NOSTALGIA: Happy on their Crowlink holiday in the 1930s

I thought your readers would be interested in one of the latest acquisitions of the East Dean and Friston Local History Group archives.

Friday, 30th December 2016, 1:02 pm
Updated Monday, 9th January 2017, 12:40 pm
The intriguing postcard

It is a postcard sent in 1938 from the Holiday Fellowship at Crowlink, near Friston Church, showing a happy band of holiday makers.

The Holiday Fellowship was founded in 1913 by Thomas Arthur Leonard.

He was born in 1864 at Finsbury, London, but, after his father’s early death, he was raised in Hackney by his mother.

All smiles ... members of the Holiday Fellowship at Crowlink

They spent some time in Heidelberg, Germany, before moving to Eastbourne, where his mother ran a boarding house in Gildredge Road and Mr Leonard found employment as a builder’s clerk.

And it was in Eastbourne that he met his future wife, Mary Arletta Coupe.

Later he became a congregational minister and was appointed to a congregational church in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, and afterwards, in Colne, Lancashire.

Here he organised “recreative and educational holidays by purchasing or renting and furnishing houses and rooms in selected centres, by catering in such houses for parties of members and guests and by securing helpers who will promote the intellectual and social interests of the party with which they are associated”.

All smiles ... members of the Holiday Fellowship at Crowlink

He strongly disapproved of his congregation’s Wakes Week trips to holiday resorts such as Blackpool and Morecambe, saying that “This kind of holiday leads to thoughtless spending of money, inane types of amusement and unhealthy crowding in lodging houses.”

So Mr Leonard established the Holiday Fellowship to promote his high ideals of providing healthy holidays, without frills and at a reasonable price.

By the time of Mr Leonard’s death in 1948, the Holiday Fellowship had expanded to some 30 centres with more than 45,000 guests.

One of these centres was opened at North Barn in Crowlink in 1936.

The centre took over a large, ancient barn and several outbuildings, converted and adapted for the fellowship guests.

Although the Holiday Fellowship continues to offer holidays at other venues, the North Barn Centre, where “those fine Sussex downs rise in every direction”, was closed in 1983 and sold in 1984 to be used as a theatre scenery store.

Then, in the 1990s, it was bought by John Napier, the theatre set and costume designer.

The postcard shows one of the many group photographs taken at the Crowlink Centre.

These were often kept by the visitors as a souvenir of their holiday. But this one was posted and the message on it gives it added interest. What did R Richmond Esq do to make him the topic of conversation long after he had left?

It couldn’t have been all bad because ‘T’ is anxious to have him back.

This is one of the many stories told in one of our extensive list of publications and you can find more details on our new website It has our current programme of talks, a list of our publications, around 100 pictures from our archives, some notes of general interest, as well as an easy way to contact us and how to find the village hall, where we hold our meetings.

In fact, everything you wanted to know about the East Dean and Friston Local History Group but were afraid to ask.

Lloyd Brunt, joint secretary, East Dean & Friston Local History Group

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