1933 to present day
The Quakers and YHA had a strong connection in the YHA’s early years. In the 1930s, the energy to start the youth hostel movement in England and Wales came from government bodies such as the National Council of Social Service and the British Youth Council.
Many of the first youth hostels owed their existence to Quaker and although some of these buildings were quickly secured and short-lived, some of their impact lasted for generations. Plans were made quickly for a youth hostel connected to the large Quaker establishment at Jordans, Buckinghamshire. One rumour was that YHA would take over a chalet built on nearby land, but former warden Trevor Key is sure that the youth hostel was purpose-built.
At the beginning of 1933, the YHA Handbook notified that work had started on the hostel. YHA Jordans opened in March 1933 and an official ceremony followed on 12th August with Sir Selwyn Freemantle declaring the hostel open.
The new hostel consisted of two dorm rooms, a common room and a member’s kitchen. There was no electricity or water and cooking was done on stoves. Toilets were closets positioned at each end of the hostel.
In 1954, the wardens changed. Mrs Marjorie Castles, her husband Alfredo and son Christopher took over the reins. They stayed at the hostel for nearly 24 years, during which time many improvements were made. The warden’s quarters were given a second bedroom and most important a bathroom. Following these alterations, the layout of the garden was altered and improved to make it more manageable.
In 1978, the Castles clan retired, after nearly a quarter of a century as wardens. On 1st October 1878, Kath and Trevor Key took over the wardenship. This were the beginning of more changes, such as dividing the dorms into smaller bedrooms, making the hostel warmer and providing private rooms for families. The garden gained a patio with picnic tables, which enabled visitors to enjoy meals in the garden. Most of these alterations took place during 1981 and 1982 and the overnights climbed from an average of 2500 to nearly 3000 per year.
Despite the improvements, there were no proper washing facilities. In 1984, three YHA members got together to raise funds for the building of a washroom. In six months, nearly £4000 had been raised and work had begun. By March 1985, most of the major work had been completed. Electrics, wood panelling, painting and decorating was performed by volunteers paid only in tea and biscuits.
Understandably, the washing facilities improved the status of the hostel. Overnights shot up to 4000 per year, half of them from overseas visitors. The character of the hostel did not change and to this day it still retains its simple features. Sixty years later it still remains a small friendly hostel, ideal for the individual cyclist or walker, as well as small groups or families that want to spend a few days around the area or explore London, Windsor or Oxford.
The first 60 years at YHA Jordans have seen changes that were never dreamed of when the hostel was first built. We wonder what the next 60 will bring?