Park Royal Children’s Camp Hostel and the Excursionists.


Bill Tonkin.

I first became aware of the Children’s Camp Hostel when many years ago I acquired a card titled ‘Children’s Camp Hostel. Park Royal. A quarter of the huge Dining Hall holding 5,000’ No. 2. A sea of faces, those seated facing away on long forms at folding tables all looking over their shoulder at the camera. The girls nearly all in white blouses and gym slips seated at separate tables from the boys. I probably bought it because it had a 1d Wembley stamp. It had not even got an exhibition post mark, being posted during June 1924 in Willesden NW10. The card obviously sent by a member of the staff to his girl friend reads ‘Dear Mary, Wouldn’t take this job again for 2 a day Bert’. Of course many men in 1924 would not have earned 2 a week.


Children’s Camp Hostel Park Royal No. 1                 Children’s Camp Hostel Park Royal No. 2

Later I got Children’s Camp Hostel. Park Royal. No. 1 showing a string of seven open motor coaches marked ‘Private’ outside the hostel all packed with young children. Although I’ve found a second No. 2 I’ve never found any more of the series. I seem to have a memory at the back of my mind that some years ago a lady wrote to me and said there was a set of six cards. Unfortunately I can now find no trace of the letter.

The children staying at the Children’s Camp Hostel (Hostel) must have sent tens of thousands of post cards home to their parents, when they came up to London to visit the exhibition. This is a facet of Wembley postal history that has been overlooked and as far as I know, little is known about. I have been able to find nine of these post cards and from the odd snippets of childish information written on the backs have tried to build up a picture.

There was a mix of outings although visiting the Exhibition would have been the prime object, trips to Madam Tussauds, the Houses of Parliament and the Zoo are mentioned.

I soon came to realise that the thing to look out for is, first of all The Willesden NW10 post mark on British Empire Exhibition post cards, and then look to see if the card is addressed to Mum or Mum and Dad. If so you are home and dry, it’s a Hostel card. It was not the custom in those days to always put the address of the sender at the top of the card, but one card tells it all ‘Bed 1027. Children’s Camp Hostel, Park Royal Dept 2703, Willesden Lane, London NW 10’.

I say British Empire Exhibition cards but it is very likely many of the children were supplied with stamped and addressed post cards or envelopes before they left on their journey, with strict instructions to not forget to write home. But I have never found one. Looking at the addresses on my cards it is obvious that groups or parties of children came from all over the country and from as far away as Guernsey and Jersey. No message mentions a leader or adult in charge of the young travellers but it would seem they were under the charge of teachers.

The only official Hostel recognised by the Exhibition for children excursionists was the Park Royal Children’s Camp Hostel in Willesden Lane, NW 10, which was under the direct supervision of the Middlesex Education Committee. A pamphlet ‘Excursions to the New Wembley May to October 1925’ states the Hostel was largely extended for 1925 and could provide accommodation for upwards of 3,000 children together with the necessary number of masters and mistresses, at very reasonable rates. A fully equipped hospital forms part of this organisation, and the catering is in the hands of Messrs Allnatt Ltd., official caterers for excursionists to the exhibition.

The figures do not tie in, the post card No. 2 claims 5,000 in 1924 but a year later after it is ‘largely extended’ it can only cater for ‘upwards of 3,000 children’

Don Knight in his book ‘The Lion Roars at Wembley’ gives some details of a Hostel used for exhibition attendants in a converted No. 3 Filling factory for which there were single and double cubicles attached to the dining halls and recreation rooms, and could cater for 3,000 people. The cost of accommodation for adults was 35/- a week for full board and was run by the Wembley Visitors Club Ltd., It looks as if there must have been two Hostels on the same site, one for adults and one for children. If they could both take 3,000 this would explain the discrepancy in figures mentioned earlier. I believe the site had been a brewery. I know we have several members who also belong to the Wembley Local History Society and perhaps one of them can add to my scanty knowledge.

Excursionists as they were called were very big business in both years. The 1925 pamphlet mentions that over 5,000 firms and associations organised excursions to Wembley in 1924. The excursionists in these parties numbered over three million people. The children’s parties from Elementary and Secondary Schools could obtain tickets from the secretary of the National Union of Teachers, while Private and Public Schools had to apply direct to the Controller of General Services at the Exhibition. Children’s parties were not allowed in on Tuesdays or week-ends. Tuesdays for some reason were regarded as special days and the normal adult visitors ticket rose from 1/6 to 2/6 on that day. Adults in excursion parties if booked in advance, paid a reduced rate of 1/3, but I can find no mention that children’s tickets were reduced.

The railway companies offered special cheap rates for excursions, the return ticket was offered for the price of a single ticket up to 80 miles from London, further away had a greater discount. They would also run a special train if 200 people booked for an excursion.

There was even a restaurant set up in the Palace of Engineering for excursionists organised by Allnatt Ltd., with a special excursion tariff.


