Images taken after WWII show families enjoying themselves at Butlin's

Images taken after WWII show families enjoying themselves at Butlin's

July 22, 2021

Back to Butlin’s! Colourised snaps give glimpse of how families soaked up the fun and sun at famous holiday parks during Great British Staycation after WWII

  • Shots show holidaymakers cycling on novelty tandem bikes and eating in a communal dining hall 
  • Another image shows five women splashing in fountain outside the main camp building at Clacton-on-Sea
  • A fourth image shows a middle-aged holidaymaker diving into the swimming pool at Skegness camp
  • Images were taken from the TopFoto archive and beautifully colourised using artificial intelligence software 

In an image taken the year after the end of the Second World War, a group of jubilant women are seen riding tandem bikes in the sunshine as they let their hair down at a Butlin’s holiday camp.

The photo, which was taken at Clacton-on-Sea in 1946, shows the women waving as they ride the bikes along the seafront at the then enormously popular resort, in Essex. 

Another image shows five women splashing in the fountain outside the main camp building. Behind them, a pristine swimming pool and a huge sign reading ‘Butlin’s Luxury Holiday Camp’ is visible. 

Butlin’s’ huge dining hall at Clacton’s is seen hosting hundreds of families who are sitting down to eat. A little boy looks mischievously at the camera, whilst a girl opposite him frowns.

A fourth image shows a middle-aged holidaymaker diving into the swimming pool at Skegness, in Lincolnshire, as older Britons relax on sunchairs in the background.   

Taken from the TopFoto archive and beautifully colourised using artificial intelligence software, the images bring to life the magic of the post-war great British staycation.  

Butlins was established in 1936 by Billy Butlin, who bought land in Skegness and established the first Butlins park – which is still there today. It quickly became a firm favourite of British holidaymakers.  

In an image taken the year after the end of the Second World War, a group of jubilant women are seen riding tandem bikes in the sunshine as they let their hair down at a Butlin’s holiday camp. The photo, which was taken at Clacton-on-Sea in 1946, shows the women waving as they ride the bikes along the seafront at the then enormously popular resort, in Essex

Another image shows five women splashing in the fountain outside the main camp building. Behind them, a pristine swimming pool and a huge sign reading ‘Butlin’s Luxury Holiday Camp’ is visible

Butlin’s’ huge dining hall at Clacton’s is seen hosting hundreds of families who are sitting down to eat. A little boy looks mischievously at the camera, whilst a girl opposite him frowns

A fourth image shows a middle-aged holidaymaker diving into the swimming pool at Skegness as older Britons relax on sunchairs in the background

Children enjoy a spot of roller-skating in this image, which was taken at Butlin’s’ Clatcon-on-Sea camp, in Essex, after the Second World War. Butlins was established in 1936 by Billy Butlin, who bought land in Skegness and established the first Butlins park – which is still there today. It quickly became a firm favourite of British holidaymakers

William ‘Billy’ Butlin opened his first camp at Skegness in 1936. However, it is the 50s and 60s that most people think of as the heyday of Butlin’s and the British holiday camp.

Butlin’s moved with the times in the 60s. The camps boasted a host of decidedly modern features, such as monorails and glass-sided swimming pools.

Billy’s original aim was to make the British seaside break accessible to all. It started on a short visit to Barry Island, South Wales, where Billy felt sorry for families staying in drab guest houses with nothing much to do.

He wanted to create a ‘place of colour and happiness’ where quality activities and entertainment would be provided so that families could really enjoy their time together.

So in 1936, Billy bought a plot of land in Skegness (where the resort is to this day) and set about making this dream come true.

After a hugely successful opening, Butlin decided to open a second camp in Clacton-on-Sea before the end of the 40s.

Soon he had opened another three camps in Filey, Ayr, and Pwllheli, which were handed over to the British Government in the Second World War to help with the war effort.

The sixties was the company’s most successful decade with a further three resorts opened, at Bognor Regis (1960), Minehead (1962) and Barry Island (1966).

Along with the eight holiday camps around the coast of Britain, another one opened in Ireland and there were also Butlin’s hotels in Blackpool, Brighton and Margate.

The 1960s also saw the famous monorails brought to Skegness and Minehead and an overseas (but ultimately ill-fated) Butlin’s resort established in the Caribbean.

The 70s saw foreign holidays become increasingly affordable and British staycations lost their allure and the Butlin family sold the business to the Rank Organisation in 1972. 

A colour advertisement for Butlin’s Holidays which was very popular with families in the 1950s. In March, Butlin’s was forced to close due to the coronavirus pandemic but is reopening today with new safety procedures

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