In 1934, the YHA National Executive made the decision to open youth hostels in historic cities and York was included in this.
So let’s delve into the history of YHA York..
York [Trenfield] Youth Hostel: 1934 to 1944
A large brick-built double fronted town house, Trenfield, was selected as the first YHA York.
The temporary hostel opened on 23rd March 1934. Even though the hostel was large, it only slept 40. During World War 2, Trenfield hostel continued to operate, but in 1944, the hostel closed and YHA business was transferred to another temporary York location.
York [Heslington Road] Youth Hostel 1944 to 1945
YHA decided on Heslington Road youth hostel, which opened sometime between June and November, in 1944. The purpose of the hostel was to replace Trenfield but still on a temporary basis. YHA National Executive were offered a large, striking brick house on Heslington Road. The establishment consisted of 50 beds – very similar to Trenfield. The hostel was always going to be short-term, running only to the end of the European War. It closed in May 1945, being replaced immediately by Haverford hostel.
York [Haverford] Youth Hostel 1945 to present
York’s new post-war youth hostel opened in May 1945, replacing the temporary hostel on Heslington Road. It was made clear that Haverford was going to be a permanent YHA.
Haverford was the former home of the Rowntree family, built in 1842 for a draper named William Catton. The house was later purchased and in 1908, it became the home of Francis Henry Rowntree, the nephew of Joseph Rowntree and son of Henry Isaac Rowntree, founder of the world-famous chocolate company.
So how did it become a hostel? Well, Haverford was managed by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, having a succession of tenants, including the army during the Second World War. As soon as the war was over, the Joseph Rowntree Village Trust purchased the Haverford Estate and gave it to YHA. The Trust was keen for ownership to be passed to YHA and made two generous loans to YHA to aid the acquisition of the new hostel. Many other organisations also kindly contributed. In 1947, YHA took freehold possession and from then on, YHA York was formed.
The hostel then settled to 25 years or so of intensive use, with overnights doubling, helping build the hostel’s permanent image.
The plan to extend Haverford began as a new 80-bed annex project started in 1986-87 with a maintenance of 30,000 and 40,000 overnights per year, such an amazing achievement for YHA.
However, YHA wanted more success. Ideas of how to improve the hostel even more were in the air and the decision was made to modernise the hostel so Haverford closed for a complete, multi-million-pound refurbishment programme on 2nd September 2012, reopening on 29th March 2013. The hostel has everything you need for a comfortable stay in modern surroundings; a conservatory extension, state-of-the-art education facilities available for private hire, a new café bar serving delicious meals, reception area and increased parking. All 45 rooms are refurbished, 32 with en-suites, and now 200 beds are provided. This beautiful building is located within walking distance of the city centre, making it the ideal base for exploring the historic city. Since the impressive refurbishment, an extra 12,000 overnights have been recorded annually, making it one of YHA’s most successful hostels.
References: Many thanks to the YHA Archive, Cadbury Research Library and University of Birmingham.