The YHA Historical Archive

On the YHA forum yesterday, the following announcement was made of an important development for those with an interest in the history of the Association:

The YHA has a developing Historical Archive. For the past three years this has been run by three volunteers who make occasional trips to Matlock to look after the growing number of materials in this very significant collection of English and Welsh social history. I am privileged to be a member of this team. The priorities are to care for what is already there, to catalogue it (well under way) and to search out new sources of YHA archival material.

While the Archive is being set up it is not really available for public viewing, though accessibility to some of the material in the future is a point under discussion. However, we do our utmost to help with historical queries.

In the last few months large new collections have been donated to the Archive, and an excellent roomy, atmospherically stable and secure store has been made available at YHA Head Office.

The Historical Archive consists of a very large collection of photographs, drawings, slides and postcards (in the course of sorting, cataloguing and some digitising of rare items), national and regional handbooks (missing some from the 1930s) and annual reports. Regional Annual Reports before 1965 are very well represented; after that there are gaps, especially after 1972. The individual 19 regions before 1965 have patchy representation in minute books, local YHA magazines, newspaper reports and ephemera; Northumberland and Tyneside, Birmingham and London Regions are very good, for instance, while other regions such as Devon, Cornwall, Gloucester, Somerset & Exmoor, West Riding, etc., are hardly represented at all in official records. The important London Region News publication has large gaps in the sequence, particularly for later years.

There is a growing collection in the Archive catalogue of hostellers’ memories, personal logs of holidays, photographic albums of YHA activities and hostels, etc. These items are especially prized, and new material would be very welcome. There are also significant amounts of publicity material, leaflets, film strips, magazine runs and so on. (Some Rucksack Magazines, 1930s-50s, and the associated Bulletins are in short supply). There is a small collection of YHA cast triangles, signs, badges, hostel closure items, membership cards and rubber stamps, and even a remarkable professional-standard scale model of Twyssenden Manor Youth Hostel (closed 25 years ago).

Any new material for the Archive would be much appreciated (and acknowledged), and can be sent to: YHA Historical Archive, Trevelyan House, Matlock, Derbyshire, DE4 3YH. We would also welcome any ‘leads’ helping in detective work to find some of the missing regional items. Loans for the purpose of digitising could also be very useful. You can contact me through my email link below for more information.

Additionally, I am always happy to try to help with historical queries; do get in touch via my email, in the first instance.

If you have a stack of YHA memorabilia gathering dust in a corner, I’m sure the archivist (so far identified only as “John”) and his two colleagues would be happy to hear from you.

20 thoughts on “The YHA Historical Archive

  1. maggie v fink

    I thought you might be interested to know that I recognised my father, Arthur Russell Jones, in tbe bbc film about the first 100 years of the Yha. He appeared as a warden in the very early film.I was a bit doubtful at first until I saw the credits that david putnam was viewing and saw my fathers name and that of our alsation dog Jim. I vaguely remember him telling me that jim had appeared in a film for the yha. My dad died in 1974 at the age of 84 so it was a lovely surprise for me to see him again! Regards maggie v fink

  2. Richard Wilde

    I have some old postcards and photo’s from the late 1940′s.If you give me an email address I will send a list of the Hostels featured.

  3. Tony Hoadley

    Very interested in the Archive from a personal point of view.
    I was a keen cyclist and hiker member in the 1950s (1949 on).
    I have my membership cards, with hostels visited, but would be very interested if any Handbooks giving Hostel details are viewable for this period , as an aid to my personal memoirs.
    What is the situation regarding viewing of such archive material?

  4. alan Sidaway

    I have lots of old handbooks YHA SYHA Northern Ireland yha, An Orgia yha but would like to get some of my missing ones I have swops if you would like

  5. Samir Cordell

    Hello. I am studying the YHA for a module at Oxford Brookes. My title is: Shifting Values in a Changing World? I am looking at the early values of gender equality, the mixing of social groups and, after the war, internationalism. I am looking at whether these values are just as strong today as they were at the YHA’s founding, and whether a new business model and the developmetn of city based hostels (which replaced the old model of voluntarism) has compromised the YHA’s goal of encouraging access to the countryside. I know this is a lot…but I would love to get people’s feedback. One last request: does anyone have a copy of the BBC 4 film – YHA, the first hundred years. It isn’t on I player any more. Many thanks indeed.


