Site of Butlin’s holiday camp, Barry Island

Site of Butlin’s holiday camp, Barry Island

Aerial photo of Butlin's Barry Island camp in 1974
Aerial view of Burlin's camp at Barry Island in 1974,
courtesy of the RCAHMW and its Coflein website

Most of Nell’s Point headland was once occupied by a Butlin’s camp where countless families enjoyed seaside holidays. The aerial photo, courtesy of the Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Wales, shows the camp in 1974. It is from the Aerofilms Collection of the National Monuments Record of Wales.

Barry Island’s development as a leisure destination took off after its railway station opened in 1896, bringing crowds of people who sought temporary escape from the industrialised environment of South Wales’ valleys and ports. It was during a short visit to Barry Island that Sir Billy Butlin was inspired to create camps where people of modest means could enjoy seaside breaks.

His opened first camp in 1936, in Skegness. Butlin’s camps soon became famous for their “Redcoats” – entertainers who performed for campers wearing red blazers inspired by the uniform of the Canadian mounted police. To encourage families to interact, the camps staged activities such as “knobbly knees” and “glamorous granny” competitions.

The Barry Island camp was the last Butlin’s to open, in 1966. It accommodated up to 7,000 staying visitors per week. Holidaymakers paid an all-inclusive fee and stayed in the long rows of chalets visible in the photo.

Facilities included heated swimming pools (indoors and outdoors), a cable-car ride, miniature railways and spaces for activities such as ballroom dancing and table tennis. The camp featured restaurants, licensed bars and even fish and chip shops. Visitors could pay an admission charge for a day in the camp.

The growth of aviation and cheap package holidays abroad reduced trade at Butlin’s camps. New owners made changes at Barry Island to stimulate new interest, but the camp closed at the end of the 1996 season. Some of the land became public open space and some was used for housing.

Postcode: CF62 5DA    View Location Map

Copies of the old photo and other images are available from the RCAHMW. Contact: nmr.wales@rcahmw.gov.uk