Hebden Township Historical Data

The Guest House

The Guest House has been a prominent feature in the south of the village for over 100 years. The originals buildings are slowly being demolished as the site is being converted into a domestic residence, but there are many photographs of them in their original state, some of which may be seen here.

The Guest House was built in 1909 by the Co-operative Holidays Association. This was an organisation established by the Rev. T.A. Leonard, a Congregational minister from Colne, the aim of which was to provide organised holidays in the countryside for working-class people with an emphasis on educational and physical recreation. The recommended book list included Wuthering Heights and The Scientific Study of Scenery, and the walking excursions were seldom less than 10 miles.

Two sites were considered in the area - one at Grassington, and one in Hebden. The Hebden site was chosen, and a lease taken out on the land for 25 years at £10 a year. The guest house was then built at a cost of about £1,850, and opened on June 6th 1909. Over the years various improvements were made, with the kitchen chimney being raised in 1912, brick pillars built to support the floors in 1914, and electric lights installed in 1929.

The oipening ceremony of the CHA Guesthouse in Hebden.
The opening of the CHA Guest House, June 6th 1909. Rev. T.A. Leonard is standing, front centre
Thomas Francis and Annie Hammond on far steps
Click image for larger resolution

The Guest House generally operated from May to September, and catered for as many as 1700 guests in a season. Each guest was issued with a booklet which included useful notes and a song book. The former (from 1937) gives a fascinating insight into the ethos of the organisation (click on any image to make it readable):

It remained open during the first world war, with over 1500 guest in 1915. In the 1930s, nurses from the hospital were billeted in the East Wing, as can be seen in the electoral registers of the time. In the 1950s, expectations were changing, and it was perceived that there was a lack of facilities for guests, so in 1955 a decision was taken to sell the property, and the centre was closed.

In 1960 the property was sold for £2,500 to Mr. Bird and Mr. Little who were partners in the venture "Wharfedale Holidays". It was then sold on in 1971 to Milly and Bert Bielby, their daughter Pat Hodgkins and her husband Cliff, and Roger Foster. They re-opened it in 1972 as a residential facility with 50 beds for schools and colleges. It was also used by rambling groups. Between 1972-1980 a group of professional cyclists, including Sid Barras and Wes Mason, lived there in exchange for helping with the business, allowing them the time to train. Residential training camps for professional cycling teams were also organised from the centre. The business finally closed in 1990.

In 1994 some of the buildings began to be used by a nursery school. This ceased in 2008 when the building was deemed to be structurally unsound. In 2007, the premises were sold to the Geldard family, and part of the buildings were demolished to be replaced by a domestic residence and stables. Renovation of the rest of the site is on-going.