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A Personal Account of Skegness by Neil Hilton Back

Butlins Holiday Camp Skegness Lincolnshire was the first camp that Sir Billy Butlin built in the 1930's. Situated on an area of flat land approximately 2.5 miles north of the bracing east coast resort of Skegness the camp became one of the most popular destinations for UK holidaymakers post war. A short drive further on is the resort of Ingoldmells with it's large funfair and endless stretches of caravan parks.

Skegness, often nicknamed Skeggy, was a long narrow camp sited next to the coast within easy reach of the beach. A purpose built gate at the back of the camp provided easy beach access. In the 1970's the camp was extended to the other side of the main road and the two areas were linked by a pedestrian tunnel.  Other buildings including an entertainment venue, reception and supermarket were also built on the new site.

The longest of the two Butlins monorails was built here at Skegness and stretched around the buildings and chalets linking the front and the back of the camp. The monorail had two stations and was only finally taken out of service during the 2002 season. The two stations are now fenced off. A long chairlift also linked the north end of the camp with the amusement park to the south and took guests over chalet lines and various building roofs which lay between the two stations. The chairlift has been dismantled for several years.

The indoor and outdoor amusement parks at Skegness were amongst the best at Butlins. The big wheel could be seen from some distance outside the camp. The dodgem cars and carousel were also popular rides.  The miniature railway ride was removed in the 1990's.

A big feature of the Skegness camp was the large outdoor heated swimming pool which was located at the front of the camp and sheltered by three adjacent buildings. The Tower Building which was a camp landmark was located behind the outdoor pool. The long camp frontage was lined with flagpoles and a grand entrance (Victoria Gate) down a slight incline was the arrival point for guests.

Shortly after the fire at Pwllheli in the Autumn of 1973 Skegness also suffered a major fire and some of the buildings around the outdoor pool area were destroyed. Water from the pool was used to tackle the blaze and the resulting damage was thereby minimised. The fire was however a major incident and arson was again the conclusion of the investigating authorities. Following this second major fire Butlins installed fire safety and sprinkler systems to all its entertainment buildings at all camps.

Since this was the oldest camp the earlier chalets were of the original individual hut design. Some of these remain today and have been classified as listed buildings. They are located at the back of the resort close to the beach gate and the old Blue Camp area. Over a period of time accommodation was improved and extended. Modern flatlets were built on the new western area across the main road during the mid-late 1970's. This accommodation became Red Camp and caravans were also added to this area in the 1990's.

Some of the original chalet rows in the main camp remain including very long single storey and two storey accommodation. A feature of the chalets here was the archways and paths which ran through the centre of many of the two storey chalet blocks. A major investment in new accommodation in 1998/99 resulted in the construction of new spacious accommodation now termed as Gallery Apartments. They are located in two areas at the northern and southern extremes of the new Family Entertainment Resort. They have replaced some of the older chalet blocks.

The new Skyline Pavilion covers the central area which was once the sportsfield and connects the buildings in the central area. The Skyline is visible from a distance of several miles inland en route to Skegness. An outdoor fun pool is sited next to the Tom Cobleigh Pub/Restaurant complex. The Jumpin Jacks adult venue is located close to the front gate entrance. This was once the Ingoldmells Building incorporating the Tudor Lounge Bar and main reception. Reception is now called `Check-In' and is located in front of the main gate. A bus stop at this point links the centre with the holiday resort of Skegness.

The original games room towards the back of the camp next to the tennis courts is still used and comprises snooker, table tennis and darts facilities. It still has the atmosphere of Butlins yesteryear. The Nursery building to the north is still there close to the monorail station.

Skegness was never a particularly green site compared with some of the other camps although it did have ample flower beds and lawns.  The frontage which was once a lawned area is now a car park primarily for guests use upon arrival. The boating lake at the rear of the camp is now basically drained and disused.

Although Skegness has seen many changes over the years the basic layout of the camp is unchanged. The flatlets built on the west side of the main road have however now been demolished and plots for caravans have replaced them. This was due to over capacity in recent years. The funfair is now sited at the front of the camp south of the main entrance. The older Indoor Pool was replaced by the indoor `Splash' waterworld and the old building at the back of the camp was demolished during the early 1990's. In the latest transformation the original entertainment buildings have been re-clad and have lost their traditional Butlin character.

One of the main improvements has been the quality of accommodation available at this centre. It has received much acclaim and good publicity as a result. The new venues and retail outlets which form a major part of the resort provide a modern family holiday experience which has developed from the original Butlin theme.

Skegness was the first Butlins Family Entertainment resort I visited after the grand re-opening in Spring 1999. The Skyline Pavilion is filled with atmosphere and the new venues are easily accessible at the centre of the resort. At that point in time the monorail was still in operation and this gave the resort an added attraction. Sadly the ride has recently been taken out of action as it appears to have come to the end of its useful life. It is now expected to be dismantled in the winter of 2002.

Skegness has provided families and friends with years of happy holidays and non-stop entertainment. It has also produced some of the famous celebrities which went on to the stage and into television thanks to the training ground for Redcoats. The resort does look set to continue the Butlin tradition of great value action packed holidays for years to come.

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