Butlins promotion advert from the 80’s

Butlin’s Holiday Camps, presently known by the (non-possessive) trademark Butlins, were founded by (later Sir) Billy Butlin to provide economical holidays in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Between 1936 and 1966, nine camps were built. Three resorts remain in use by the Butlins company today in Bognor Regis, Minehead and Skegness. The sites are now owned by Bourne Leisure which operate other leisure brands in the UK including Warner and Haven.

Butlins is noted for the famous “Redcoats” who provide entertainment and organisation at every level


Billy Butlin’s inspiration for his holiday camp empire came from an unhappy holiday on Barry Island in his youth, when he’d been locked out of his B&B all day by his landlady, which was quite normal practice until relatively recently.   The first of the Butlin’s holiday camps was opened by Billy Butlin in 1936 in Skegness following his success in the development of amusement parks. A second camp quickly followed in Clacton (1938) and construction of a third began at Filey (1939). With the outbreak of World War II, building at Filey was postponed and the camps at Skegness and Clacton were given over for military use. Wartime use of Butlins camps continued with resorts at Ayr, Filey & Pwllheli being completed and opened as military camps. This camp was later renamed Wonderwest World, and is now owned and run by Haven, part of Bourne Leisure who own both brands.

In 1945, with war over, Filey opened as a holiday camp. The camps at Skegness & Clacton opened in 1946, Ayr and Pwllheli in 1947) and Mosney on the east coast of Ireland in 1948. Butlin’s became popular in post-war Britain with family entertainment and activities available for the equivalent of a week’s pay.

In 1948 Billy Butlin acquired two hotels in The Bahamas and in the 1950s, Butlins began opening hotels in the UK: Saltdean, Brighton (1953), Blackpool (1955) and five in Cliftonville (1955-1956). Further post-war camps were opened in the 1960s at Bognor Regis (1960), Minehead (1962) and Barry Island (1966).

The camps at Ayr and Skegness also had separate self-contained hotels within the grounds. In later years, they were joined by further hotels in Scarborough (1978), Llandudno (1981), London (1993), a sixth hotel at Cliftonville and one in Spain (1983). In the 1960s and 1970s, the company also operated the Top of the Tower revolving restaurant at the then-named Post Office Tower in London.

In 1968 Billy Butlin’s son Bobby took over the management of Butlins and in 1972 the business was sold to the Rank Organisation for £43 million. The number of camps peaked at nine between 1966 and 1980, but the business experienced the problems of the British seaside holiday industry in general with the introduction of cheap package holidays to Mediterranean resorts from the 1960s onwards. It also had a specific image problem of providing regimented holidays, which caused it to abandon the Butlins name at its remaining resorts between 1987 and 1990.

The camps at Clacton and Filey closed in 1983, and the camp at Barry closed in 1986. The lease on the Top of the Tower restaurant expired in 1980. In 1998 the camps at Ayr and Pwllheli were re-branded as Haven Park. All the Butlins hotels of the 1950s-1990s were sold in 1998 but the majority are still open today under different ownership, the art deco style Ocean hotel at Saltdean is under redevelopment into flats (2007) and the hotels at Cliftonville have both been demolished.

The remaining resorts returned to the Butlins name in 1998, and the company was sold to Bourne Leisure in 2000.

In 2005, the new £10m Shoreline hotel was unveiled at the Bognor Regis resort to expand on the existing variety of apartments on resort. The hotel, styled with an Art Deco theme, aimed to offer luxury accommodation inconjunction with the entertainment and facilities at the resort. Each of the 160 rooms features floor-to-ceiling windows, king-size beds, leather chairs, widescreen TVs, DVD players and en-suite facilities, some also include sea-views, telescopes and balconies. A second hotel called “The Ocean” is due to open at Bognor in 2009 styled again to a very high standard.

Info gleaned from Wikipedia

Rating: 4.2/5. From 3 votes.
Please wait...


Tag Cloud

Your browser doesn't support the HTML5 CANVAS tag.