1 January 1936 Skegness)
(first site, |
9 April 2000 (as present company)
|Headquarters||Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, England|
|Dermot King (MD)|
|Owner||Bourne Leisure Holdings Ltd|
Number of employees
|3,571 (average, 2010)|
|Parent||Bourne Leisure Ltd|
Between 1936 and 1966, ten camps were built, including one in Ireland and one in the Bahamas. In the 1970s and 1980s, Butlins also operated numerous large hotels, including one in Spain, a number of smaller holiday parks in England and France, and a revolving restaurant in the Post Office Tower in London.
Tough competition from overseas package holiday operators, rising operational costs, and rapidly changing demand, forced many of the Butlins operations to close in the 1980s and 1990s. Three of the original camps remain open under the Butlins brand in Bognor Regis, Minehead, and Skegness. They are now owned and run by Butlins Skyline Ltd, a subsidiary company of Bourne Leisure Ltd, which also operates other leisure brands in the British Isles, including Warner Leisure Hotels and Haven Holidays.
Butlins runs a variety of "family fun activities" and entertainments, many of which are included in the price of a holiday. Redcoats provide entertainment, organise activities, and act as hosts.
- History 1
- Locations 2
- Accommodation 3.1
- Skyline Pavilion 3.2
- Splash Waterworld 3.3
- Entertainment 3.4
- Sports and recreation 3.5
- Children's activities 3.6
- Bognor Regis 4
- Minehead 5
- Mosney 6
- Skegness 7
- Barry Island 8
- Ayr 9
- Pwllheli 10
- Special events 11
Music weekends 12
- Spring Harvest 12.1
- All Tomorrow's Parties 12.2
- Bloc Weekend 12.3
- Butlins and Dodgem Cars 13
- Butlins Beaver Club on the radio 14
- Reds TV 15
- Butlins badges 16.1
- Slogans 16.2
- Butlins in popular culture 17
- See also 18
- References 19
- External links 20
Billy Butlin's inspiration for his holiday camp empire came from an unhappy holiday on Barry Island in his youth, when he had been locked out of his bed and breakfast accommodation all day by his landlady, which was normal practice at the time. The first of the Butlins holiday camps was opened by Billy Butlin in 1936 in Skegness, following his success in developing amusement parks. A second camp quickly followed in Clacton (1938), and construction Filey Holiday Camp began in 1939. With the outbreak of the Second World War, 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, and 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 the war over, Filey was re-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. Butlins 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 England and Wales: 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 their 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 package holidays to Mediterranean resorts from the 1960s onwards. It also had a specific image problem of being seen as providing regimented holidays, which caused it to all but 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 was sold in 1986 (eventually closing in 1996). 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 to 1990s were sold in 1998, but most are still open today under different ownership. The art deco style Ocean Hotel at Saltdean has been redeveloped into apartments, and the hotels at Cliftonville have both been demolished.
In April 1998 the "Holiday Worlds" branding was dropped for the remaining resorts in favour of returning the emphasis to the core Butlins name. Subsequently in September 2000, the resorts and brand were sold to Bourne Leisure. A new Butlins logo was also introduced in mid-1998, which has subsequently undergone several modifications and was used until 2011, when Butlins introduced a design similar to their original logo. The new logo was originally supposed to be only used temporarily to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Butlins, but its use continued into 2012 and 2013 and is now the official logo.
In 2005, the new £10 million Shoreline hotel was unveiled at the Bognor Regis resort to expand on the existing variety of apartments on the site. The hotel, styled with an Art Deco theme, aimed to offer luxury accommodation in conjunction with the entertainment and facilities at the resort. Each of the 160 rooms features floor-to-ceiling windows, twin or king-size beds, leatherette chairs, televisions, DVD players and en-suite facilities. Some have sea views. A second hotel, called "Ocean Hotel" opened at Bognor in 2009 styled to a high contemporary standard.
