National Camps Corporation

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The National Camps Corporation was a British government-funded non-profit organisation established under the Camps Act 1939. The role of the corporation was to construct and administer camps in the countryside that could be used for educational experiences.[1]


In the context of preparations for war, a Camps Act was passed in April 1939, which provided for the construction of government-financed camps for use as educational holiday centres for children during peacetime, and as camps for evacuees during war.[2] The Act prompted the creation of the National Camps Corporation to oversee these camps.[3] Lord Portal was given the task of chairing the Corporation.[1] The initial funding given to the Corporation was £1.2 million, half of which was as a loan.[1]

Construction of the camps[edit]

The government's expectation was that the corporation would construct fifty camps, but in reality only 31 were built in England and Wales, with a further five in Scotland.[1] The cessation of the construction of new camps was mainly due to the increased costs as a result of war, and the realisation that such camps were not a completely adequate solution to the problem of evacuation.[3] The sites were chosen by Lord Portal and members of the board, out of an original short-list of 155, although some of these sites were taken by the Royal Air Force before the Corporation could decide on them.[1] The design of each camp was similar, consisting of huts made out of Canadian cedarwood, designed by architect Thomas Smith Tait.[1] Each camp was designed to accommodate approximately 350 children.[3] The average cost of each camp was £25,000.[3]

Wartime and post-war use[edit]

During the Second World War these camps were used as schools for evacuated children, run by local education authorities.[2] The first camp to be used in this way was at Kennylands, near Reading.[2] Some modifications were required for this purpose, as the camps had been intended for temporary holiday guests, rather than a semi-permanent population.[3] This had the obvious consequence of reducing the number of evacuees who could be housed at such camps to over 9000 nationally.[3] Nevertheless, in November 1940 the Minister of Health Malcolm MacDonald described the camps as "one of the most significant pieces of work that Parliament has lent its hand to in recent times".[2]

In the decades following the war, most of these camps were sold to county councils and education authorities for use as schools. Of especial interest is Amber Valley Camp in Derbyshire used by Derby School starting in June 1940 on completion. The boys and masters having previously been located at Overton Hall, near Ashover, where they were all moved on Saturday 2nd September by Derby Corporation petrol engine buses. Amber Valley Camp was used for several years by Derby Corporation for children/pupils living in Derby to enjoy the freedom of a very rural countryside for one month at a time. The valley where most of the dormitories, toilet facilities, meeting room, classrooms, laboratories, accommodation for site warden and one master and his family had to be demolished when Severn Trent Water Authority flooded the whole valley to create Ogston Reservoir. The one remaining large building at the top of the valley is now occupied by the Ogston Sailing Club where they have their clubroom, changing facilities, kitchen and bar. This large building had been used from 1940 to 1945 as the main school dining room, 'tuck shop' and masters' (teachers) common room. Built of Cedar wood in 1940 (80 years ago) the building is still as sound as originally. Most years it hosts a special school reunion of former school pupils who attended Derby School during the years of WWII. References 'The Derbeian' School In-House magazine - December 1939- July 1945.

List of National Camps Corporation sites[edit]

Name Location Initial Authority (WW2) Users after sale/lease Subsequent Users Current Status
Brownrigg Camp School[4] Bellingham, Northumberland Newcastle 1945, Northumberland Education Committee Co-educational boarding school Caravan site
Colomendy Camp School[5] Loggerheads, Denbighshire Liverpool 1957, Liverpool Corporation Residential secondary school Outdoor activity centre
Derby School, Amber Valley Camp Woolley Moor, near Ashover, Derbyshire Derby Corporation 1945, Derby Corporation School providing one month holidays Valley flooded by Severn Trent Water, Dining Room, Tuck Shop and Masters' Common Room left and used by Ogston Sailing Club 2018
Finnamore Wood Camp Marlow, Buckinghamshire Redbridge, Greater London 1960, Home Office HM Prison Derelict/Disused
Sayers Croft Camp School[6] Ewhurst, Surrey Catford 1946, Greater London Council Rural Studies Centre Outdoor and Environmental Learning Centre
Sheephatch Camp School[7] Tilford, Surrey Leyton 1946, Surrey County Council Co-educational boarding school Owned by Ahmadiyya Muslim Association
Stokenchurch Camp School[8] Horsleys Green, Buckinghamshire Disabled children 1947, Lancashire County Council Horsleys Green School, an all-boys boarding school Being redeveloped for retirement / assisted living complex[9]
Linton Camp School[10] Linton, North Yorkshire Bradford 1954, City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council Residential secondary school Derelict, Redevelopment of luxury hotel 2019 awaiting planning


  1. ^ a b c d e f Morris, Clifford. "The National Camps Corporation" (PDF). Old Derbeian Society. Retrieved 7 May 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d Dent, H. C. (2007). Education in Transition. Read Books. pp. 96–98.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Cole, Margaret (1940). Evacuation Survey: A Report to the Fabian Society. Taylor & Francis. pp. 279–280.
  4. ^ "About Brownrigg School". Retrieved 7 May 2011.
  5. ^ "All change for Colomendy". BBC. Retrieved 7 May 2011.
  6. ^ "Camp Schools".
  7. ^ "Camp Schools". Screen Archive South East. University of Brighton. Retrieved 7 May 2011.
  8. ^ "Horsleys Green School: Old Boys and Staff Website". Archived from the original on 7 May 2011. Retrieved 5 May 2011.
  9. ^ "Supported living development gets the go-ahead".
  10. ^ "About Linton Camp". P Hartingdon. Retrieved 23 Feb 2019.