Bentham Camp was one of the first holiday camps in the country. Between 1908 and 1925 a tented village, as shown in the photographs, would spring up on the banks of the Wenning at Camphole near the Wenning Oak. It was the brainchild of Joe Hainsworth and was operated by the family throughout its life. The camp was segregated with the single men camping on the north bank and married couples, families and single ladies on the southern side. They were linked by the suspension bridge shown in one of the pictures. In one picture showing the rope bridge Joe Hainsworth can be seen to the left of the group.
Joe lived at Rose Bank, Robin Lane. He was an innovator; not only did he found the holiday camp but he also founded Bentham Cinema on the site later occupied by Burndale Residential home, and now the new RSR building opposite the Primary School on Robin Lane. Most of the campers came by train from the Bradford/Leeds area, and were met at the station either by Joe, his brother Walter or his son Reg, and then escorted to the camp. In 1912 a week’s stay cost 19/6d. for single men and youths over 15, but ladies and family parties had to pay 21/- per head for “certain minor amenities”. The price included accommodation and four good meals a day.
Boarded tents for the ladies were located near the water’s edge on the southern side of the river, and a compound of larger tents for married couples (“the wilderness”) was situated further away from the Wenning with a marquee. Single men campers, other than relatives or specially invited guests, were not allowed in this area, and their tents were on the other side, between the river and the railway line. The two sides were joined by a trestle bridge, but after this was washed away on several occasions, a rope suspension bridge was built.
An extract from the camp brochure says : ‘Life at Bentham Camp is pure and simple…we do not make a long list of strict rules and conditions….We have found by experience that those who come to camp, come with the intention of enjoying themselves and helping others to do the same…..You rise each morning early and leave your tent for the morning dip and after a turn of cricket or gymnastics, or a sprint on the bank, you are ready for breakfast, and breakfast is ready for you….after breakfast some will depart on a cycling run, others for a stroll; each one pleases himself and spends the day as he desires. Some lounge about the camp all morning, and sleep during the afternoon; but whatever one elects to do, his time is well spent.’
Norman Feather designed and produced cartoon postcards. Norman, according to Joe’s son Reg. ‘…was a good friend of my father’s, and a regular camper, I think he was on the staff of one of our Yorkshire papers…’ The postcards were probably printed prior to 1914. Some feature caving and it is known that the campers sometimes went through Upper Long Churn Cave on Ingleborough as well as the tourist cave at Clapham. In his 1912 brochure Joe states ‘..Each tent is arranged to contain three, four, or five bedsteads, which are raised about eighteen inches from the floor, and are very comfortable. An ample supply of good woollen blankets are supplied to each camper, along with pillows and a clean cover….’ (Photos S. Wilkinson, R. Hainsworth, J. Hainsworth and the David Johnson Collection).