The Settlers Society

Boys from the Settlers Society standing outside their huts

A new exhibition this year will chart the story of the Settlers Society – young men who came to Fountains Abbey from the North East to learn new skills, a trade and hope for the future.

The Settlers Society

Set up in 1934, the Settlers Society was created by the Vyner family, who owned Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal at that time. Commander Clare Vyner wanted to help boys from deprived areas in Tyneside to escape the poverty of the Great Depression. 

Boys aged 14-17 left their families came to live in the camp to work the land and enjoy a better quality of life in rural North Yorkshire. The boys were trained in a range of skills, from gardening and forestry to general estate work and domestic service, to help them find jobs in the future. 

The Settlers Society huts in the grounds of Fountains Abbey
The Settlers Society huts in the grounds of Fountains Abbey
The Settlers Society huts in the grounds of Fountains Abbey

The exhibition – on display in Fountains Hall from Easter – will celebrate this fascinating period of history and it includes the personal histories from some of the boys themselves, as well as new research from Durham University on the Great Depression. 

The Society ended in 1937 as the military re-armament of Britain created a great deal of employment in Tyneside, and it is believed many of the relatives of these young men will still live in the North East today.

How you can help 

We know that over 100 boys stayed at the camp between 1934 and 1937 and we are hoping to make contact with their families to tell their stories. So far we’ve managed to find relatives of two of the boys but it would be fantastic to hear the stories of many more of these young men and to explore what happened to them after they left the Settlers Society.

If you can provide any information about the boys, and how they went on to live their lives, do email Jennifer Taylor or call on 01765 643116.

Do you know any of these names?

We’ve found references in the Settlers Society archives for the following boys:
Stephen Adams, William Anderson, Richard Applegarth, Thomas Bain, FK Batey, George Beckwith, Robert Benson, John Blackwell, Thomas Brennan, Frederick Carter, James Cave, G Clift, David Coe, Fred Collins, ? Coulthard, W Davies, Thomas Dick, John Dinning, John Dixon, Norman Dixon, George Eager, ? Finch, Wilfred Forster, James Gallagher, R Gardiner, George Gormley, JEP Grady, Robert Green, ? Grieves, H Hair, John Hasler, Frank Henderson, A Hepple, WM Hodgson, John Hogg, Albert Horsfield, Robert Hunter, James Hurrell, John Husband, James Ireton, Frederick Jeff, TB Kinghorn, S Kirkley, George Lancaster, J Langley, Joseph Macdonald, Stanley Macey, Harold Mackintosh, ? McCabe, Edward McGurk, F McGuckian, HAD McKenzie, WB Miller, ? Moody, James Moore, James Morgan, James Morrison, J Murray, Samuel Newton, J Nicholson, Alfred Ord,  Frederick Ormston, Charles Parkinson, John Patrick Patrickson, GW Paxton, A Pell, John Pearce, V Pringle, Hugh Quinn, Stanley Raine, Thomas Reed, ED Reid, James Robson, Joseph Roper, T Ross, JG Russell, HJ Shenton, John Simpson, Ernest Skipper, ? Spoor, GH Spours, James Spottiswoode, David Sweeney, Richard Sweeney, W Thoen, John Thomas, ? Tweedie, John Wake, Joseph Walton, Edward Waton, George Watson, A Weatherson, Edward Webber, Peter Westring, W Whincup, Raymond White, WE Whyles, HG Woodham, CL Richardson.