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Memorial to Butlin’s start

Sir Billy Butlin’s arrival in Bognor Regis has been commemorated with a blue plaque.


The leisure industry pioneer’s daughter, Jacquie Butlin, unveiled the heritage memorial on the site of her father’s first business in the town.


The plaque is believed to be the first in the three seaside resorts in which Butlin’s has its popular holiday sites.


The ceremony took place yesterday at the present Cassino Amusements on the seafront – 87 years after Mr Butlin opened Butlin’s Recreation Shelter on the site.


Jacquie said:


“87 years ago, my father started the long-standing relationship between Butlin’s and Bognor Regis.


“Purchasing a small piece of land, he built his first amusements arcade in Bognor at this site.


“Imagine if you can, how many children will have enjoyed days out or holidays with their families at Butlin’s here in Bognor Regis over those years.


“Consider the number of life-long memories made of generations of family members who have enjoyed time spent at Butlin’s.


“Dad, I know you are looking down on us. I hope you realise how much happiness you have brought to so many families over the years.


“I open this plaque at this site in honour of all those who have, and will enjoy, Bognor Regis and Butlin’s for years to come.”


Sir Billy opened his fairground in Bognor Regis, on the corner of The Esplanade and Lennox Street, in 1932 – five years after he set up an amusement park in Skegness.


The Recreation Shelter was followed the next year by a zoo, next to what is know the Carlton Hotel, which featured brown, black polar bears, hyenas and leopards.


In 1958, it was announced by the Bognor Regis council an agreement had been reached with Sir Billy to take on the 39-acre Brookland site on the eastern edge of the town’s seafront for a holiday camp. This opened in 1960 and the seafront sites closed.


The plaque in his honour is the sixth of a ten-strong trail compiled by the Bognor Regis Heritage Partnership Board and the town council.


Cllr Phil Woodall, the town’s mayor, said:


“Having read the brief that I was given for this ceremony today, I was very surprised that the links with Bognor Regis and Butlin’s go back further than probably most of us actually realised.”


Local historian and Bognor Regis Post columnist Sylvia Endacott said: “I hope the plaque will finally dispel the myth that Billy Butlin arrived in the town in 1960.”

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