YHA History

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YHA History

The Historical Archive

YHA’s Historical Archive is now publicly available at the Cadbury Research Library at the University of Birmingham.

Members of the public can access YHA’s historical records. The Archive includes national and regional records, reports, minute books, handbooks, publications, photographs, personal memories, Local Groups materials, and ephemera representing its 80-year span. The materials have come from internal sources, former employees of YHA and the public in general.

Work started in 2006 to collate, protect and catalogue the YHA’s rich heritage of historical items with a view to its eventual deposit in a publicly-accessible Special Collections library. The Archive was transferred in stages to the Cadbury Research Library, University of Birmingham, in 2010-11. There has already been considerable repackaging to archival standards. The stock of historical YHA films has been moved to the safe keeping of the Yorkshire Film Archive.

Archive acquisitions will continue to be collected and catalogued by YHA at Matlock, and transferred at intervals to the Cadbury Research Library. An interim catalogue, to be augmented in stages, is already online, while a fully itemised catalogue of some 8,000 items or lots will be specially available. Some study guides have been included and more will be prepared.

The Archive will be of particular interest to those researching :

- The history of youth hostelling and outdoor leisure
- The YHA’s network and properties
- British social history from the time of the Great Depression and the Kinder Trespass
- The exigencies of the war years, requisition and evacuation
- The post-war mass British youth adventure culture, school journeys, and other special provision for youth
- Provision for family and group hostelling
- Walking, cycling and activity holidays


A German schoolteacher first thought about Youth Hostels more than a hundred years ago. He understood the difference a night in a new place, meeting new people and sharing new experiences in fresh surroundings, could make, particularly for young people.

From there the idea spread. The early days of YHA are a fascinating story of determination and unlimited enthusiasm for a cause whose time had come.  The Spirit of YHA, by Helen Maurice-Jones and Lindsey Porter, tells the story of how early pioneers started the Youth Hostels Association and developed the ‘spirit’ of YHA.

During the Second World War the number of YHA members doubled.

By the 80s, the needs of the modern-day traveller were changing.  Young people were starting to travel widely.  They wanted smaller rooms, better toilets and showers – the comforts and convenience of the modern world.  Increasingly they began to book on the internet.  Considerable change took place within YHA around this time with the establishment of a national framework and a professional management structure.

Today there are Youth Hostels, in towns and cities, in the countryside.  There are Youth Hostels in cottages, castles, mansions and in modern buildings. There are Youth Hostels right around the world. 

We have hostels throughout England and Wales, often in exceptional locations.  These welcoming and sociable places are open to everyone.

We give people the chance to explore, to travel the world, to expand their horizons, to have fun and meet other people and to know that what they are paying doesn't go to shareholders, doesn't pay any kind of profit to someone else. People like it that they know that they are helping others who wouldn't otherwise have the chance to do exactly the same as them, to have a great time, to explore the world and to learn along the way.

Launch YHA's Historical Timeline

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