With the Mediterranean summer behind us and all the beautiful changing colours of autumn around us, we were taken on a lovely trip down memory lane by Mrs Wendy Butcher. The delightful subject of the evening was “The Connie”, the history of the Constitutional Holiday Camp.
The camp was situated on the East Coast at Hopton-on-Sea in Norfolk. Hopton village had its own railway station which linked it with Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft. It was a lovely little rural village with a Post Office and a few shops.
Arthur Edgar Simmons, a very dapper gentleman started the Constitutional Holiday Camp in 1929. We were shown slides of basic wooden chalets set in orderly rows and recreation areas laid out with formal gardens; this all alongside an amazing stretch of coastline with beautiful sands disappearing into the distance. The interiors of the bungalows in those days were very basic; they featured twin beds, one chest of drawers and one chair, and no running water. Imagine no spacious wardrobes, no en-suite bathrooms! The camp accommodated around a hundred people and was such a new and exciting adventure for everyone.
During the War Years, the camp was occupied by the Royal Navy and lots of the wooden chalets perished. It re-opened in 1949 and the new chalets were built of concrete blocks which did make them a little warmer. Food was still rationed but it always seemed to be available in large quantities. Needless to say, they didn’t ask too many questions!
After the war, Wendy’s Father and Mother took over the running of the Holiday Camp; Wendy and her two older sisters lived in a bungalow on site next to the offices. The chalets were a little more comfortable, still with twin beds and hot water provided in jugs delivered to your door. Wendy made us laugh when she recalled the time her older sister got into trouble for substituting the hot water jugs for freezing cold ones!
The Holiday Camp was now much bigger with a much larger dining room, with beautifully laid tables attended by very smart waitresses in their black and white uniforms. People used to take pleasure in ‘dressing up’ for dining in the evening and for attending the dances now held in the new dance hall. Barrow Boys met Holidaymakers at the station and took all the luggage straight to their chalet. You could also send your luggage on ahead which was taken to the Linen Store on site.
By now there was a “luxury row” of bungalows, which were in great demand as the season opened, because of their prime position on site close to the beach, showers and dining room. In the 60’s Wendy remembered all the Fancy Dress Parades, and Pageants and all the competitions with special performances by Harry Secombe, Lonnie Donegan, The Beverly Sisters and Des O’Connor.
After the Holiday Camp was rebuilt after a terrible fire it was taken over by Holimarine who replaced all the chalets with static caravans. Holidaymakers are now looking for better facilities and different experiences and Wendy’s Dad decided that it was the right time to take his family and leave the business. What happened next? That is another story, but we do know it is set in Malta.
The next meeting will be on Tuesday 23rd October, PAWS will welcome Mr Ken Guyton. Ken’s topic will be the History of the Watermills and Windmills of Norfolk. Details of all meetings and speakers are on the calendar of the home page of this website. If you would like further information about PAWS please ring either of the following committee members: