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August 29, 2020

Women at Butlins Holiday Camp Wearing Marilyn Monroe Face Masks in Clacton-on-Sea, England, 1952

Ladies have fun in their swimsuits, wearing bizarre Marilyn Monroe papier mache masks, for a beauty pageant. The masks mean they are judged solely on their figure.

Women workers at Butlins Holiday Camp wearing Marilyn Monroe face masks as they parade in their swimsuits. (Photo by Fred Ramage/Getty Images)

Beauty contestants are judged solely on their figures, thanks to the introduction of papier mache masks, at the Butlins Holiday Camp in Clacton-on-Sea, May 27, 1952. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Butlin’s is a chain of large seaside resorts in the United Kingdom. Butlin’s was founded by Billy Butlin to provide affordable holidays for ordinary British families.

The first of the Butlins holiday camps was opened by Butlin in 1936 in Skegness, following his success in developing amusement parks. A second camp quickly followed in Clacton in 1938, and construction of Filey Holiday Camp began in 1939. With the outbreak of the Second World War, building at Filey was postponed, and the camps at Skegness and Clacton were given over for military use. Wartime use of Butlins camps continued, with resorts at Ayr, Filey, and Pwllheli being completed and opened as military camps. This camp was later renamed Wonderwest World, and is now owned and run by Haven, part of Bourne Leisure, who own both brands.

In 1945, with the war over, Filey was re-opened as a holiday camp. The camps at Skegness & Clacton opened in 1946, Ayr and Pwllheli in 1947 and Mosney on the east coast of Ireland in 1948. Butlins became popular in post-war Britain, with family entertainment and activities available for the equivalent of a week’s pay.

In 1948, Butlin acquired two hotels in the Bahamas, and in the 1950s Butlins began opening hotels in England and Wales.

In 1968, Butlin’s son Bobby took over the management of Butlins, and in 1972 the business was sold to the Rank Organisation for £43 million. The number of camps peaked at ten between 1966 and 1980, but the business experienced the problems that were being faced by the British seaside holiday industry at large, with the introduction of cheap package holidays to Mediterranean resorts from the 1960s onwards. It also had a specific image problem of being seen as providing regimented holidays, which caused it to all but abandon the Butlins name at its remaining resorts between 1987 and 1990.

All the Butlins hotels dating from the 1950s to 1990s were sold in 1998, but most are still open today under different ownership. The art deco style Ocean Hotel at Saltdean has been redeveloped into apartments, and the hotels at Cliftonville have both been demolished.


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