|Ayr||1947||1998||Known as Wonderwest World 1988–1998; operated as Craig Tara by Haven since 1999.|
|Bahamas||1950||Late 1980s||The site is now occupied by a new hotel and marina complex known as Old Bahama Bay.|
|Barry Island||1966||1986||Operated independently until closure in 1996. Demolished in 2005.|
|Bognor Regis||1960||Current||Known as Southcoast World 1987–1998. Still open as Butlins Bognor.|
|Clacton||1938||1983||Demolished, now a housing estate. Small area yet to be redeveloped.|
|Filey Holiday Camp||1945||1983||Operated independently for six weeks in 1986, but the venture failed and it closed. Gradually demolished between 1988 and 2003. The northern end of the site is now part of the Haven caravan park, Primrose Valley, and the southern end is being developed as The Bay Filey, comprising holiday homes, leisure and sports facilities and a hotel.|
|Minehead||1962||Current||Known as Somerwest World 1986–1998. Still open as Butlins Minehead.|
|Mosney||1948||1980||Operated independently until closure and conversion into an Irish Government refugee centre for asylum seekers in 2000. Most of the original camp buildings are still in use.|
|Pwllheli||1947||1998||Known as Starcoast World 1990–1998; operated as Hafan Y Mor by Haven since 1999.|
|Skegness||1936||Current||Known as Funcoast World 1987–1998. Still open as Butlins Skegness.|
In addition to these main locations known at various times as "Holiday Camps", "Holiday Centres", "Holiday Villages", "Holiday Worlds" and more recently as "Resorts", Butlins also operated numerous smaller holiday parks in England and France for several years during the late 1970s. These were known as "Freshfields holidays" and were more basic parks with far fewer facilities and little or no entertainment. They were aimed at those wanting a quieter, more relaxed holiday.
|Duporth Holiday Village, St Austell||1934||2006||operated as Butlins from 1972; operated as Haven from 1985.|
|Seaview Holiday Village, Polperro||?||Present||operated as Butlins from 1973; Currently operated independently and sold on the independent owners behalf by Hoseasons.|
|Sunshine Holiday Centre, Hayling Island||?||Present||operated as Butlins from 1973; Currently operating independently as "Mill Rythe Holiday Resort".|
|St Minver||?||Present||operated as Butlins from 1971; Currently operated by Parkdean Holidays.|
|Tencreek Holiday Park, Looe||?||Present||operated as Butlins from 1973; Currently operated by Dolphin Holidays.|
|Ayrville, St Ives, Cornwall||?||Present||operated as Butlins from 1974; Currently operating as "Ayr Holiday Park".|
|Two Chimneys, Penzance||?||Present||operated as Butlins from 1974; Currently operated by Rojo Leisure.|
|Ayr||1946||Early 1970s||Demolished in the 1970s|
|Bognor Regis – Wave||2012||Present||Newly opened within Bognor resort|
|Bognor Regis – Ocean||2009||Present||Opened 2009 within Bognor resort|
|Bognor Regis – Shoreline||2007||Present||Opened 2007 within Bognor resort|
|Borehamwood||1939||1942||Demolished in the 1980s and replaced with modern Hotel|
|Blackpool||1955||1998||Still open as Grand Metropole Hotel|
|Cliftonville||1955||1999||Partially demolished, remainder converted to flats.|
|Llandudno||1981||1998||Still open as Grand Hotel.|
|London||1993||1998||Still open as Grand Plaza Hotel.|
|Saltdean||1952||1999||Converted to flats.|
|Scarborough||1978||1999||Still open as Grand Hotel|
|Skegness||1936||1974||Building still standing and now used as an amusement arcade within the Butlins Skegness resort|
|Torremolinos||1983||1998||Still open as Griego Mar Hotel.|
Butlins resorts offer various accommodation options to cater for different tastes and budgets. These range from "Standard" rooms and apartments to "Silver", "Gold", and "Deluxe" rooms and apartments for higher levels of luxury. There are also "BlueSkies" apartments available at Minehead, and 3 luxury hotels at Butlin's Bognor.
Butlins is widely known for its iconic "chalet" accommodation, which was originally the only form of accommodation and consisted of many long lines of single bedrooms in blocks known as "chalet lines". These were arranged so that each line of chalets faced another line, with a grassed area in the middle. Originally there were no toilets in individual chalets (campers had to use communal toilet blocks located in the middle of every few chalet lines) and the furnishings were very basic. Many of these chalet lines are still in use today, but have been enlarged and significantly upgraded to modern standards. All chalets now have en-suite bathroom facilities.
One of the very first chalets is still standing at the Skegness resort, and is now heritage listed and a historical display only.
The "Skyline Pavilion" is a large area within each resort that is enclosed under a white tensile fabric canopy. These were created in 1998 by linking together several pre-existing buildings so that space within those buildings could be used to provide all-weather facilities within the Skyline Pavilions.
Each Skyline Pavilion contains a stage (used mainly for daytime children's shows), a cafe and associated seating, a bar (known as Bar Rosso or The Jellyfish Lounge or Soho Coffee ), restaurants such as Burger King, an amusement arcade, an information counter (termed "infunmation point"), and various shops selling novelties, souvenirs, and groceries. Many of the other venues and attractions in the resort can be accessed directly from within the Skyline Pavilion also.
