Thomas Arthur Leonard


‘T A Leonard knew the secret of a happy life and passed this on to tens of thousands of people. He was in the truest sense a crusader and citizen of the world.’

Roz Hughes of HF Holidays

The godfather of the adventure holiday… Country pastor Thomas Arthur Leonard became a radical pioneer in organising outdoor holidays for mill workers and working class people. In pursuit of his vision, he established the Co-operative Holidays Association (CHA), and later the Holiday Fellowship, which a century later remains a thriving travel company. He was also influential in helping establish the Ramblers’ Association and the Youth Hostels Association.

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Posted to ‘the bleak upland township’ of Colne, as glumly described in his memoirs ‘Adventures in Holiday Making’, Leonard first sought to improve the lives of factory workers though the provision of ‘recreative and educational’ holidays as an alternative to the tradition of Wakes Week to Blackpool and Morecambe. He took 32 members of his church’s social guild on a three night holiday to Ambleside in the Lake District.

He carried on with his pastoral duties until 1897, when he set up the CHA. By 1913 the CHA had 13 holiday centres, catering for around 13,000 guests. Leonard was the association secretary, organising trips to centres in Switzerland, France, Germany, Norway and Denmark. Before the First World War, he had also arranged exchange visits for students in Germany and Britain to encourage transnational friendships.

For Pendle Radicals

Radicals researchers are exploring Leonard and his fellow pioneer in democratising fresh air, Tom Criddle Stephenson. A themed walk, the Two Toms Trail, was premiered at Pendle Walking Festival 2021 and published online.  You can download the walk information on the link above and read about it on our Rebel Pen Club blog.

Explore further

Leonard published his autobiography, Adventures in Holiday-Making in 1934.

More recently, the highly recommended volume Thomas Arthur Leonard and the Co-operative Holidays Association  by Douglas George Hope was issued in 2017 and is widely available.