Sir William Heygate Edmund Colborne ("Billy") Butlin, (29 September 1899 – 12 June 1980), was the founder of Butlins Holiday Camps.
After the war he returned to England and worked for a time running a hoopla stall for his mother’s family, discovering that he was quite successful at it. He moved to London and set up a very successful stall in Olympia outside the Christmas Circus run by Bertram Mills. By the end of the season Billy had been so successful that he could now afford to bring his mother (now widowed) from Canada.
Over the next few years Billy toured the country with the Hills Travelling Fair, leaving his mother, Bertha, to run the Olympia site. In 1927 he leased a piece of land from the Earl of Scarborough at the seaside town of Skegness. He set up a holiday fun park with hoopla stalls, a tower slide, a haunted house ride and, in 1928, a scenic railway and dodgem cars -- the first in Britain. Later on he rented disused bus garages in Whitechapel, Brixton, Tooting, Putney, Hammersmith and Marble Arch in London and turned them all into fun fairs. His mother, Bertha, died in 1933 and so never saw his first holiday camp.
For some time Butlin had nurtured the idea of a holiday camp. He had observed the way landladies in Skegness would (sometimes literally) push families out of the lodgings between meals, regardless of the inclemency of the weather. Butlin toyed with the idea of providing holiday accommodation that encouraged holiday-makers to stay in the premises and even provided entertainment for them between meals.
He opened his first Butlins camp at Ingoldmells, adjoining Skegness on 11 April 1936 (Easter Eve). It was officially opened by Amy Johnson from Hull, who was the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia. An advertisement was placed in the Daily Express, announcing the opening of the camp and inviting the public to book for a week´s holiday, enclosing a ten shilling registration fee. The advertisement offered holidays with three meals a day and free entertainment. A week´s full board cost anything from 35 shillings to three pounds a week, according to the time of year.
The camp was a huge success and soon other Butlins were constructed at Clacton (1938) and Filey (1945), Pwllheli and Ayr (both in 1947), and still more at Mosney (1948), Bognor Regis (1960), Minehead (1962) and Barry Island (1966). The growth of his business was spurred by World War II when a number of camps were requisitioned for use as military training camps, generating revenues for a post-war boom.
In the 1950s Butlin began acquiring hotels in Brighton, Blackpool and several in Cliftonville. In later years they were joined by further hotels in Scarborough, Llandudno, London and Spain. The camps at Ayr and Skegness also had separate self-contained hotels within the grounds.
In 1972 the company was sold to the Rank Organisation for £43 million. Butlin was knighted in 1964 and retired in 1968. Billy Butlin was not the first Butlin to have been knighted as his great uncle, who lived from 1845 to 1912 was the eminent surgeon, Sir Henry Trentham Butlin. Billy Butlin died on 12 June 1980.