Thursday, 10 September 2015

Leeds & Harrogate Children's Camp 1921-1957

Community service is a key requirement of Rotary and the Leeds and Harrogate Children's Camp was a major contribution by the Leeds and Harrogate Rotary Clubs from 1921 until 1957. It was the brainchild of Ben Collingswood of Leeds who built on a previous initiative by a Harrogate jeweller, James Ogden. Rotary club members paid an extra 30 shillings a year to finance the camp. 

The camp was opened in 1921 to allow children from poor families to have a holiday in the countryside around Harrogate. It began with two caravans and a small tent on land at Rosset Green kindly provided by Rotarian Ogden. Just five children formed the first complement. Subsequently, two army huts were purchased to provide sufficient accommodation for fourteen children and, in 1926, a dining hut was added. The sleeping quarters and dining hut were removed to a new site at Birk Crag in 1928 when a further £1000 was spent on additional buildings.

Camp re-opening 1925

By April 1938, 2680 children had been to the Harrogate camp - generally for a two weeks' holiday. By that time, 20 boys and 20 girls were visiting alternately and Rotary Club members drove the children there. On the children's applications, a note was made of the difficulties faced by each child and these were reported in the club bulletins. Examples include: “Mother deserted”, “Father blind” and “Boy one of ten in family”. 

Christmas 1930
The holiday camp was closed briefly at the outbreak of the Second World War before being reopened to house refugee children. In 1941, enemy action again caused the camp to be closed and the children to be rehoused but, in 1944, the two Rotary Clubs reopened their camp for its original purpose.

The Harrogate camp finally closed on 29 June 1957 because it had been superseded by Leeds City Council's camp at Silverdale – then in Westmoreland. The land at Birk Crag was handed over to the Girl Guide Movement at an official ceremony on that date. It was received on the movement's behalf by the Princess Royal. The Rotary Club of Leeds continues to be involved with the Silverdale Camp. 
President's Centenary Charity