volunteering opportunities support by YHA. These range from running small hostels, to grounds maintenance, to working at a Do it 4 Real summer camp and offering professional services to the association.
YHA is governed via three Regional Councils in England and one in Wales, although this is subject to review at the time of writing. Each Regional Council elects a group of members to represent the needs and views of YHA members and users. These Regional Councils also elect the majority of the National Annual General Meeting (AGM) delegates. They also elect regional Trustees. A programme of meetings are held around the country throughout the year. Regional Councils are able to put Motions to the National AGM as required.
The board of trustees which is elected at the AGM has up to 26 members. Of these four, the National Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Treasurer and Assistant Treasurer, together with the Chief Executive form the National Officers who act as an executive committee.
At the AGM in September 2009 a package of governance reforms was passed and the board composition changed to 12 trustees together with four National Officers (the chief executive ceasing to be a National Officer. The number of National Officers will be reduced to three following the next AGM.
- Enterprise hostels are hostels that are privately owned but operated as part of the YHA under a license agreement with YHA
- Coburn p. 18.
- Coburn p. 29.
- Neal & Neal
- YHA Handbook 1939. Welwyn Garden City: YHA. 1939.
- Maurice-Jones & Porter p. 47.
- Coburn p. 187.
- Maurice-Jones & Porter p. 9.
- Coburn p. 88.
- YHA Annual Report 1998/9. St Albans: YHA. 1989.
- A Short History of the YHA. St Albans: YHA. 1969. ISBN 978-0-900833-02-1. OCLC 71021.
- "YHA History". Retrieved 17 March 2009.
- YHA Strategic Plan 2008–2013. Matlock: YHA. 2008.
- "Foot and Mouth lessons learned inquiry". Retrieved 7 November 2010.
- Cook, Stephen (3 July 2002). "Bitter suites". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 18 March 2009.
- "Ten youth hostels to close doors". BBC News. 13 March 2002. Retrieved 18 March 2009.
- "Thurlby back in business". Retrieved 18 March 2009.
- "Network renewal gets green light". Archived from the original on 10 February 2006. Retrieved 1 September 2009.
- A full list of all hostel openings and closing since 1931 is at List of past and present youth hostels in England and Wales
- "YHA Closures". Retrieved 21 March 2009.
- "Campaign launched to save Ivinghoe youth hostel". Retrieved 21 March 2009.
- "AMs unite against hostel closure". BBC News. 26 April 2006. Retrieved 21 March 2009.
- "Annual reports". Retrieved 21 March 2009.
- "2010 Charity overview to the Charities Commission". Retrieved 16 October 2010.
- "Investing in the Future". YHA. 11 May 2010. Retrieved 11 May 2010.
- "YHA’s Capital Strategy". YHA. 8 February 2011. Retrieved 9 February 2011.
- YHA Songbook. St Albans: YHA. preface
- YHA Handbook 1975. Matlock: YHA. 1974.
- "YHA Adventure Shops". Retrieved 21 March 2009.
- "YHA ADVENTURE SHOPS PLC". Retrieved 21 March 2009.
- YHA Handbook of Hostels 1935. Welwyn Garden City: YHA. 1934. p. 18.
- YHA Handbook 1951. St Albans: YHA. 1950. p. 14.
- "YHA Open to all". Retrieved 6 August 2009.
- "Changes to bring your own". Retrieved 21 March 2009.
- YHA Annual Review 2008. Matlock: YHA. 2008. p. 28.
- "Our Partners". YHA. Retrieved 6 August 2009.
- 2009 YHA Network update. YHA. March 2009.
- "YHA and the environment". Retrieved 21 March 2009.
- Hunt, Chris. "Local Group contact list". YHAgroup.org.uk. Retrieved 21 March 2009.
- Hunt, Chris (20 November 2006). "Why Affiliate?". YHAgroup.org.uk. Retrieved 31 May 2009.
- "Volunteering". Retrieved 21 March 2009.
- "YHA agrees far-reaching changes". YHA. 18 September 2009. Retrieved 1 October 2009.
- Coburn, Oliver (1950). Youth Hostel Story. London: National Council of Social Service.
- Maurice-Jones, Helen; Porter, Lindsey (2008). The Spirit of YHA. Matlock: YHA.
- Neal, Tim; Neal, Simon (1993). Youth Hostels of England and Wales 1931-1993. St Albans: YHA. ISBN 0-9522254-0-9.
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