Each resort features a large indoor waterpark known as Splash Waterworld. These contain several waterslides, spas, a wave pool, and a lazy river. There is also a shallow pool area for young children, and sometimes an area for "serious" swimming. Minehead also has an outdoor toddler pool that is open in the summer months. Guests and day visitors can use these facilities at no additional cost. Skegness resort has recently opened a £16 million redevelopment of the Splash Waterworld that features 2 new octane flumes (Jet Stream and Vortex, which has a space-bowl) a new dinghy ride (The Riptide), a rope-walk challenge (Captain's Challenge) a lazy river, a poolside cafe and DJ. It also has a new outdoor fountain area that replaced the outdoor pool, the fountains go along with music (every hour) and lights.
There are various entertainment venues within the resorts including two large showbars known as "Centre Stage" and "Reds". Additionally there are ABC cinemas, "Jaks" (a nightclub), "Crazy Horse" (an older style cabaret bar), "Hotshots" 10-pin bowling centre with bar and snooker tables, "Green Baize" snooker hall (originally at all camps but now at Skegness only), and several additional bars, pubs, and cafes which vary from one Butlins resort to another. Nearly all entertainment is included in the cost of the holiday or day visitor entry. Most recently, in May 2013 was the opening of the character theater in Bognor which is in the place of the cinema.
Sports and recreation
Butlins resorts offer a variety of sports sessions and coaching, for example archery, fencing, tennis (Skegness only), table tennis, and soccer. Most of these sessions are included in the cost of holiday or day visitor entry price.
For general recreation, facilities include multi-sports courts, adventure golf, adventure playgrounds, water zorbing, high ropes courses, funfair, inflatable castles / pillows, and go-karts. Minehead resort also offers bumper boats, donkey rides, use of the adjacent golf course, and "Exmoore Adventures" country leisure pursuits. An additional charge usually applies for most of these activities, although the funfair is free.
Skegness and Bognor resorts each have a spa complex for massage, swimming, facials and other popular spa treatments.
There are a number of attractions and facilities at each resort provided especially for younger children. These include playgrounds, a supervised arts & crafts room, "Bob's Yard" (miniature funfair), a "Junior driving school" with small go-karts for children, and a nursery which can care for children and keep them entertained whilst parents enjoy other activities in the resort.
Butlins Bognor opened in 1960. The camp later became known as Southcoast World until 1998 and is now known as Butlins Bognor Regis Resort. In 1999 it was renovated again with the construction of a Skyline Pavilion. In 2005, a new £10m hotel, called "The Shoreline" was unveiled at the Bognor Regis resort. A second hotel "The Ocean" opened on the site in Summer 2009 and general landscaping and upgrading also took place. In July 2012 a third hotel "The Wave" hotel was opened to guests.
Butlins Minehead was opened to the public on 26 May 1962. It underwent substantial renovation in the 1980s, being renamed Somerwest World. In 1998 it was renovated again with the construction of a Skyline Pavilion. Since 1999 the Minehead resort has undergone further aesthetic upgrades. However, most of the original buildings remain, including almost all the original chalets. As such Minehead is now the last remaining Butlins camp that is still largely as Sir Billy designed it.
Mosney was the first Butlins camp outside the UK. The camp opened in 1948, occupying some 200 acres (0.81 km2) of a former country estate. In 1982, Butlins sold the camp, which was renamed Mosney Holiday Centre. The camp continued without substantive changes, however the last season for Mosney was 2000. Dwindling visitor numbers and problems finding staff for the short 12-week season eventually led to the camp's closure. In December 2000 a five-year deal was signed with the government to turn Mosney into a refugee centre. Mosney is now home to 700 refugees from over 20 different countries. Like Minehead, most of the original buildings remain, including all the original chalets. Mosney is the only camp that has changed little since it was opened.
Butlins Skegness was the first of Billy Butlin's holiday camps. The camp opened in 1936 but was taken over for military use in 1939, and known as HMS Royal Arthur. The camp reopened to holidaymakers in 1946. In 1987 the site underwent renovation with the construction of a modern fun pool and modernised accommodation, at this time the site was renamed Funcoast World. In 1998 it was renovated again with the construction of a Skyline Pavilion and since that time has undergone further improvements and maintenance in 2011 the resort underwent more development with the introduction of a new guest catering restaurant called the deck, a new Italian styled restaurant called ludo's (named after the dinosaur that appeared in the 2010/11 TV adverts) in 2013 the new splash waterworld opened adding a new 16million state of the art pool area to the resort and plans have recently been submitted to modernise the resort once again with further investment into new restaurants and stores.
