by Phil Gould
: Added November 2010
My childhood holidays were spent either on the North Wales coast or in Blackpool. Both of these places were only a couple of hours drive from home. But when I reached my teenage years my parents set their sights on further afield - Lincolnshire to be precise.

My uncle had recently moved jobs and was now working as manager of the Blue Anchor site in Ingoldmells. In the 70s there was no easy way across country from Stoke to Skegness so our journey to the coast took on mammoth proportions compared to our usual holiday trips.

However, there was a bonus to this as I managed to see a a group of amusement parks that, up until then, I had only been able to catch tantalising glimpses of in holiday brochures.

In many ways the parks at Skegness and Mablethorpe in the mid 70s provided a snapshot of all the current fairground favourites but they also had their share of unusual attractions which makes them worthy of taking a trip back in time.

Skegness had grown from a small coastal village into a thriving resort following the dawn of the age of the train  and industrial holidays in the 1930s. Trains transported workers from the Midlands and Yorkshire for a week's holiday taking in the area's bracing air. This particular resort also caught the attention of one Billy Butlin. When the famous showmen first came to the resort in 1927 it was little more than two streets and a short promenade. But he had faith in the town's future as a booming seaside resort. He acquired a small piece of land on the seafront and at Easter of that year set up a Lighthouse Slip (or Helter Skelter), home made Haunted House, small electric car track and four hooplas. The following year he added a Scenic Railway and acquired a second amusement park in Mablethorpe. Within a few years he was operating two parks in Skegness at Grand Parade and North Parade.

These parks acted as a forerunner to Butlin's much loftier ambitions which were to become reality in nearby Ingoldmells. At Easter 1936 Butlin's Luxury Holiday Camp opened its gates to its first guests. Over the years an amusement park became an essential part of the entertainment offered to visitors. This site was to become the model for many other camps around the country. Eventually Butlin's empire expanded to even include holiday centres in the Caribbean. He sold the larger of his two Skegness parks at Grand Parade to Botton Bros in 1965 and closed down the park on North Parade four years later. 

Let's take a look at the delights that were on offer to fun seekers in the mid 70s at Skegness, Ingoldmells and Mablethorpe.    


Skegness at the dawn of the 1970s, with the Wild Mouse roller coaster in the former Butlin's Amusement Park in the background. Picture: Nick Laister Collection

This 1934 photograph shows the Butlin's Amusement Park in Skegness, with the Scenic Railway and Haunted House visible. In only two years, Butlin would open his first holiday camp nearby. Picture: Nick Laister Collection


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