Express & Star

Kingswood – A camp of children's laughter that rose again

Once it was a place which echoed with the laughter and excited chatter of children.

Outdoor activities for the children of yesteryear.

But by February 1969 the rooms were empty and forgotten, and the grounds were a messy tangle of weeds and long grass. In the dormitories battered bedsteads were covered with dust.

By 1969 the dormitories were empty and the camp was disused.

It was a sad end to Kingswood Holiday Camp, between Wolverhampton and Shifnal – although it was not to be the end of the story.

The camp had begun in 1923 when it was set up to give Wolverhampton children whose parents – when they did have parents – could not afford the cost of even the most humble holiday.

It started with second hand wooden buildings brought from Cannock Chase which during the Great War had housed German prisoners.

Activities ranged from playing football to bottling raspberries, and from rambling through the countryside to dashing about in a game of rounders. In the 46 years that Kingswood was in operation, over 68,000 children enjoyed holidays.

In 1937 the Mayoress of Wolverhampton laid the foundation stone for the dormitories, but after the war, money problems began to mount. Things came to a head in 1959 when the Wolverhampton Chronicle launched a public appeal for £200 to help the Kingswood Holiday Camp committee in its work. It raised £612 and for a while Kingswood was secure again.

By the 1960s Kingswood was serving as a special open air school for "delicate" children – that is, children with asthma and breathing problems, as well as youngsters with poor growth and development and in social need. But by 1968 only an exercise by the Walsall Civil Aid Service disturbed the peace of the now disused camp, and at the time of our archive 1969 picture it was going up for public auction.

It seemed to mark the end of an era when more affluent people were more willing to part with time and money to help those not quite so fortunate.

The Kingswood Trust continues to bring new experiences for children in the region

Yet the site was to gain new life, as in 1976 that the Kingswood Nursery and Infant Centre was officially opened. Today it is home to the Kingswood Trust, a charity created 10 years ago and offering outdoor learning for youngsters, family days out, and community activities, attracting over 8,000 visitors a year.

So, just over 100 years after it was created to give children a breath of fresh air, the spirit of Kingswood lives on.

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