Incredible photos from the 50s and 60s show holidaymakers at Butlin's

The Great British staycation: Incredible vintage photos from the 50s and 60s show holidaymakers at Butlin’s and lounging in the sun as they enjoy the best seaside hotspots

  • Unearthed shots show holidaymakers cycling on novelty tandem bikes and eating in a communal dining hall
  • Sixties was Butlin’s most successful decade with resorts opening at Bognor Regis, Minehead and Barry Island 
  • It also saw famous monorails brought to Skegness and Minehead alongside eight holiday camps augmented
  • The nostalgia-inducing snaps come as Butlin’s reopens today with new Covid-19 safety procedures in place

Incredible vintage photos dating back to the 50s and 60s show holidaymakers at Butlin’s and lounging in the sun as they enjoy the best seaside hotspots. 

The nostalgia-inducing images were recently unearthed in TopFoto’s digital archives and capture a fleet of women cycling down Clacton-on-Sea’s promenade on novelty tandem bikes.

The snaps also include a daredevil diver launching himself into the pool in the original Butlin’s camp in Skegness and a thousand holidaymakers eating together in a communal dining hall.

A fearless man dives into a swimming pool in Skegness, the very first Butlin’s camp established in 1936. The holiday camp came about after William ‘Billy’ Butlins bought a plot of land in the seaside town, where the resort is to this day 

Three beaming children come out of the sea while holding buckets on their Butlin’s holiday. The camps boasted a host of decidedly modern features in the 60s, introducing the famous monorails and glass-sided swimming pools

Thousands of holidaymakers are seen enjoying the first real break of the summer on Blackpool’s beaches, with the famous Blackpool Tower in the background in 1948. The British seaside holiday hit its acme in the 50s and 60s

Holidaymakers play and splash around in the water in an outdoor pool at the holiday camp in Clacton-on-Sea, Essex, in 1948. The Butlin’s ‘Luxury Holiday Camp’ signage can also be made out in the background  

A child poses for a photograph while holding a bucket and standing next to a donkey at Blackpool beach. After a hugely successful opening, Billy decided to open a second camp in Clacton-on-Sea before the end of the 40s

Other incredible shots show a delighted group of bikini-clad tourists posing in a water fountain in Essex and Olympic hopeful and war hero John Wilkinson enjoying a seaside break.

William ‘Billy’ Butlins 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 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. 

A pyramid of bikini-clad tourists posing in a water fountain in Clacton, Essex as they take their holiday during the early warm spell at Butlin’s holiday camp. Butlin opened the second resort in Clacton-on-Sea before the end of the 40s

A group of delighted women wave to spectators while riding four-wheel novelty tandem cycles down Clacton-on-Sea’s promenade. The charming black and white photos were recently unearthed in TopFoto’s digital archives

A thousands holidaymakers could eat simultaneously in a communal dining hall at Butlin’s holiday camp in Clacton-on-Sea, Essex. Billy’s original aim was to make the British seaside break accessible to all

Four people go roller-skating in Skegness, a seaside town in Lincolnshire. Despite opening the first camp in 1936, it is the 50s and 60s that most people think of as the heyday of Butlin’s and the British holiday camp

A woman poses for a photograph on a diving board at Butlin’s holiday camp in Clacton-on-Sea, Essex. The sixties was the company’s most successful decade with a further three resorts opened at Bognor Regis, Minehead and Barry Island

Fun in the sun outside a cabin in Clacton-on-Sea’s holiday camp in Essex with five women and one man posing for a black and white photograph in 1949, in the images recently unearthed from TopFoto’s digital archives

A group of tourists enjoy a seaside break in 1939 at Blackpool, the iconic British seaside resort and future home of a Butlin’s hotel. Billy wanted to create a ‘place of colour and happiness’ where quality activities and entertainment would be provided

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 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). 

Eight holiday camps around the coast of Britain were augmented by one in Ireland and Butlin’s hotels in Blackpool, Brighton and Margate. 


A young competitor in the children’s obstacle race has difficulty with an old motor tyre at Butlin’s Holiday camp, left, and another child is pictured at the resort, right, which boasted a host of decidedly modern features in the 60s

A typical cabin pictured set up in an early Butlin’s holiday camp, with two holidaymakers pictured chatting outside one of the affordable accommodations while three others walk past nearby

All sorts of fun and games at one of the Butlin’s holiday camps with what appears to be a fancy dress contest. The Butlin family sold the business to the Rank Organisation as foreign holidays became increasingly affordable in the 70s

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

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. The Butlin family sold the business to the Rank Organisation.

In March, Butlin’s was forced to close due to the coronavirus pandemic but is reopening today to visitors with new safety procedures in place including extra cleaning, hand sanitising stations and no self-service food options.

In a message on its website, the holiday camp wrote: ‘2020 isn’t likely to be a year any of us will forget, but let’s remember it for all the right reasons with a much needed break to Butlin’s. 

‘We’ve adapted our resorts and redesigned elements of the experience, ready to welcome you back.’

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