08 October 2018

Our True Intent Is All For Your Delight

Billy Butlin, a funfair entrepreneur - he introduced dodgems from the USA to the UK in 1923 - founded his eponymous holiday camp company in 1936, the first camp opening outside Skegness, the second at Clacton-on-Sea (1938). Over three decades nine camps were opened in the British Isles, including one in Mosney, Eire. During World War II the camps were taken over by the military, Skegness as HMS Royal Arthur. Indeed, Butlin completed the camp at Filey for Admiralty use, and built HMS Glendower at Pwllheli and HMS Scotia at Ayr specifically for military use, but to a pattern that enabled post-war use as holiday camps.

By 1948 Butlin's had six camps, which provided the destination for one in twenty of British holidaymakers. 1950 saw an unsuccessful foray abroad, with Butlin's building a resort on Grand Bahama, which soon folded. From 1953 the company expanded into hotels, in Blackpool, Brighton, and Margate. The company's heyday was the 1960s, with the opening of three more camps, at Bognor Regis, Minehead, and Barry Island. From 1966 it even operated the revolving Top of the Tower restaurant in London's Post Office Tower. Butlin had always been a man of firsts. Britain's first mono-rail was opened at the Skegness camp in 1965.

In the late 1960s Butlin's suffered from the growth in self-catering holidays. Billy Butlin retired in 1968 and Butlin's was sold to the Rank Organisation in 1972. In the 1980s decline was driven by cheap overseas holidays. Filey, Clacton, Mosney and Barry closed, and even the name disappeared - the camps became Holiday Worlds. Three of the original Butlin's camps, now called resorts, remain - Bognor Regis, Minehead, and Skegness. They returned to the Butlins name (now without an apostrophe) in 1996, and still retain redcoats, during the summer season, as hosts and entertainers. The holiday division of Rank was bought by Bourne Leisure in 2000.

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