Opened 18th May 1913 by the Co-operative Holidays Association (no association with the better known Co-operative Stores) which occupied the site of old RNR battery on the Headlands with £2500 spent on improvements before it opened for the 1913 season providing some 1000 visitor-weeks in the first season. Press reports of the 1913 annual meeting stated that guests at the several centres typically stayed 2 weeks during which they walked 78½ miles come rain or shine and that centres in the vicinity of towns did not attract its members so much as the more rustic centres. The war-shortened 1914 season saw some 750 visitor-weeks after which it closed until the 1919 season. There was a request by Westminster whether some 30 Irish 'ringleaders' of the the 1916 Irish uprising could be interned on the Island at a guarded re-opened camp - Government Screcretary B Sargeaunt adroitly pointed out the several difficulties and the proposal was dropped. The Guest house closed in 1963 as, like elsewhere, visitor expectations required more than the older somewhat spartan centres - Mooragh House in Ramsey had opened in 1961 and this continued as the Island C.H.A. centre until its closure in 1982.
The following description from the Peel City Guardian 10 May 1913, describes the many changes to the old site.
Opening of Peel Centre.
The Co-operative Holiday Association's Isle of Man centre, which has been established on the site of the old Royal Naval Reserve Battery on Peel Headlands, opens to-day (Saturday), when sixty members will be accommodated. The old Battery premises have been transformed, and are now hardly recognisable. The old gun room is turned into sleeping accommodation for the male guests. There are separate rooms for thirty males. Underneath the sleeping apartments is a room for the cleaning of boots, etc. The former drill shed has been converted into a common room, a dining room, and a kitchen, and there is attached at the end facing the sea a verandah, covered in on all sides with glass, while a verandah with a glass roof runs the whole length of the building on the inside of the grounds. A new building has been erected as a continuation and in this portion the lady members and some staff have their quarters. There is accommodation for thirty ladies, in addition to the staff. The magazine has been extended and fitted up in the most modern way as a laundry. There are attached to each of the buildings a complete suite of modern conveniences.
The drainage scheme is one of the most up-to-date. Both water and gas are supplied from Peel. The situation of the premises is one of the most healthful and beautiful which could be found, magnificent views being obtainable from all quarters. The contract for the alterations was obtained by Mr. Mark Carine, of Douglas, and both Mr. A. H. C. Kelly and Mr. Geo. Sayle have executed portions of the work.
The chief feature in connection with the Association is out-door life and organised excursions have been arranged as follows from the Peel centre: South Barule and Glen Rushen, Sulby Glen and Kirk Michael, North Barule and Glen Auldyn, Niarbyl, Glen Maye, Cronk ny Irree Laa and Glen Rushen, Ramsey, Maughold Head and Glen Mona, Greeba, Colden and Glen Helen. Half of this list of excursions will be taken on alternate weeks. Mr. Cookson, who has superintended the alterations, will have charge of the excursions, while Miss Henderson is the manageress.
The Association started first as a rambling club, but in 1897 the Association proper was founded. It extended very rapidly and there are now centres in Derbyshire, Wharfdale, Whitby, North Devon, Brittany, Isle of Man, Germany, North Wales, the Lake District, Switzerland, Scotland, London and North of Ireland.
The Association have no connection with any stores and pay no dividends. It exists merely for holidays. Part of the duties of the guests is that they are to assist in the management of the guest house. The men have to carry the lunch on the excursions, and have to clean their own and the ladies' boots and make their own beds, while the ladies wait at the tables. A special feature of the Association is that they very materially assist various charities, and over £500 is annually raised to provide holidays for poor folks.
CHA Guest house as viewed from beach
The guest house was right up against the cliff and it would appear from press reports in early 1960[IoM Daily Times 23 Feb 1960] that the C.H.A. only held the site on a long term lease that expired in 1964 and that the sewage system which discharged down the cliff was causing several complaints such that significant and costly changes would be required - however it was allowed to be patched up until a new lease was agreed - possibly this was another significant reason for the closure.
The C.H.A. could be described as a 'muscular' Christian organisation being founded by in 1891 by Congregational minister T A Leonard who according to Dr D G Hope "sought to dissuade the young workers of Colne from going in droves during 'Wakes Week' to Blackpool, Morecambe or the Isle of Man." However there is a press briefing [IoM Times 9 Dec 1899] issued by the then newly formed Board of Advertising that they had been in communication with the C.H.A. who were looking for a large house or school capable of accommodating from 60 to 100 persons would be required and that Mr Leonard was then on the Island with the object of selecting suitable accommodation. Possibly it was the desire to avoid the dubious pleasures of Douglas with its dance halls and drinking establishments that suggested Peel as a location though the organisation had opened its first Manx centre in rented accommodation in Ramsey in 1911 and acquired the Peel site a little later but were required by the Kirk German Commissioners (it then being just outside of the Peel town boundary)to improve the proposed sanitary arrangements. At the Commissioners meeting in March 1912 they referred to plans for a camp on the Battery site and were still awaiting a response from the C.H.A. which arrived in time for the meeting at the end of May [Peel City Guardian 1 Jun 1912]in which the C.H.A. stated that owing to the rise in prices and difficulty in obtaining tenders they had abandoned the idea of opening Peel for the 1912 season - it would appear that their plans were still somewhat fluid as they suggested using wooden bungalows in place of the intended three-storied structures. By Whitsun 1914 the press was reporting that Peel had an increased number of visitors with a large number at the C.H.A. guest house on the Headlands.
The Headlands field had been given to the public in 1930 and in 1931 Peel commissioners were asked to fix a notice on the entrance to the "Sunset Path" that it was a public path to the Headlands.
The muscular fellowship that it sought to engender can be seen from the timetables in the 1932 booklet - several substantial all day walks were expected with it seems few alternatives for the sometimes fickle Manx weather. There was a report in May 1934 that the evening service at Lhergydhoo Methodist Chapel, at Whitestrand a short distance from the guest house, was provided by guests from the C.H.A. including preacher Mr J W A Grant (Liverpool) plus choir and soloists.
During WW2 the guest house was requistioned as 'Ballaquane Hospital' for the various internees held in Peel.
www.douglashope.co.uk/CHA. - gives a short history of
the C.H.A. and that of a sister organisation The Holiday-Fellowship also founded by T A Leonard in an attempt to avoid the
more middle class leanings the C.H.A. developed as it matured.
Thanks also to Douglas Hope for some additional information re numbers and dates
Any comments, errors or omissions
gratefully received The
© F.Coakley , 2018