Oakley Holidays is an inclusive organisation providing residential activity holidays for young people. Oakley welcomes people from all backgrounds and has evolved progressively for over 100 years.
The Holidays grew out from a series of Sunday Meetings which began in 1900 for a group of boys from St. Paul’s School in London who wished to promote a greater understanding of the Christian message through regular discussion in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere. These meetings continued until the outbreak of The Great War in 1914.
After the war it was thought that the spirit of the meetings could be further developed by a group spending a short holiday together. In the summer of 1919, twelve young people spent a week in Ardingly in Sussex. The week was spent playing games, swimming and discussing issues of a spiritual and religious nature. Each day a short time, known as 'Quiet Time', was set aside for prayer and personal reflection.
In 1920 the group hired Amesbury Preparatory School at Hindhead and the idea of the holiday party was born.
Early in the 1930s two of the leading organisers, Edgar Willis and Bill Henderson (pictured above) decided to widen the range of those attending and so invited boys from other schools all over the country to attend.
In 1940, Oakley Hall Preparatory School in Cirencester was used for the first time. It is from this school that the name of the present organisation derives. The group continued to use Oakley Hall until 1970.
Since then Holidays enjoyed long and happy residencies at Foremarke Hall, Repton School and Bilton Grange. In 1981 girls were first invited to attend and the Holidays are now fully mixed, with an equal number of boys and girls attending. Oakley Holidays became a registered charity in 2003.
Over the past 45 years the Holidays have evolved into a secular organisation, welcoming people from all faiths and those with none, but still holding on to the core values of service, compassion, friendship, charity and reflection.
In Summer 2023 Oakley Holidays moved to a new venue, The Downs, Malvern, a preparatory school in Worcestershire. Holidays are now held twice a year (one week at Easter, and another week during the Summer), and the Annual Conference for leaders is held in February.
Invitations to Oakley have always been personal ones and many of those now attending are the sons and daughters of those who attended in the 1980s and 1990s.
Compared to the very first Holidays, a much more varied programme of activities, talks and discussions is now provided. However the Oakley pioneers would recognise many of the games and other essential ingredients of the week.
The spirit which prevails amongst the friends who meet, the development of the individual, the opportunities for leadership and the value given to each person's contribution to the success of the week for everyone - all of these remain key priorities of each Holiday held since 1919.
Bilton Grange, Rugby & Dunchurch, Rugby, Warwickshire.
Wooton Court, Folkestone, Kent & Fernden, Hazlemere.
Oakley Hall, Cirencester
Foremarke Hall, Repton, Derbyshire (The Dragon School, Oxford, 1973)
2000 - 2023:
Bilton Grange, Rugby, Warwickshire.
2023 - Present:
The Downs, Malvern, Worcestershire