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Butlins Small Centres Back

Our thanks to Terry North for supplying the following information and, to Ron Stanway, former General Manager, Entertainment and Promotions for the Butlin Group, for collating and submitting this information.

It was in the early 70's that Butlin's decided to increase its Self Catering operation, thought to be in ascendancy at that time, by setting up a Small Centres Division. This would contain the relatively smaller sites thus providing us with a broader market beyond that of the larger camps.

The first such site was St Minver in Cornwall, purchased in 1971 and placed under the local management of Stanley Carter. There followed, Duporth, Nr. St Austell in 1972. Tencreek, and Seaview also in Cornwall and, the Sunshine Holiday Camp on Hayling Island in Hampshire joined the group in 1973. In 1974 the Ayrville Centre and the Two Chimneys camps in Cornwall were purchased. Something completely new, Boating Holidays were started on the Norfolk Broads. The West Country operation had become sufficiently large by 1975/6 to set up a separate Area within Small Centres Division under the management of the late, Al Harris.

With the introduction of the smaller sites under the umbrella of Small Centres it was thought prudent to separate the Butlin Hotels and the large Camps to make for an easier operation. It was in 1974 then that Main Centres and Small Centres, now including the Hotels under Rod Rodgers, were formed.

1976 saw the introduction of the 'Freshfields' brand to cover the Cornwall sites. Expansion continued under the Freshfields name including entry into the Caravan/Camping business in France under the direction of the late, Robin Frossard. In 1977 the Beaver Boat Yard at Agen was purchased. 1978 saw a new camp called Sussex Beach built and opened; the remainder of the Beaver fleet at Port Cassafires was purchased and, a further boat base was leased at Port Sun, Toulouse. A further site was built and opened at Doniford in Somerset in 1979 and the Freshfields operation in France was extended until, in 1980, it encompassed 12 sites. Another purchase in 1980 was the Bert Bushnell’s fleet on the River Thames.

The business became a focus of growth for the Rank Organisation and this was reflected in the acquisition of Leisure Caravan Parks from Bourne Leisure in 1982. These operated alongside the Freshfields sites for a short time then the marketing was merged within the lead name, Leisure Caravan Parks. The French connection remained as a part of Freshfields now under Philip Mason as were the Divisions boating interests.

There were even more additions to the group in 1985 when Rank purchased the Haven Holidays group then under the operational management of David Vaughan and Brian Weatherall; soon this became the marketing entity for the whole caravan business operated by Rank and the French Freshfields sites now became part of Haven Europe. At this stage, the Butlin Hotels reverted back under the control of Main Centres.

This whole operation, Freshfields, Haven, Boating, Rank Marinas and, Small Centres all came under the direction of Terry North a Director on the main board at both Butlins and Rank for many years.

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