25th February 1946.
Today in the Commons in 1946, W. J. Brown MP asked the President of the Board of Trade: ‘Whether he was aware that many Holiday Camps will be unable to open this year unless supplies of soft goods, mattresses etc to replace goods taken from them by the government on requisition in the war’?
The President Sir Stafford Cripps, replied ‘that it was only possible to consider minimum needs of establishments having priority claims’.(1)
Holiday Camps existed in a very basic form from the early 1900s, but the revolution came in the 1930’s with Billy Butlin’s Camp at Skegness. Lincolnshire.
Butlin along with Fred Pontin and Warner were the major influences in supplying cheap seaside holiday for the masses.
Butlin opened his first camp on Easter Saturday in 1936 at Skegness, for eight shillings a day. or for between £2 and £3 a head, he provided a chalet, four meals a day and free entertainment as well as Redcoats: ‘A week’s play for a week’s pay’, was the slogan.
In the 1930’s Camps were more sedate than they were later to become, with post-cards showing ‘suited, neck-tied gents’ and cloche hatted, coated ladies, frequenting the Art-Deco dining hall at the Pakefield Hall Camp. Even the ‘be-socked and suited’ boys look well-behaved gazing at the camera. A bow-tied waiter looks on.
Wartime saw a conversion to military camps, but by 1946 a brochure for Brean Sands Holiday Resort, Somerset, sold the notion of, ‘all days are glorious at Brean Sands, the ruling spirit…is individual freedom. Meals are important, Please bring your Ration Book’. Inclusive terms were 5 guineas per person, (about a week’s wage for a working man).
The 1950s saw Minster Beach attempting to make Sheppey Island look attractive, whilst Middleton Tower leaflet promised a cruise on land with echoes of a Cunard Liner on the SS Berengaria, and set to open May 14th 1949.(2)
However by the 1960’s foreign travel beckoned, camps closed and aimed to go up-market. However the magic of the ‘Knobbly-Knees’ was gone for ever.
Hi-de-Hi centred round (Maplins) holiday camp in its heyday. Writer Jimmy Perry wrote from experience as a ‘Redcoat’.
(1) HC Debate 25.2.1946 Vol 419 C337W.
(2) Middleton Tower Holiday camp near Morecombe, Lancs.
Ref: On Holiday. Paul Atterbury. AA Publishing. 2008.
Ref: wikipedia.org.butlins/Poster Image.