Friday, 23 April 2010

A Brief History of Holiday Camps

In 1936 when the first Butins Holiday Camp opened at Skegness there were a number of other Holiday Camps which offered chalet style accomodation meal and entertainment, Bulins took this to a higher level.

The first holiday camp had actually been in business for over 40 years when Skegness opened. Cunningham Young Men's Holiday Camp had opened in the Isle of Man in 1894 and by 1908 had acquired all the familiar characteristics of the later camps. Campers (men only) stayed in row upon row of candle-lit tents and facilities included a heated indoor swimming pool, a selection of shops, a huge dining hall, bank and concert hall. It even had it's own miniature castle which housed the toilets and washrooms! Campers were encouraged to take part in all kinds of activities including sing-songs and team games. Advertised as "The largest most popular holiday resort in the world" the camp remained open until just after the second world war.

In England the first major camp was at Caister in Norfolk which opened just after the turn of the century. Others soon appeared nearby and this stretch of coast soon became swamped with an assortment of camps (at one point there were 14 within a ten mile radius). One of these early pioneers was the Potters Camp which first opened in 1924 (later moving to a new site in 1930). Upon opening it could boast of such luxuries as "brick chalets with running water, electric light and modern toilet facilities....a brick sun-lounge, lavishly furnished with expensive carpets and modern easy chairs". This highly regarded camp is still open today. Another local entrepreneur was 'Maddy' Maddieson who opened a nearby camp at Hemsby, shortly followed by a second near New Romney in Kent.

By the early 1960s there was a total of around 100 registered holiday camps in the UK. However Butlins still had the lead and the total attendance of all the other camps combined didn't even come close to the one million plus holiday makers that headed to Butlins every year.

The holiday saw some major changes in the '70s and '80s and many of the old camps disappeared. But an interesting fact is that most of today's survivors can trace their origins back to those early pioneers. Most are unrecognisable today and caravans have replaced many, if not all, of the old chalets.

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