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1920s and 30s Holiday Camps

One of the first holiday camps to open in the UK was in Caister-on-Sea, Norfolk in 1906. Over the next few decades similar camps opened up in the surrounding area including Hopton Beach Camp by the Potter brothers in the 1920s, Pakefield Hall Holiday Camp in Gisleham in 1930, and Golden Sands Holiday Camp in Hopton-on-Sea in 1933.

(LA) 1300/85/134/2 Pakefield Hall Holiday Camp, 1930s

In 1938, the Holidays with Pay Act was passed by parliament and people were entitled to paid annual leave for the first time meaning a week-long holiday was affordable for the majority.

(LA) 1300/57/1 Hopton, Aerial, 1950. Aerial photograph showing the Golden Sands Holiday Camp. Photographers stamp: Aerofilms Ltd © Historic England Archive.Aerofilms Collection

Many businesses in Suffolk started to introduce paid annual leave including Garretts of Leiston and the Ipswich Cooperative Society. Listen to the clip below from an oral history interview with Harold Sizer about his first paid holiday from the Territorial Army in 1938.

Suffolk Archives · Clip from oral history interview with Harold Sizer 17 Aug 1994, ref. L401/1/670

By the 1940s, there were around 11 holiday camps in the county. 5 in Hopton, 2 in Corton and Kessingland, and 1 in Gunton and Pakefield. At the camps, there were wooden chalets, dining and dance halls, free tennis, bathing, putting, whist drives and concerts. All this together with four meals a day cost around £2.20 per week.

(LA) 977/D1/3 Digital copy of brochure for Golden Sands Holiday Camp and Club ‘the new camp at Hopton’, nd [c1935]. Original held at Norfolk Record Office Acc. 2018/229.

Holiday camps were popular because they offered an all-inclusive holiday where activities, food and entertainment were laid on and people didn’t need to leave. Holiday camps grew rapidly as a result including Golden Sands, which grew to a capacity of 468 by 1939.

(LA) 1300/57/5 Holidaymakers at the Hopton-on-Sea Constitutional Holiday Camp. Gentleman to the far left hand side is the owner, A. Edgar Simmons, 1933

These local holiday camps pre-dated those made famous by Billy Butlin who didn’t open his first camp until 1936.

Next – requisitioned holidays during World War Two