Hi-di-Hi – Ho-di-Ho! Off to a holiday camp we go…

We Brits just love holiday camps by the sea – Sally Evans looks into how and why this type of jolly holiday has remained so popular for so long.

The great British holiday park really came into its own in the early 50s and 60s, after the war ended and families wanted to treat themselves to a much-needed break by the seaside. Holiday camps offered cheap family holidays with good food and plenty to do – if the good old British weather was inclement. It was the perfect combination of seaside holiday and stiff upper lip…

caisterThe first British holiday camps included the Caister Camp in Norfolk, which opened in 1906 as the fun-sounding “Caister Socialist Holiday Camp.” The campers slept in tents and guests helped with tasks as required! After World War One, chalets replaced the tents and organised activities and sport was introduced, as well as a licensed bar. The camp is now owned by Haven Holidays.


Harry Warner started his holiday camp business in the 30s with the opening of the Northney Camp at Hayling Island. More camps opened during the next 20 years including the Civil Service Camp, also run by the Warners, and the Rogeston Hall Camp run by the Worker’s Travel Association. Since the 80s, Warner holiday camps have been run by Haven.



In 1936, Billy Butlin opened his first holiday camp in Skegness and offered “a week’s holiday for a week’s pay” for 2,000 guests. He built a funfair and amusements for his guests and employed the infamous Red Coats – and the fondly remembered Hi-di-Hi routine was born! See holidaymakers having fun there in the 60s here:

And rare colour footage of the Butlin’s Red Coats in the late 50s here:

More camps sprung up after the war including the Middleton Tower Holiday Camp near Morecambe – the building could house 3,000 people and was designed to look like an ocean liner on land, with a Sun Ray Room, bars and a children’s cinema.


Fred Pontin gained valuable knowledge of running accommodation during the war years when he established hostels for construction worksers. It was a small leap to opening his first camp at Brean Sands in Somerset in 1946. By 1949 he had six camps in Britain and another in Trabolgan, Ireland. To set his camps apart from all the others, he chose to keep them small and they held no more than 250 guests. He called them Small Unit Holiday Camps for the Connoisseur in his advertising and they were significantly different from the larger camps.

See a family holiday at Pontins in 1976 here:


Hengistbury Heights 5

Hoburne Holiday Parks date back to 1912 and there are currently seven parks across Hampshire, Dorset, Devon, Somerset, the Cotswolds and Cornwall.

John Bury purchased Hoburne Farm and expertly converted the shepherd’s huts and railway carriages into comfortable holiday escapes.

Read all about the best British holiday camps, including Hoburne, in the August issue of Candis, out soon!

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