Scanning back over 80 years, take a look at how our history unfolds and explore how Billy Butlin started his career as a travelling showman, progressed into holiday camps and grew his business into the iconic brand that it is today.
Skegness opened on 11 April 1936 and within a year it had doubled in size. It was officially opened by Amy Johnson, the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia. Two years later Billy Butlin's chose Clacton-on-Sea for his second camp.
To help with the war efforts, Billy’s existing camps were given over to the government. Clacton became an army camp and Skegness became HMS Royal Arthur. Billy was asked to finish his new resort at Filey so it could be used by the military, along with Ayr and Pwllheli, both of which he bought back at the end of the war.
Indoor heated pools designed to be used ‘whatever the weather’ opened at Ayr, Clacton, Pwllheli and Skegness. And after holidaying in the Caribbean, Billy sees a gap in the market and opens Butlin's Bahamas.
A further three resorts opened, at Bognor Regis (1960), Minehead (1962) and Barry Island (1966). The 1960s also saw the famous monorails brought to Skegness and Minehead, and other new innovations being opened on the camps including chairlifts, a pool with underwater viewing windows and revolving bars.
As people fell in love with holidaying abroad, the specialness of the British seaside became lost and the idea of ‘holiday camps’ faded. The Butlin family sold the business to the Rank Organisation.
A very sad start to the year for Butlin's as Billy passes away. His funeral procession was lined with Redcoats. In 1986, new Water Worlds are built at the remaining resorts and in 1989 our Redcoats receive a new uniform designed by Zandra Rhodes.
The new owners tried to reverse the downturn by building new accommodation and entertainment venues but sadly Mosney, Filey, Clacton and Barry Island all had to be sold, and Ayr and Pwllheli were transferred to Haven. 1999 saw the magnificent and renowned Skyline Pavilions built across all three resorts to cater for the unpredictable Great British weather.
The new millennium saw Butlin's bought by Bourne Leisure Holdings. In 2003, our beloved Billy Bear character made his debut, and a year later The Spa in Skegness opened. 2005 saw the very exciting completion of our first on-resort hotel, The Shoreline at Bognor Regis, and after its success our second hotel the Ocean Hotel, was built in 2009.
Bognor Regis welcomed it's third hotel, The Wave Hotel in 2012, and a new swimming complex was built at Skegness in 2013. In 2015 the gorgeous take on our iconic chalets, the West Lakes chalet village in Minehead was built, as well as our new Seaside Apartments in Skegness.
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Redcoats play a very important part in our history and continue to do so on every break at our resorts today.
It started in 1938 and to this day our fundraising efforts continue to support the brilliant GOSH Children's Charity.
From exciting news to inspirational do-it-at-home articles, keep up-to-date with Butlin's over at our blog.