History of Camping

The founder of recreational camping was Thomas Hiram Holding, who wrote the first Campers Handbook in 1908. His knowledge of camping came from childhood experiences when he crossed the American prairies with his parents in 1853. Holding was also a keen cyclist and embarked on a journey across Ireland with 4 friends, during which they camped. He wrote a book about the experience, titled Cycle and Camp in Connemara, in which he invited others to contact him if they were interested in cycle camping. This led to the formation of the Association of Cycle Campers in 1901, which was founded with 13 members. The first meeting of this association was the founding of the organisation that is now known as The Camping and Caravanning Club.

The popularity of the activity quickly grew and by 1906 it had several hundred members, and the first Club Site was opened in Weybridge in June of that year. A sub-group led by Holding initiated the founding of The Camping Club. They severed links with the Association of Cycle Campers to form The Camping Club, but later the two amalgamated and formed the Amateur Camping Club. In 1910 this club merged with the National Camping Club, and membership grew to 820 campers.

The organisation depleted slightly due to the First World War, but afterwards interest in camping resumed with great gusto and the named changed to The Camping Club of Great Britain and Ireland, with Sir Robert Baden-Powell as its president.

1921 saw the introduction of the Club Feast of Lanterns. This event is based on Chinese tradition, where campers congregate at a selected site bringing hand-made lanterns to decorate their units with. This event is still immensely popular today, being the club’s largest annual event attended by thousands of people.

In 1932 the Club formed the International Federation of Camping Clubs (Federation Internationale de Camping et de Caravanning – FICC). National camping clubs all over the world are affiliated to this Club, and international rallies are held in member countries.

In 1941 the Youth Camping Association was formed, mainly due to the desire to get out of the war-ridden towns and into the country. The popularity of camping and membership of the Club remained consistent throughout the War, with many people wanting to take short breaks away from home. Since then the popularity of camping has been ever increasing, with the Club having around 400,000 members. National Caravanning and Camping Week was established in 2001 with the aim of getting a record number of people to camp and caravan overnight at the same time. David Bellamy has now been appointed the Club President, which is in line with the Club’s desire to get campers to put something back into the countryside in which they are staying. This has included getting campers involved in hedge clearing, footpath construction and tree planting in and around Club sites.

One of the first known British campsites was the Cunningham Camp in Howstrake on the Isle of Man. This opened in 1894 and initially was only for use by male campers. The campsite was open between May and September so as to make use of the summer weather, and its usage quickly grew with 600 men visiting the site every week by the end of the century. By 1904 the site consisted of 5 acres which was occupied by 1500 tents, including a 100 foot dining marquee.

During the 1920s and 1930s a healthy lifestyle was greatly sought, thus the outdoors character of camping made it extremely popular. In the 1960s this grew so that camping became the standard for family holidays, saving holiday makers a great deal of money, and soon campsites were more populated than boarding houses which were the previous norm. With developments in technology camping has still kept its appeal today, and many people still choose camping as their preferred abode when going on holiday. Parks have sprung up across Europe where the elements are often much less of a battle, making holidaying abroad much cheaper and accessible.