About Butlin's

Butlin’s Holiday Camps were conceived by Billy Butlin during a wet holiday week on Barry Island while locked out of his unwelcoming boarding house. He dreamt of a holiday centre for the great mass of working-class families, where they could have a good time irrespective of the British weather.

Billy Butlin started his first holiday camps in 1936. On the day after Britain’s declaration of war against Germany, he completed negotiations with the Ministry of Defence to build several army training camps around Britain at a discount price – subject to his being able to recover the camps as holiday centres as soon as war was over. Within weeks of VE Day in 1945, Butlin had all nine of his camps open for business and doing a roaring trade.

Butlin’s is a familiar part of British culture and folklore, famous for its hi-de-hi catchphrase, the camp redcoats, the Wakey Wakey breakfast call broadcast across the camps by tannoy, the barbed wire fences (built to stop non-payers getting into the camps, but contributing to their reputation as places of enforced enjoyment), and the hilarious competitions – including Knobbly Knees, Ugly Faces, and Glamorous Grannies. 

By the time Butlin sold his empire to the Rank Organisation in 1972, each camp was hosting 1,000 visitors per day. The camps’ popularity peaked in 1981, but then declined fast with the growth of cheap package holidays to the Mediterranean. Over 10 million Britons have had enjoyed a Butlin’s holiday.

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