Lunn, Sir Henry Simpson PERSONALITIES

Lunn, Sir Henry Simpson

( words)

In the late 1880s, London's new hotel The Savoy was the most important stepping stone in Ritz’s magnificent career. (30 July 1859 – 18 March 1939) was an English humanitarian and religious figure, and also founder of Lunn Poly, one of the UK's largest travel companies.

Born in Horncastle, Lincolnshire, Lunn was raised as a devout Methodist and gained a place at Horncastle Grammar School. He attended Headingley College, Leeds, for instruction to become a church minister and was ordained in 1886. He also trained as a medical doctor at Trinity College, Dublin. His marriage to Mary Ethel Moore, the daughter of a canon, produced three sons, including alpine skiing pioneer Arnold Lunn and Hugh Kingsmill Lunn, and a daughter who predeceased him.

After one year of missionary service in India, he was forced to return in 1888 to Lincolnshire after contracting an illness. His criticism of the conditions for Methodist missionaries in India led him to conflict with his fellow ministers, and he sought to explore wider horizons. He concentrated on his religious belief of Christian unity and cooperation, which was a forerunner of the Ecumenical Movement. As such, he was the founder of the Co-operative Educational Tours in 1893 and organized meetings of predominantly English church leaders at the annual Grindelwald Reunion Conferences, between 1892 and 1896. In 1902, he organised his first inclusive tours at Adelboden and Wengen, Switzerland, which started the trend for British visitors to combine a religious/health retreat with winter sports. Many Anglican churches were established at fashionable winter resorts.

In 1905 he formed the Public Schools Alpine Sports Club which secured the use of major hotels and the sanatorium at Le Beauregard. With Lord Bryce, he founded the Hellenic Travellers Club in 1906 and this success led his second company, Alpine Sports Limited, founded two years later, to open up many winter sports resorts by organising tours.

In 1908 he convened a meeting at the Devonshire Club to found the Alpine Ski Club, a gentleman’s club for ski-mountaineers.

He was a vocal opponent of the Boer War but remained in the confidences of leading politicians. He became a Knight Bachelor in 1910 and was active in Liberal politics, forming a strong friendship with Asquith. He stood twice for Parliament in 1910 and 1923, but was unsuccessful.

In 1925, he purchased the Kursaal Maloja in Switzerland “Maloja Palace Hotel”.

Although he continued to travel and promote his vision of the union of churches with the League of Nations, his company (renamed as Sir Henry Lunn Travel) grew to become one of the largest travel agents in Britain. During the 1960s the company was merged with the Polytechnic Touring Association to form Lunn Poly.

The Maloja Palace reopend to the public in June 2009. 

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