Butlins Ayr was built by Billy Butlin as a naval training camp in 1940. The camp opened to the public in 1946.
In 1948 Butlin also opened a hotel on the site and a railway station serving the camp. In 1987 a refurbishment saw the camp re-branded Wonderwest World and the creation of a new indoor fun-pool along with modernised accommodation.
The site was re-branded to sister company Haven Holidays in 1999 and renamed Craig Tara, since then, the focus has moved to replacing the original chalets with static caravans.
Butlins Pwllheli was built by Billy Butlin as a naval training camp in 1940. After the war, the camp opened to the public in 1947. In 1987 a refurbishment saw the camp renamed Starcoast World and the creation of a new indoor fun-pool along with modernised accommodation. In 1999 the site was re-branded to sister company Haven Holidays and renamed Hafan Y Môr..
Butlins music weekends are over 18s only and are offered regularly across all of the three resorts. Each weekend has a different musical theme, including soul music, alternative, folk, disco, and rock and blues. They also have decade themed weekends from the 1960s to the 2000s. Butlins Music Weekends have played host to big name acts such as Beverley Knight, Brand New Heavies, Toyah, The Buzzcocks, Rick Astley, David Gest & Friends and many more. Madness have also held three weekends in Minehead on their House of Fun tour, taking over the whole resort for the weekend.
The largest Christian conference in Europe takes place at the Minehead and Skegness sites every Easter. The event attracts some 55,000 Christians from a range of denominations and plays host to many preachers, Christian musicians and dramatic artists. In previous years, the event has also been hosted at the Ayr and Pwllheli camps.
All Tomorrow's Parties
All Tomorrow's Parties is a music festival which takes place at Minehead. Named after the song "Read, Sue (1986). Hello Campers!. Butlin, Sir Billy (1993). The Billy Butlin Story - A Showman To The End. North, Rex (1962). The Butlin Story. May, James (2010). How to Land an Airbus A330 (In his book, James May describes how one would go about escaping from a Butlins Holiday Camp). Richards, Frank (1961). Billy Bunter at Butlins. Creasey, John (1954). The Toff at Butlins. London:
There have also been a number of children's fiction books which include Butlins as a location or an integral part of the story. For example:
Butlins amusement parks
There have also been a number of children's fiction books which include Butlins as a location or an integral part of the story. For example:
Many books have been written about Butlins and its history, and about the life of Sir Billy Butlin. Some of the best known of these are:
The 1987 Doctor Who TV serial Delta and the Bannermen was filmed mainly at the Butlins Holiday camp on Barry Island, Wales. The camp is referred to as the 'Shangri-La' holiday camp, run by 'Burton'.
In the film version of The Who's Tommy (1975) there is a 'Bernie's Holiday Camp' where Tommy's mother meets her new husband.
During the 1980s the BBC produced a satirical sitcom called Hi-de-Hi! set in "Maplin's", a farcical holiday camp loosely styled on Butlins in its early days. Its producers and writers (Jimmy Perry and David Croft) had themselves been redcoats at Butlins. More recently a documentary series called Redcoats followed Redcoats through their seasons at Butlins.
On the show The Two Ronnies (Season 3, Episode #1 - first aired 27 September 1973) there was a sketch parodying the BBC war drama Colditz. The two main characters finally escape over the wall of the infamous POW camp, only to wake up in a worse one - a dreary place called "Butlitz" (a spoof of Butlins, where the German guards are dressed like Redcoats).
Due to its immense popularity and cultural significance as a major force in improving the standard of holidays for the British public, Butlins has appeared in popular culture too many times to list here. However, below are a few notable examples.
Butlins in popular culture
- 2014 to present Butlins by the sea same as the 1960s slogan
- 2012 to 2014 "Our True Intent Is All For Your Delight" (a return to the very first, William Shakespeare-inspired slogan used by Sir Billy Butlin)
- 2011 "Happy Days" then "Happiness is..."
- 2010 "Isn't it time you came round to Butlins?"
- 2007–2009 "Altogether More Fun"
- 2005–2007 "Kids love it"
- Approx 2002–2004 "A million holidays. One Butlins"
- Approx 1999–2002 "Come to life. Come to Butlins"
- 1990s "Let yourself go, and you won't want to leave" and "No.1 for family fun"
- Mid 1980s "Butlin it once and you'll do it again!"
