A DECAYING caravan which served as Sir Billy Butlin’s HQ in Bognor Regis has reached the end of the road.
The temporary office used by the leisure entrepreneur soon after he built his holiday camp in the town is to be scrapped.
Its owner, Louise Gaye Tiernan, has decided to get rid of the accommodation after she has owned it for some 50 years.
She said: “The caravan has been in my garden since the sixties. When Butlin’s first opened, I used to go to dances there. It was free for residents and, for some reason, I got talking to Billy Butlin.
“There was something I said, and I can’t remember what it was, but he got to know I had this caravan.
“He came here a couple of times with two or three of his businessmen. They were dressed in black suits and had black cars. They had meetings of some sort in there. They looked like a committee when they arrived.”
Mrs Tiernan, of Chichester Road, was told the caravan was the longest on the road when she bought it. It measures some 16-17 metres long and is about two metres wide.
Accommodation comprises a bedroom, a small spare room, a kitchen, a bathroom and a lounge.
“Years ago, the main road to London ran past this house, with all the buses and coaches going past. I don’t know how the delivery men got the caravan in my garden,” she said.
The caravan was damaged several years ago when vandals broke into her garden and stamped on its roof to let the rain in.
But Mrs Tiernan has kept hold of it until now. She has decided to take advantage of an offer by the developer of flats next door to crush the caravan rather than having to pay for it to be taken away.
“I shall be sorry to see it go. I’ve used it as an office and as accommodation. If anybody came to see me and stayed overnight, they stayed in it,” she said.
Mrs Tiernan has lived in Bognor Regis since the 1960s. She ran several shops in the town centre. The biggest was a former supermarket in Canada Grove, which is now an Eastern European shop.
Sir Billy opened his first business – a seafront ‘recreation shelter’ – in Bognor Regis in 1932. He thrived in the town and opened a zoo the next year.
It was in 1958 that Bognor Regis Urban District Council agreed Sir Billy could use the 39-acre Brookland site for a holiday camp. He rented accommodation in the town with his wife, Norah, while it was built.The camp opened on July 2, 1960.