Following my first post sharing some of my collected vintage Barry Island postcards, it’s time to return to the Island for some more memories and images from my collection. This time the focus is exclusively on the Butlins Holiday Camp that used to be such a prominent feature on the resort. The massive complex sat above the fair and beach in a commanding position, and to a youngster like myself was a mind boggling treasure trove of entertainment and delights.
I never actually stayed at Barry Butlins as a guest. My only ever experience of a residential Butlins holiday was at the Minehead branch, visible across the water from Barry on a good day. That was a lot of fun too, but a different story. We did visit the Barry Butlins a number of times though over the years. We be day visitors, using the tickets you could buy thanks to a special 2 for 1 deal in one of the newspapers at the time. I visited in the early 1980s and really loved what was on offer at the camp and still have very strong and fond memories of those visits.
To start with there was a couple of free fairgrounds. No need to pay for each ride like you did down in the resort’s fun fair, just queue and jump on! Ok, the range wasn’t as big as the other place, but there was enough to make it fun. Then there was the cable car that went from one end of the camp to the other – that was an amazing sight to me, and an image that’s cropped up time and time again in my creative work in one form or another. I used to love the daring sky high ride as a small child staring up at it from the beach.
Besides the fun fair, there was a ton more stuff going on. There was the daily film showing in the resort’s cinema / club. I can’t recall the name of it, but I remember it being a large and high sloped room with cinema seating at one end and round tables and bar at the other. At the time they were showing films that were still quite new, and I went to watch one each time we visited. I definitely saw For Your Eyes Only there for the first time, and possibly Superman 2. The fact you could just walk in for free and watch a film was fab.
Then there was the sporting activities. I remember going in to the pool and snooker hall and playing free, they’d give you the balls in an old ice cream tub along with the cues and chalk. In later years my friends would go there for the day to play on the full sized snooker tables rather than pay an hourly rate at the local snooker clubs. Alongside snooker was other stuff like crazy golf and swimming, and it’s the many swimming pools that hold a lot of strong memories for me.
Firstly, there was a large indoor swimming complex, and this being the days before wave machines and big slides meant that it was pretty much just the pool itself. The whole pool felt quite old and dated, I remember it being concrete lined rather than tiled. There were also windows in the pool side which was quite a novelty and the whole thing was quite a strong sky blue, but other than that I don’t recall much else about it other than the strong smell of chlorine!
Outside was the big outdoor pools, a large complex on multiple levels. I remember it being very warm on the days we visited, so we finished our visits off in the outdoor pool. I was particularly fond of the diving board and would happily spend an hour jumping off that, slowly turning blue as the late afternoon heat cooled and the breeze off the Severn picked up. These pools were just metres away from the main road, separated only by the black iron railings.
Being day visitors we didn’t really get the full feel of the place, we never went in any of the bars and cabaret spots on the camp, and missed out on a lot of the Red Coat led activities going on. I remember that it felt quite dated in places, with lots of late 1960s / early 1970s decor and furnishings still in evidence. The central arcade with its gift shop and small rides stands out in the memory as does the excitement of visiting on the cheap. But that’s Butlins for you, it always used to be about cheap and cheerful fun.
However, before we jump into the cards I want to have a small moan about how that’s all changed today. Last summer we visited Minehead Butlins on a day ticket. It cost a lot for the four of us to visit, and expecting to make-up for that with the free activities you used to get, I was shocked to find how much you had to pay for things like Crazy Golf, or cycle hire or snooker and pool! All those things you used to get for free were now charged for, and at a high rate as well. It seems the days of the Butlins I remember are now long gone and forgotten, I expect Billy Butlins would not be impressed with the current state of his vision despite all the modern thrills it now has.
That said, let’s take a look around the Barry Island camp and various related views through the medium of postcard. These are postcards I’ve collected over the years, and in date range from the late 1960s through to the late 1980s before the camp was sold and became Majestic. Hopefully it will spark some memories for you!
Exterior view of the building and pools, featuring the old black metal fence (Photographer Unknown)
View across the green and Severn at Barry Butlins (Photographer E. Nägele)
View of the chairlift and the beach at Barry Island (Photographer D. Noble)
The diving board at the outside pools at Barry Island Butlins (Photographer E. Nägele)
Another view of the outdoor pools and the diving boards I spent a lot of time jumping off
Another view of the pools, showing the terracing (Photographer E. Nägele)
A lounge grotto, the colourful decorations inside one of the bars (Photographer E. Nägele)
View from The Quiet Lounge at Barry Butlins, note the late 1960s stylings (Photographer E. Nägele)
Terrace adjoining the indoor pool (Photographer E. Nägele)
The Pig and Whistle at Barry Butlins (Photographer E. Nägele)
Later 1980s card of the outside swimming pools (Photographer Unknown)
Collected below are a number of multiview cards. Some of these feature images featured above as well as other views of the camp that didn’t have their own postcards. The first postcards would appear to show views that range from the late 1960s to early 1970s, the later ones with the more colourful borders would appear to be from the mid to late 1980s.
Hinde multiview postcard with scenes from the camp including the main arcade and the fair (Photographer E. Nägele)
Hinde multiview card with views of the inside swimming pool and Pig and Whistle bar (Photographer E. Nägele, D. Noble)
Hinde multiview postcard with scenes from the camp including the Regency and Gaiety bars (Photographer E. Nägele, D. Noble)
1980s multiview card with a great view from the chair lift (Photographer Unknown)
1980s multiview card with views of the outdoor pool (Photographer Unknown)
1980s multiview card with a pair of happy red coats and some more great views (Photographer Unknown)
1980s multiview card with views of the fair and pools (Photographer Unknown)