  6. Ian McDonald

    My late Uncle, Peter Shepherdly, was a keen cyclist all his life. He died last year, and we have a collection or around 30 badges collected from the 1950′s onwards from various Youth hostels. If you would like them, please let me have an address to send them to.

  7. Peter Loosley

    Now owners of the old Harlech Youth hostel we would love to have one or both of the tin badges sold here and any of the postcards (or anything else relating to the building). WE do have a fair bit of info if anyone is interested and you could stay here again as it is a B&B!

  8. Brian Sanders

    I am working on an illustration for Saffron Walden Historical Society, relating to an article on the closure of the Myddylton Place Youth Hostel. It features the hostel in the 1960s. For accuracy, I should be most grateful if you could you let me have a visual of the sign that would have been on the building at the time. The position is known but has been replaced by a more modern sign. Thank you in anticipation. Brian Sanders

  9. Tammy Norie

    I have a postcard (sent 1965) which clearly shows the smaller than usual triangle fixed to the main timber at the corner of the building. Can send you a scan if you provide an email address.

  10. Neil

    Can anyone assist me pl. Where was the Milford Youth Hostel near to Guildford that I went to in the 60s and is the building still there? Would be very grateful if anyone can help.

    Many thanks


  11. Nigel

    Neil, it was at The Firs, Milford so somewhere on the present A286 Haslemere Road, SW of the roundabout. This link should show you near enough where,+Milford&aq=0&sll=51.438601,-0.198441&sspn=0.197318,0.676346&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Haslemere+Rd,+Milford,+United+Kingdom&ll=51.167323,-0.650173&spn=0.001467,0.005284&t=h&z=18
    Without knowing what the building looked like it’s a bit difficult to tell if it’s still there or not. The hostel had 55 beds and operated between 1946 & 1972

  12. Neil

    Nigel, that is so kind of you. I also discovered the Milford YH address thru the YHA Historical Section, but I think I can go no further with my quest following a chat with the local council. There doesn’t appear to be a “The Firs” now so I must assume that the building has gone or been replaced etc., and therefore a drive out that way one day to see it will be pointless.
    Great shame.
    Thanks again

  13. Brian Powell

    In 1950? I cycled up to and back from Beaulieu to Malham Tarn Field Centre. Recall the name of some YHA hostels inc. Chaddesley Corbett. I also stayed nr Marlborough and nr Pendle Hill. On return after cycling 65 m. each of 2 days vs. v. strong headwinds, stopped in Oxfordshire S. of Melton Mowbray. Early closing day – no food shops open. Kind members spared a bit. Then 92.4 miles home. Hostel names please.

  14. Sue Royle

    I have some YHA handbooks from 1947 to 1953, for England and Scotland plus membership cards, they belonged to my father. Is anyone interested in them. Please get in touch via email.

  15. Geraint Whitley

    I have just moved into the old YHA at St Albans, Trevelyan Place. Is it possible to obtain copies of photographs from the archive?

    Many thanks

  16. Ken Baker

    Can anybody help me please with a very small Youth Hostel that was opened in Thaxted around the outbreak of WWII and closed after just a year? It was at No.8 Newbiggen Street in Thaxted, Essex and I think the old terraced cottage was lent to the YHA by the local curate at Thaxted Parish Church. Any information would be appreciated especially a photo… many thanks.

  17. Chris Hunt Post author

    From the comprehensive list of YHA hostels in the archive:

    THAXTED 1941 to 1942.

    8 Newbiggin Street, Thaxted, Essex.
    Historic County: Essex
    YHA Region: Cambridge RG
    GR: TL 609310*

    Opened 21/6/1941, through the generosity of Rev David Bickerton, a local curate and YHA enthusiast, who left Thaxted in 1942 [B Munro].
    Wartime arrangements: there were 115 bednights in 1941 and 248 in 1942, though there were only 4 beds advertised. The operation was a temporary arrangement only; the Council was seeking larger premises for a permanent youth hostel [CAMar41].
    Closed 1942.
    Handbook 1941-42.

    Property profile: tiny town cottage.
    A larger outbuilding stands behind [GD].


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