These ‘pleasure palaces’ (and obviously we’re using the phrase ironically here), such as ‘Wilkinson’s Beach Camp of Cleveleys’ occupying the field next to Jubilee Gardens where the leisure centre stands nowadays, generally consisted of row upon row of ex-army bell tents with a solitary large wooden hut making do as the mess hall and kitchen. In fact, all matters considered, the resemblance between such ‘Exclusive Holiday Attractions’ and the former boot camps, was uncanny, but they seemed to appeal to a certain class of tourist and eventually led to such national institutions as Butlins (or ‘Butlitz’ as we used to call it at school for obvious reasons) being established.
Or rather, let’s not talk about them.
Let’s have a look at some photographs instead. First up, a typical camp scene at Little Bispham. Don’t ask us whereabouts exactly because we don’t honestly know and, to put it frankly, can’t be bothered finding out. Wherever it was, you can bet your life that there’s a housing estate built on the site nowadays. Oh, by the way, we’ve been colouring these things in again…well, it’s been a slow week.
There’s actually more to this tranquil scene of holiday bliss than perhaps at first meets the eye (although the chances are you won’t be able to tell at the size that this photograph’s been reproduced unless you click on the thumbnail to enlarge it). Take a closer look, however (preferably with a magnifying glass), and you might be able to determine a policeman making enquiries in the bottom right hand corner, whilst a naked person (gender unknown at this distance) takes a casual stroll amongst the tents.
Whether the two are connected, or not, we wouldn’t like to speculate.
Let’s have another photograph, this time demonstrating the elaborate hedonistic feasts that made these campsites such desirable places to stay.
These lucky campers are set up for the weekend because, unusually, they’ve brought their fillies with them. The female tourists around Blackpool back in those days weren’t as slack or available as they are now, of course, the reason for the baker in the middle of the group being that it was considered improper to cook on the first date. (Tasteless Jokes Inc. Copyright © 2008.)
Next up, we’re back to the aforementioned Wilkinson’s of Cleveleys (at least we reckon it is, that building in the background on the right -- the roof of which you might just about be able to see -- looks like Jubilee Gardens’ cafe to us).
Ragtimers, putting the ‘camp’ back into camping, from right to left: Pew, Pew, Barneymacgrew, Cuthbert, Dribble, Crud, Bob Monkhouse, Lionel Blair, Hugh Laurie and Graham Norton by the looks of things. What a gay old time was had by all…with the possible exception of the bloke five in from the right who appears to be doing an impression of Lurch from the Addams’ family and wearing the sort of expression that says: “Why did I pay out three shillings for this rubbish? I wonder if there’s a cheap B. & B. down Victoria Road.” (“No, matron! Take them away!”)
Finally, we’re absolutely almost positively certain that this is Wilkinson’s again. We’d even go so far as to claim that the bloke on the far left who looks a bit like Ben Turpin in a beret is Mr Wilkinson himself. Probably…