Billy Butlin




























Billy Butlin



Billy Butlin



In common with most popular areas of collecting, items associated with Butlin's holiday camps offer great scope for the collector combined with a large degree of social and historical interest.



Though the present day Butlin's organisation is understandably eager to put behind them the old image of Happy Campers and Glamorous Grannies, the fact remains that the 1990s rash of nostalgia spawned a whole new breed of Butlin's memorabilia collectors.





The man responsible for the Butlin's phenomenon was Billy Butlin, the Kiof the holiday camp. Born just over 100 years ago in 1899 in Cape Town, South Africa he rose from social obscurity to command an empire of holiday camps in Great Britain.







At the end of the First World War Billy Budin returned for a while to his adopted Canada, but then decided to try and make his fortune back in England. He joined his mother's side of the family on the West Country fairground circuit in 1921 and it wasn't too long before he had his first hoopla stall and was beginning to run his small 'business' in his own inimitable way.





Billy Butlin
A series of calculated risks meant that he was soon setting his sights a lot higher. The beginnings of Billy Budin's move towards all- round family entertainment can be traced back to the late 1920s when he went off to explore Skegness - a place he'history of Button's holiday camps.






This move to the coast was prompted when Billy Butlin spotted that inland fairgrounds were losing out in popularity to the newly fashionable working class jaunts to the seaside.





Billy Butlin opened a small fairground at Skegness for Easter of 1927 and in 1928 he was also operating a second site at nearby Mablethorpe.



By the late 1920s he owned a string of amusement parks at various seaside resorts and seven amusement centres ind never even heard of but which was to prove fundamentally important to the whole London.

Billy Butlin


The financial basis for the holiday camps materialised when Butlin acquired the right to be the sole agent in Europe for the new ­fangled American Dodgems.




A few years later in 1935 work began building the first of Butlin's many holiday camps at Skegness with the camp just about ready to open at the start of the 1936 season.







The advent of the Second World War could well have crippled Butlin's chances. Although the government immediately requisitioned Skegness and Clacton the building work on the Filey camp was alloweback to continue on the understanding that Butlin would have the option of buying the camp at the end of the war at a reduced cost.




Under the same conditions Butlin organised the building of camps at Ayre and Pwllheli which, during their wartime use, were known as H.M.S. Scotia and H.M.S. Glendower.


In the late 1940s Butlin's venture into the burgeoning Caribbean holiday market never got off the ground but his perception of what the ordinary member of the British public wanted from a holiday camp/village at that time in history was spot on. Providing entertainment,


Billy Butlin
whatever the vagaries of the British weather and the all-inclusive, no worries, no cares aspect of holidaying making remains the basis for the timid British holidaymaker abroad today. Really it could be said that the early Butlin's Redcoats were the first holiday reps.





Butlin's Luxury Holiday Camps (or Holiday Villages as they became known) were at their most popular with the British public during the boom time of the 1950s and early 1960s.



This 'empire' at its peak included the Butlins camps, for example at Clacton, Skegness, Bognor, Minehead, Mosney, Pwllheli, Filey and Ayr and Button's hotels at Brighton and Blackpool.



The most popular items of Butlin's memorabilia are the many hundreds of Butlin's camp badges and the different variations issued for the various camps and hotels during the period 1936 and 1967 - see following two pages.



The badges remain the item most people remember and many schoolboy visitors in the 1950s recall wearing all their Butlin's badges with pride and now wonder what on earth happened to them.

Billy Butlin



More highly prized from a monetary point of view are the Button's 'special' badges issued to Staff and the Butlin's re-union badges at the Royal Albert Hall.




Other highly collectable items include mirrors, posters, car and motorcycle badges, flyers, adverts, Butlin Beavers memorabilia, tins, trophies, coins, and so on.









One of the self-promotional masters of the 20th century, Billy Butlin's publicity stunts were often regarded as ill-considered and dangerous.


However, his emphasis on belonging to a club and the importance of publicity and self promotion is the reason why mere is such a legacy or memorabilia for the collector of Butlin's material today and most items are still very affordable.



Billy Butlin
Many collectors have fond memories of their own holidays at the camps during the boom time for Budin's in the 1950s and early 1960s.


Many others are simply intrigued by the Butlin's story and fascinated by the designs and artistry involved in the promotional material. 


One of the greatest showmen of the twentieth century Billy Butlin was knighted in 1964. He had come a long way from a bare-footed schoolboy in Bristol. 




Although many of his ventures were looked upon as foolhardy and irresponsible and he often had to fight strong initial opposition to his camps, his flair and charisma made his name synonymous with a national institution.


Billy Butlin died on June 12, 1980 and is buried on the island of Jersey.





As far as I know there is not a club, as yet, devoted solely to Butlin's memorabilia. However, just a glance through the ads across a whole range of publications shows that there's an ever increasing number of collectors and enthusiasts, either searching for souvenirs or information.


You may like to read the Butlins holiday camps review 



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