Fonds PTA - Polytechnic Touring Association

Colour postcard: The Romsdal, Norway Postcard: 'Olaf. The Dog Watch', Norway Postcard: SY Ceylon, Norway Postcard: 'Poly' cruises. The Shore Party, Norway Postcard: Fantoft Church, Norway Colour postcard: Geiranger Fjord, Norway Postcard: En Route to the Lotefoss, Norway Colour postcard: Naerofjord, Norway Postcard: Romsdal Horn, Norway Postcard: Hornelen, Norway
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Identity area

Reference code



Polytechnic Touring Association


  • 1894-2001 (Creation)

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5 boxes

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Name of creator


Administrative history

Members of the Polytechnic founded by Quintin Hogg (1845-1903) and its predecessors had visited his homes, including Holly Hill in Hampshire, for holidays, but increasing numbers meant that this became impractical. In 1886 trips for members were arranged to Switzerland and Boulogne. In 1888 a party of boys from the Polytechnic School toured Belgium and Switzerland to see the mountains they were learning about in geography lessons. In 1889 arrangements were made for Polytechnic parties to visit the Paris Exhibition. Cruises to Norway began in 1892. In 1893 the Director of Education Robert Mitchell (1855-1933) acquired chalets by Lake Lucerne which were to become the most famous centre for the Polytechnic Touring Association. A notable achievement was the organisation of a series of trips to Chicago to see the World's Fair in 1893: more than 1,000 people made the month-long journey. By 1894 the total number of persons participating in Continental tours exceeded 3,000, increasing to 12,000 by 1903. The steam yacht Ceylon was purchased in 1895 for cruises of the Norwegian fjords. Polytechnic employees acted as guides. The trips pioneered cheaper travel, making it accessible to less affluent travellers, and the Touring Association, organising trips in Britain and overseas and attracting customers from among non-Polytechnic members, became a substantial business. Its office was adjacent to the main entrance of the Regent Street Polytechnic building. The tours were initially organised within the general administration of the Polytechnic, though after the Scheme of Administration in 1891, there was pressure from the auditors to separate out the accounts and administration. Robert Mitchell remained the driving force until after World War One. The continued expansion of the firm after 1918 was due largely to the leadership of Cmdr Ronald G Studd: when he left the Navy in 1921 his father, Sir Kynaston Studd, President of the Polytechnic, invited him to take over the management of the tours. He did this very successfully, expanding the range of tours to include southern Europe. When the Creative Tourist Agents Conference was formed, Studd became chair. In the 1960s the concern was taken over by the firm of Henry Lunn Ltd to form the travel retailer Lunn Poly.

Archival history

Archive Services was established in 1994. The list of the archives compiled before that date included several items for the Polytechnic Touring Association, but all were missing in June 1994. A few of the items were found later during sorting, plus a few items not included in the list. Since 1994, a number of additional PTA items have been acquired and the collection continues to grow (through purchases and donations). The new accessions have been single items from disparate sources rather than coherent series, but together they are beginning to reveal the nature and scope of the Touring Association.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Records, 1894-1957, relating to the Polytechnic tours, comprising: deed regulating tenancy of the Halti Mollis in Glarus, Switzerland, 1894;

Correspondence of Frank Short relating to his employment by the Polytechnic and the organisation of the tours, 1895-1899; correspondence relating to a complaint from John Mason Cook, tourist agent, about the holiday-arranging activities of the Polytechnic, 1896-1897;

Financial records: correspondence relating to the PTA's finances, 1919, 1927-1928, 1930-1941; correspondence relating to arrangements for the sale of The Holiday Story by Commander R G Studd which was published on 9 February 1950; balance sheets and accounts 1895-1896, 1902-1911;

Annual brochures: 1905, 1908 (photocopy); Spring and Summer Tours, continental edition 1923; Algeria 1923-1924; Summer Programmes 1929-1930, 1935-1937; Jubilee Programme 1938; 1939-1949

Guide books: Gossip of the Lake of Lucerne by J Hunt Cooke c.1908; A Guide to Lovely Lucerne and Surroundings by Basil Mitchell 1923; Polytechnic Swiss Tours: A Souvenir by Basil Mitchell 1925; A Souvenir of a Week in Paris compiled by Alfred Bossy 1927; Belgium: descriptive accounts of daily excursions, historical notes and useful information in connection with the Polytechnic Tours to Belgium by Basil Mitchell 1931; The Bernese Oberland: descriptive accounts of daily excursions, historical notes and useful information in connection with the Polytechnic Tours to the Bernese Oberland by Basil Mitchell 1931; The Holiday Story by Commander R G Studd 1950; A Fortnight in the Italian Lakes by Commander R G Studd 1952; Poly Holiday News: an illustrated magazine 1953; A Fortnight in Switzerland by Commander R G Studd 1957

Memorabilia: programmes for Polytechnic Tour Reunions, 1938, 1947; Swiss tours posters, 1930s; itinerary and related documents for a tour of Interlaken in July 1938 booked by Miss M C Heiron; souvenirs from the first escorted tour by air to Switzerland arranged by the PTA on May 14th 1932 - includes brochure, newspaper cuttings and photographs; tickets and timetables for trip to Oberammergau, Germany in August 1950; postcards of the Polytechnic chalets at Seeburg, Lake Lucerne 1898-1937; postcard of the Polytechnic chalets at Interlaken, n.d.; photograph of Polytechnic chalets at Seeburg c.1900; photographs of Polytechnic party in Norway in May 1907; photographs of a Polytechnic party at Andermatt, Switzerland in June 1922;

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

The code P175 followed by a letter was given to PTA items in the pre-1994 list. 175addn was given to items found in the Archive in 1994 but not included in the list. These references have been retained under the Alt Ref No. field. Items acquired since 1994 have accession numbers. Apart from the few administrative and financial records that have survived there are no coherent record series and arrangement decisions have therefore been taken by the Archivist based on type of record and ease of retrieval by users.

Elaine Penn 31/7/09.

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Status: Open. Access is subject to signing the Regulations for Access form, unless the records are restricted under the Data Protection Act 2018 or under exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act 2000

Conditions governing reproduction

Language of material

  • English

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Finding aids

Typescript handlist.

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Related units of description

The University of Westminster Archives holds records of the Polytechnic (UWA YCI, UWA RSP) and the Polytechnic School (UWA PSS). The Polytechnic Magazine includes information on Polytechnic tours, for example advertisements for trips and accounts of trips and reunions. See also DC BRY for a diary written by William Bryant about holidaying at the Polytechnic chalets in Seeburg in 1905.

Related descriptions

Publication note

Ronald Granville Studd, 'The Holiday Story' (London, 1950); Ethel M Hogg, 'Quintin Hogg: a Biography' (Archibald Constable & Co Ltd, London, 1904), pp 231-235; L C B Seaman, 'The Quintin School 1886-1956: a brief history '(London, 1957), pp 13, 15-18; '160 Years of Innovation: the Polytechnic Institution to the University of Westminster 1838-1998' (University of Westminster [1998]), pp 23-5.

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