Our History

1913 - 2013

The first 100 years

HF Holidays has a proud history spanning the last 100 years. Throughout the century we've had to change with the times. Accommodation in single sex dormitories with the requirement to make one's own bed was acceptable in 1913, but times have changed and our Country Houses have evolved to offer comfortable en-suite bedrooms that our guests expect today.

After a century of changes, the ethos at the heart of our holidays is still the same as in 1913 - beautiful locations, great leaders and pleasant sociable evenings with congenial company.

Portrait of T A LeonardOur Founder

Thomas Arthur Leonard is one of the key figures in the British outdoor movement, who helped create numerous organisations, including HF Holidays.

Having created the Co-operative Holidays Association he founded the Holiday Fellowship and was our General Secretary until 1934. In the 1930's he helped create the Youth Hostels Association and was one of the founders of the Friends of the Lake District. He also chaired the first national meeting of the Ramblers Association in 1935.


Black & White picture of guests on first CHA holiday at Ambleside in 18911891: TA Leonard took 30 people from Blackburn on a ‘strenuous and simple’ walking group to Ambleside in the Lake District

1894: This group became the Co-operative Holiday Association - CHA. This organisation grew very quickly – by 1913 there were 18 holiday centres around the UK and 16,000 guests took a holiday every year.

1913: TA Leonard feels that CHA has become too ‘middle class’ so sets up the Holiday Fellowship. The new organisation has a simpler ethos and a greater emphasis on internationalism. The first holidays operate in 1914 at Conwy, the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and Germany.

1914: Right from the start Holiday Fellowship offered holidays abroad. This makes us one of Britain’s very first overseas tour operators. Our first abroad holidays were to Kelkheim in Germany - in hindsight not the best choice of location!

Black & white image of 1930s walkersJuly 1914: Outbreak of World War 1. Two guests staying at Kelkheim fail to return to Britain in time and get interned in Germany for the full duration of the war.

Black & white group photo from 1920s1929: First holidays at Alltshellach at Glen Coe. Situated on the shores of Loch Leven and surrounded by some of Britain's highest mountains, it continues to be a premier destination for mountain walking.

School group outside Newfield Hall1934: Newfield Hall at Malhamdale opens. For many years this operated as one of our ''Youth Centres' - simple accommodation for schools and families. Over the years thousands of children experienced their first taste of the countryside at one of these centres.

1937: Derwent Bank in the Lake District is purchased - a premier location on the shores of Derwent Water.

1939-1945: Holidays continue to operate at a handful of locations through the Second World War, but many houses are requesitioned by the government and used to accommodate troops.

1945: Holidays re-start after the Second World War. Monk Coniston in the Lake District is leased from the National Trust.

looking at Bourton on the water in summer, coverd in ivy, set in beautiful grounds1947: Nether Grange at Alnmouth and Harrington House at Bourton-on-the-Water open.

1948: Our founder TA Leonard dies aged 84 at his home in Conwy.

1952: Holnicote House at Selworthy is leased from the National Trust.

1956: First holidays run at Freshwater Bay House on the Isle of Wight. As one of our largest properties and an enviable location right on the beach it remains one of our most popular locations, particularly for family holidays.

Leisure Activities brochure front cover1959: First publication of our 'Holidays that are Different' brochure which contained holidays ranging from pony trekking and golf to photography, sketching and 'old-time' dancing. This collection has evolved over the years and our Leisure Activities brochure now contains almost 200 different holidays.

1963: Our 50th birthday - by this date 1½ million people had taken a holiday with us.

1960 & 1970s: Cheap air travel results in a decline in the traditional British walking holiday as guests flock to the blossoming resorts in Spain and Italy. Conversely this proves to be a great boost to our overseas holidays throughout Europe.

Old HF logo from 1980s1982: Our name changes from the 'Holiday Fellowship' to 'HF Holidays' with new logos and brochures. The following year Peter Brassey is appointed Chief Executive who sets about closing unprofitable centres and transforming the organisation into a modern holiday provider. After several years of significant progress he tragically died in an accident in the French Pyrenees in 1992.

Children enjoying a swimming pool on a sunny day1986: Chy Morvah at St Ives opens as a replacement for Ponsondene House at Penzance.

1988: Our final Youth Centres are closed, with Newfield Hall at Malhamdale being converted into a Country House for our walking and leisure activity holidays. Thorns Hall at Sedbergh in the Yorkshire Dales is also purchased.

Walker looking down on impressive glacial cirque by guest Karen Michel1989: Our first Worldwide brochure is launched with long-haul destinations including the Canadian Rockies, New Zealand and the USA National Parks. These holidays have grown radiply in popularity and now encompass 40 destinations in all corners of the globe.

1990: First holidays at Nythfa House at Brecon.

Four Walkers1994: Abingworth Hall in the South Downs is purchased.

1998: Larpool Hall at Whitby opens as our new base in the North York Moors.

1999: Moorlands House at Haytor is purchased - our first holidays in the Dartmoor National Park.

2001: Foot & Mouth outbreak results in widespread closure of the countryside. Many of our Country Houses stay shut for the year resulting in significant losses.

Cycling front brochure 20112002: A specialist cycling holiday company is purchased and our new cycling brochure is launched. Cycling holidays have grown in popularity over the last decade and remain a perfect complement to our walking holidays.

2011: HF Holidays join Co-operatives UK, becoming Britain's only co-operative holiday provider. Dolserau Hall at Dolgellau is purchased, setting new standards with its high quality accommodation.

Longmynd Church Stretton eshot May2012: Expansion continues with four new Country Houses opening: Craflwyn Hall, Beddgelert, Lulworth Mill House at Lulworth Cove, the Longmynd at Church Stretton, and the Peveril of the Peak at Dovedale.

2013: HF Holidays celebrates its Centenary with a range of special events and Centenary Holidays. To date over 5 million people have taken a holiday with us. A new edition of 'The History of HF Holidays' by Harry Wroe records this milestone and is available to buy at all our Country Houses.

Click here to see a list of all our Country Houses.


At the 2013 AGM David Brown, shared his own personal family experience of "Our first 100 years" which illustrated the story of HF Holidays. A copy of the speech and supporting slides can be found here.

A wonderful video from Conwy in 1939 can be watched here and shows how the Holiday Fellowship ran back in its early years.


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0345 470 8558
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+44 20 8732 1250

Our lines are open:
Monday to Friday 09:00 - 19:00
Saturday 09:00 - 13.00