Rowntree A-Z

Leisure pursuits

Part of the Quaker educational approach was the belief in the development, physically, spiritually and morally, of the whole person, and this meant the useful pursuit of leisure time in order to improve the well-being of the person.

The Adult School Movement played a role in encouraging a range of activities beyond the home and the work-place, and the Quaker schools, Bootham and the Mount, have a long tradition in developing leisure activities, which are later reflected many times in the adult careers of the Rowntree family.

Seebohm Rowntree wrote and influential work on the leisure pursuits in Scandinavia, which he visited in 1947. In this work, English Life and Leisure, he studies the leisure habits of people in his time, giving dozens of case histories, and he observes the lack of facilities for recreation for many (post WW2) British cities. He is rather like a Richard Hoggart of his day, looking at cultural studies and popular pursuits. This of course is a subject that has developed enormously in the past 20/30 years, with media history, oral history etc becoming more mainstream subjects of academic investigation. His comparisons with Scandinavia include a look at education, the peculiarly Scandinavian folk-high schools (residential life-long learning schools), waste material playgrounds in Copenhagen (made out of rubbish materials only, but in a green space); open-air entertainment (e.g. Tivoli), and children’s holiday camps, domestic arts and crafts.  He also looked at allotment gardens, co-operative housing projects, and he even included communism as a ‘leisure pursuit’.

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