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Monday 28th March 2011

Holiday Camp Bonanza in 1936

The rapid growth of British Holidays

Badge Collectors love holiday camp badges, happy memories, sunny designs and pure nostalgia. The initial growth spurt of British holiday camps in the 1930s was only temporarily halted by the Second World War. It was the Annual Holiday Bill in 1936 (November) that meant thousands of workers could at last enjoy a weeks holiday with pay. Entreprenuers, realising that this bill was on the way began to establish Holiday Camps all around the coast of Britain.

The Daily Herald Newspaper of June 9th 1936 on page 17 included a large advert for various holiday camps-many known well to badge collectors. It is also pertinent that among the host of camps advertised there is no mention of Butlins. This is most likely because the Butlins camp was fully booked and there was no need to advertise – Billy Butlin had already done his advertising-earlier in the year he had spent £500 on a half page advert in the Daily Express offering holidays at his camp for 35/- to £3 for a week depending on the time of the season. This price did include four meals a day and free entertainment.

Within days there were 10,000 enquiries and very quickly firm bookings. The Daily Herald advert is then partly explained as other entrepreneurs attempted to copy the Butlin method (and other early camp pioneers) which clearly was having great effect  right from the start in early 1936.

Billy Butlin had been involved in the setting up of Warner camp at Seaton in 1935 and used the same workers to build his own camp at Skegness. He had purchased 40 acres just outside Skegness (at £100 per acre) and took men off his amusement site in the town of Skegness to help build the camp.

 Easter Saturday 1936 saw the opening of the first Butlins camp –the first camper Freda Monk  (from Nottingham) arrived a day early and was found wandering around the half built campsite looking for water. She was given sustinence and a chalet, the following day other campers arrived –although the numbers were down because one party had gone to Sheerness instead of Skegness!

Billy Butlin bought a pair of old Austin Seven vans which he painted with bright colours and numbered them 2 & 9 –so as to appear part of a bigger fleet! For many campers the basic chalet  accommodation was an improvement on their actual living conditions.

The last few years have seen more Brits holidaying in the UK but it is hard to imagine a return to the spirit of 1936.The two pages of advertisments in this newspaper illustrate that Butlins was not the only mover and shaker in the business-simply the most successful. It also illustrates how rapidly others followed the Butlins philosophy. Badges from the smaller and rarer camps can still be found for a reasonable price but have become more sought after. Please note those badges illustrated at the top of this blog are not necessarily pre-war issues, although many of the camps they represent cearly were establ;shed in that period.



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About the author

Frank Setchfield is the author of The Official Badge Collectors Guide from the 1890s to the 1980s and has written countless articles on badges for various publications.


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