Glory days of holiday camp are relived

DECADES of fun, laughter, music and sunshine at one of the UK's most famous holiday camps are being relived at a new exhibition in Essex.

Roddy Ashworth

DECADES of fun, laughter, music and sunshine at one of the UK's most famous holiday camps are being relived at a new exhibition in Essex.

Butlins Holiday Camp in Clacton first opened its doors to visitors on June 11, 1938, and yesterday - exactly 70 years later - veteran comic and entertainer Roy Hudd unveiled a unique celebration of its heyday at the town's Station Road library.

It was back in the 1930s that Billy Butlin looked to the East Coast when he wanted to open a second holiday camp following the success of his first venture in Skegness.


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When the West Clacton estate - an area consisting of miniature golf courses, boating lakes and other amusements - came up for sale in 1936 he saw his opportunity and purchased the site.

Initially, for 1937, only a funfair was erected but a year later the entire Butlins entertainment machine swung into action and by the beginning of the summer the full British holiday camp experience was available.

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As well as hundreds of chalets, there were bars, restaurants, a Viennese ballroom, an indoor swimming pool - with plastic parrots hanging from the roof - an outdoor swimming pool, and a boating lake.

There were also extensive sporting facilities including a football pitch, cricket facilities and a fun fair which had dodgems, carousels and a Ferris wheel.

In the evenings there was a myriad of entertainment available - with one young singer, Cliff Richard, making his first ever professional appearance there.

Other stars and upcoming household names who appeared in Clacton included Dave Allen, Michael Holiday, Victor Sylvester, Elsie and Doris Waters, Mantovani - and, of course, Roy Hudd.

The new Clacton exhibition, in Station Road, is called 'A Week's Holiday for a Week's Pay' - Butlins Holiday Camp 1938-83 and aims to allow visitors to discover the personal recollections of holidaymakers and the staff who made their stay so memorable.

Its name comes from the initial cost to stay at Butlins - which opened in the same year as the Government made a week's paid holiday compulsory - of £3.10s, then the average weekly industrial wage.

The exhibition, which features multi-media presentations, charts the opening of the Clacton Butlins, through its role during the war when it was allocated as a never-used POW camp, until its closure in 1983.

'A Week's Holiday for a Week's Pay' - Butlins Holiday Camp 1938-83 is set to remain open at the library for at least a year and was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of the “It's Another World” Project.

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