1895-1916 - Oldham Poor Children’s Holiday Association

In June 1893, a meeting was attended by several prominent Oldham figures of the day, and as a result of it the Oldham Poor Children’s Holiday Association came into being. Its aim was to assist ‘necessitous children within the County Borough’, by providing them with the money to enable them to have a holiday.

On 20 May 1895, a country cottage on the Corporation estate at Castleshaw was leased, furnished and staffed by the association so that the poor and delicate Oldham Children might stay there for two to three weeks at a time. It could accommodate eight or ten children at once and, from June to October 1895, eighty eight children went there. 

The authors of the 1896 annual report concluded that:

“the pure moorland air, and plenty of plain wholesome food, carefully cooked, may have worked such wonders even in a fortnight, that children whose life had been suspended by very slender threads, may have been given a further lease of healthy and happy existence. At any rate, the fortnight, in several cases, had made pallid cheeks rosy and plum.”

Over subsequent years, the building was extended to enable a greater number of children to benefit. Heating was also installed to allow stays over the winter period. 

“They were anxious that it should be the work of all parties, without any distinction of politics or religion” 

1916-1936 - Oldham Corporation Sanatorium School 

By 1915, Oldham Corporation had decided to construct an “open air school for delicate children”. However, due to wartime restrictions on borrowing, the Poor Children’s Holiday Association was approached with a view to using their property at Castleshaw.

Dame Sarah Lees, who had earlier contributed towards the extension and heating of the building, met the £800 cost of its purchase and renovation.

There was now residential accommodation for 22 girls. It was hoped that provision would be made for boys at a later stage, when funding became available.


1937-1979 - Castleshaw Camp School

Upon the opening of a new sanatorium “Day School” for both boys and girls in 1936, a residential sanatorium school was no longer felt to be necessary.

At this point, the Centre was began a new phase of life as a “Camp school”

Alderman Frank Lord, (Later to be Sir Frank Lord, an Oldham born and educated businessman who made his fortune in the building trade) oversaw and paid for the renovation of the building.

Schools were permitted to send a class of either 20 boys or girls for a week-long stay, supervised by one of their teachers. 

After the second World War Mr. Ralph Whitehead, a PE and maths teacher, became Youth organiser in Oldham and set about restoring Castleshaw Camp as a residential centre for the town’s Youth clubs (both Church and LEA supported) He recruited a team of sixth form volunteers, and some ex-army furniture to help him achieve this. 

He was later instrumental in getting the first full- time resident warden and cook appointed, those being Joseph and Emily Higham respectively.

In 1958, new dormitories were added to the centre, allowing mixed sex classes to attend the centre at the same time.


1980-2016 - Castleshaw Outdoor and Environmental Education Centre 

In late 1979 the centre was once again renovated. It reopened in May 1980 as a day centre, with St. Hilda’s Primary being the first group to attend. 

At this time it was decided to start keeping a few farm animals. This began with some ducks and rabbits, but has since included hens, geese, pigs and goats!

By 1990 the centre had once again returned to residential use, with Alt primary being the first group to stay overnight.  In 2000, a best value review concluded that Castleshaw Centre was a valuable resource for the Oldham Borough. Staffing was increased, and a National Lottery grant in 2004 allowed further improvements to be made to the centre.

We now welcome around 10,000 people through our doors each year, to take part in a wide range of outdoor experiences.

Here’s to the next 100 years!