Coffee or tea, bread and butter, jam or marmalade (ad lib) 1/6

Ditto with bacon and two eggs, or fried fillets of fish 2/3

Dinner (Mid day)

Cold meat dinner with vegetables, bread, cheese, etc. 2/3

Hot joint, two vegetables, and sweet or cheese 2/9


Plain with bread and butter, jam and cake (ad lib) 1/6

Ditto with cold meat or fish or two eggs 2/-

Since nearly all the cards I have, plus the three official cards are all Photochrom I think it is safe to say that Photochrom cards were on sale at the Hostel. After all I’m sure the sales to a captive population of say, up to 5,000 all wanting to send cards home to Mum, would have been too good an opportunity for sales to be ignored. Unfortunately they did not have a special post mark, but there must have been posting boxes in the Hostel as one 1925 card mentions ‘the post goes out at 7.30. Dates of collections I have in 1924 are 11.15 A.M. (1), 1.15 P.M. (1), 3.15 P.M.(1), 8 P.M. (1), 11.15 P.M. (4). The times show the bulk of the cards were posted in the evening. One can imagine the children coming back tired after their days outing, having their tea, and then settling down to write to mum about their days news.

Willesden 1924 cancellation. No dots after N W

Willesden 1925 cancellation. Dots after N. W.

The Willesden cancellation used in 1924 was a double ring 21 mm in diameter with five wavy lines. The 1925 cancellation is almost identical but the letters are slightly shorter, indicating a different font was used for the die, and there is a stop added after N. and W. which are more spaced out.

In the following list the children’s spelling has not been corrected.

1 Fleetway Press card post marked Willesden 3.15 PM Jul 8 1924. Dorothy went to the exhibition and did not see anything worth bringing back, words fail me!!

            Bed 1027. Children’s Camp Hostel, Park Royal Dept 2703, Willesden Lane, London NW 10.

Dear Mother, Arrived safely after a tedious journey. In the afternoon we went to the Exhibition it was very hot. I hope it is fine here. The food is cronic although I am not hungry. I have not seen anything worth bringing back, I must close now as we are going to bed.

Love to all, Dorothy.

To Mrs Hill, 101, Falsgrave Rd, Scarborough.

2 A Mackintosh’s advert card post marked Willesden 1.15 PM Sep 11 1924. A free sample given away during a visit to the exhibition.

            I am coming to morrow morning Saturday, and please ask father to wake you up early so as

to see me come in the boat. I am going to see the monkeys at the zoo. I have seen some of our Guernsey people Mr Nicalle, and Les his daughter, Miss J. Collas, D. Colbert, all at Wembley, Wake William early Saturday

To Master W. Maby. Crownsdale, Vale, Guernsey.

3 Photochrom card post marked Willesden 11.15 AM Aug 4 1924.

            Dear M. D,

We have been visiting New Zealand Australia and Malaya Saturday. Nearly every day it rain.

Love to all from Raymond

To R. E. Dreland, Longfields, Mt-au-Piêtre, St Helier Jersey. C. I.

4 Photochrom card post marked Willesden 11.15 AM Aug 5 1924. Spelling not so good but at least he writes home every day.

            Dear Mother Dad,

We are going visting Houses of Parliamet and Madame Tassaud I am fealing very lonley. The weather here is not a tall fine it rains nearly evey day

From Raymond

To R. E. Dreland, Longfields, Mt-au-Piêtre, St Helier Jersey. C. I.

5 Photochrom card post marked Willesden 11.15 AM Jul 29 1924.

            Dear Aunt and Grandad,

I hope you are well. I am having a good time. A thunder storm broke (to day) Tuesday afternoon. I am coming home on Friday.

Best Wishes from Eric.

To Miss & Mr Bechett, 21 Ewart St, Saltney Ferry, Chester.

6 Aerial view card by unknown publisher this was not posted in the Hostel but has a feint Wembley (not exhibition) post mark for 8 P.M. 27 Au 1924.

            Dear Mother,

I arrived here about five o’clock safely. We are out on our own to-night (Wednesday) Good food. Some of the girls were sick with the journey.

With Love from Ann Ellen.

To Mrs Wright. Hillside House, Hoddlesden, Nr Darwen, Lanarkshire

7 Photochrom card post marked Willesden 11.15 AM Jun 11 1924.

            Dear Mother,

11 June. Weather is very nice to night and we have just had tea meat lemonade raspberry and apple pudding. Lodgins are very nice all in bed at 10 o’clock. To night we are going for a walk, and to morrow we are going to the exhibition. It is a very big place. Arrived at 4.5 then took electric car to another station.

With love Phyllis.

To Mrs J. Greenwood. 82, Victoria Terrace, Cornholme, Todmorden, Linc.

8 Photochrom official Hostel card No 2. post marked Willesden 11.15 Jun 25 1924. I should think written by a member of the staff not too happy with his lot.

            24. 6. 24 Dear Mary.

Wouldn’t take this job again for 2 a day.


To Miss Jackson. 35, Benwell Grove, Newcastle on Tyne

9 Photochrom card post marked Willesden 9.15 AM Jul 4 1925. The message seems to imply the girl has been in a dancing competition.

            Bess Park Royal July 3rd 1925.

Having a ripping time. Have danced but do not know result yet. Post goes out at 7.30. Our beds are nearly on the floor. You ought to see us in our gym frocks.

To Mrs E. Hills. 21, Garden Rd, Canterbury, Kent.


      © Exhibition Study Group 2007