- Early 1980s "A little bit of this, and quite a lot of that"
- 1970s "Butlinland is Freedomland" and "A holiday that's out of this world" (well known campaign that featured two blue-skinned alien characters called Toot and Ploot in various Butlin's locations).
- 1960s "You'll have a really wonderful time at Butlins by the sea"
- Early slogans from the 1930s to 1950s included "Our True Intent Is All For Your Delight", "A weeks holiday for a weeks pay", "Holidays are Jollidays" and "Holidays with pay. Holidays with play!"
Throughout most of its history, Butlins has regularly advertised using various media. Examples of slogans include:
Members of the Premier Club (Butlins loyalty club for regular guests) receive a free badge each time they visit, with a new design given each year.
The original badges were issued every year from 1936 until 1967. In 2004, Butlins has again begun selling similar style badges in their on-resort souvenir shops. Some of these are of a more modern design, whilst some are close or exact replicas of badges from Butlins earlier days. The current badges however serve no purpose in identifying guests and are available purely as nostalgic souvenirs. Many regular guests like to swap badges with Butlins staff, who often have special badges to swap which are not otherwise available to guests. The badge collection ribbons are also sold in Butlins shops and may be used to pin multiple badges to.
Barry Island 1965 is the 'Holy Grail' of Butlins badges: the camp didn't open that year as planned. The badges were manufactured but never issued; some examples survive.
Notable badges include 'Skegness 1936' (the first badge issued) and 'Filey 1945', which features the 'V for Victory' in its design and is an exception to gap of the war years as the camp was the first to reopen after the war just in time for the end of the season in August 1945.
Additional badges included 'Second Week' badges, Staff badges, 'Concessionaire' badges (for visiting tradesmen – these badges are distinguished by the absence of enamel), Committee badges, Christmas badges, Beaver Club badges, Reunion badges and many others. Badges were not issued during Second World War years of 1940 to 1945 as the camps were taken over by the government and used as accommodation for war service personnel.
A collection of one badge per camp per year would total 192 badges. However, the myriad colour variations and additional 'special' badges would take the collection to over 1200 badges (although there is no definitive list of all variations).
Each badge was handmade by jewellery manufacturers in London, Dublin or in Birmingham's 'Jewellery Quarter'. The quality and beauty of the badges has ensured that many survive as heirlooms and are very collectable.
Each camp had at least one badge each year, with most of the larger camps having several colour variations throughout the season for improved security. Occasionally, two different designs would be used in one season.
The badges were made of die-stamped metal (usually brass), highly polished or chrome plated with the brightly coloured design made of vitreous enamel using a process similar to Champlevé but the troughs being stamped in rather than carved.
Each year a different badge was produced for each camp with the name of the camp and the year forming part of the design.
When booking in on arrival at Butlins (camp or hotel) each camper was issued with an enamel badge to wear for the duration of their holiday. The badge granted the camper readmission to the site should they take a trip out during their stay. Badges were worn with pride. Campers kept badges from previous holidays and wore them all on a ribbon.
The origins of the in-house TV system began in 1995 when Butlins decided to make use of the then 'empty' fifth channel (Channel 5 was still two years away from its launch). A teletext system was installed, together with a backing of incidental music, overseen by Redcoat/Stage Manager Tony Filer – and piped through to the guests' chalets to provide first an alternative, then an accompaniment to the printed programme of events. Filer (now a successful radio producer) installed a video camera in the new 'studio' to enable visiting celebrity interviews and 'Know your Redcoats' discussions to be shown. The Butlins 'Channel 5' name was changed to 'BTV' a year before the new fifth terrestrial TV channel emerged – and later became known as 'Reds TV'.
In 1956 Butlins Beaver Club – with Uncle Eric Winstrone was heard in the United Kingdom and much of continental Europe on Sunday nights at 6:00 pm over the 208 m wavelength of Radio Luxembourg.
Butlins Beaver Club on the radio
Dodgem Cars, a brand of bumper cars, were manufactured in the USA by Dodgem Cars Ltd. Billy Butlin saw them and obtained the UK franchise. As a result, a Skegness funfair owned by Billy Butlin saw the first Dodgems cars in the UK in 1923.
Butlins and Dodgem Cars
Bloc Weekend is an annual music festival, devoted to electronic music of several genres, and incorporates both DJ sets and live shows. The first two Bloc events took place at Pontin's holiday camp in Norfolk. The 2009 event, which took place during 13–15 March, was moved to the larger Minehead resort. The 5,000 capacity event still sold out before the festival began. In 2010 and 2011, Bloc returned to Minehead for another sold-out show.