Oakley Holidays traces its origins to a series of Sunday Meetings which began in 1900. These meetings were the ideas of a group of boys from St. Paul's School in London who wished to promote a greater understanding of the Christian message. They believed that the best way to do so was 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. A number of different venues were used, mainly in the South of England, but the pattern of the holidays was always the same. During the day games were played. In the evening a short talk of a religious nature was given by one of the leaders. Home-made entertainment usually ended the day. Throughout the week there were discussions and times of quiet and reflection.
In 1933 two of the leading organisers, Edgar Willis and Bill Henderson (pictured above) decided to extend the idea of the holiday party and invite boys from other schools to attend. An amicable separation from the Pauline parties was effected, but for some time the leading figures continued to attend each other's holiday group.
However, the new group led by Willis and Henderson gradually began to become more distinct, inviting boys from schools all over the country. Invitations were personal ones and were often made by teachers, many of whom had attended as boys.
In 1940, the Willis/Henderson group hired Oakley Hall Preparatory School in Cirencester, and it is from this school that the name of the present organisation derives. The group continued to use Oakley Hall until 1970 when one of the houses of Repton School was used.
This marked the beginning of a long association with the preparatory school at Foremarke, and subsequently Repton School itself during the 1970s and 80s. It was during this time, in 1981, that the holidays became mixed and girls were first invited to attend.
In April 2000, the holiday was held at Bilton Grange, a preparatory school near Rugby previously visited in 1924, and now current base for today's holidays. 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.
Compared to the very first holidays, a much more varied programme of activities, talks and discussions is provided. However, it is fair to say that the founders of the holiday would be likely to 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, 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 - today:
Bilton Grange, Rugby, Warwickshire.