Sunday, 25 January 2015



 From the Vikings to . . . Ken Dodd!

This intriguing booklet describes how  Skegness developed from a Norse settlement and tiny fishing village to become one of England's foremost holiday towns.

Special focus falls on the 9th Earl of Scarbrough who created "modern" Skegness even though he was unable to walk following a riding accident which had left him paralysed and unable to walk.

Equally tragic, the Earl  may never actually have witnessed the fruits of the resort he did so much to create. In his later years, his eyesight rapidly deteriorated, and, by the time of his death, he was almost totally blind.

There are also fascinating sections on artist John Hassall, creator of the Jolly Fisherman, and holiday camp king Billy Butlin.

Says the author: "Skegness has been a magnet for generations of visitors from the great industrial towns and cities of the East Midlands and Yorkshire - Derby, Leicester, Nottingham, Sheffield and beyond.

"Spending a day, a week or even the whole of spring, summer and autumn is not something these folk deliberate about in advance.

"It is something they just do - as if by instinct.

"It is an activity embedded in their family consciousness and tradition - like trimming up a festive tree in the front room before Christmas or buying chocolate eggs at Easter.

"Call it swarm logic or whatever you like, it reflects a loyalty that has been of immense and longstanding benefit to Skegness.

"It constantly regenerates and revitalises the resort. Long may it continue."

* With 14  illustrations, most in colour.


This fascinating  retrospective explores  how the  Lincolnshire resort adapted to war - and how it prepared for intermittent bombing raids and the growing prospect of invasion.

Everyone was determined to do their bit, including the retired who grew vegetables on land (off Beresford Avenue) that had previously been uncultivated.

Carrots and onions were favoured - not least because some 800 plants of the latter could be grown from just a single ounce of seed.

Up went the cry - food from the foreshore!

Some 300 underprivileged children were evacuated to the resort from poorer areas of Grimsby. Alas, not all were on their best behaviour. Within two months of arrival, 14 had appeared before a juvenile court to face charges of stealing sweets, toy pistols and other items.

Despite the common enemy (and the famed wartime spirit), there was still crime - some of it particularly sneaky. One individual who snatched collection boxes of money donated to buy cigarettes for the troops was sentenced to four month's imprisonment with hard labour.

There was a clamour from some for Andersen air-raid shelters to be made - but to no avail. It was deemed this was not a feasible option.

Because of the high water table, it would not have been possible to sink them to the required depth below ground.

At an emergency meeting to discuss raising funds to pay for above-ground shelters, one speaker insisted that any such monies should be spent on munitions - "not on crawling into the ground".

One August morning in 1940, the first tragedy struck. two children, aged 12 and four, were killed when four high explosive bombs caused devastation in Park Avenue, Gleneagles Parade and Grand Parade.



In the year Queen Elizabeth II came to the throne, few in Skegness owned a car, a telephone or even a TV set.

There was still rationing of many foodstuffs and tea. But there was growing optimism about the resort's prospects - not least because of the booming popularity of seaside holidays. There was even talk of building an airport.

With a beach, country fields and a zoo, it  was said that Skegness was the only town in the world where you could simultaneously hear the call of a cuckoo, the braying of a donkey, the hiss of a snake and the roar of a lion.

When the local MP, Commander John Maitland opened the new Seathorne Primary School, he declared: "Perhaps sitting in front of me is a little Winston Churchill or even a little Attlee.

"To herald a new Elizabethan age, there might be a little Shakespeare and a little Francis Drake - or, for the girls, a little Florence Nightingale.

"I only hope there are no Hitlers or Stalins!"

Meanwhile, of particular concern to the Chief Constable was the rise in youth crime - juvenile delinquency as it was termed at the time.

"The root lies in the deplorable lack of control and guidance on the part of the parents,"he declared.

"They not only fail to set a good example but often adopt a passive or even obstructive attitude towards the detection and treatment of the child's wrongdoing."

The longserving stationmaster at Skegness was William Olle who outlined his philosophy thus: "When the public come to Skegness Station, they receive the courtesy and attention that is their right.

"You are selling transport, and unless you sell it in the right manner, you are not going to get  a return visit."

It was a bumper summer for unlicensed seaside rock salesmen who, on a busy day, could make as much  £100 a day - colossal money 60 years ago.



1953 was a momentous year in Skegness - not least because it began with the North Sea floods that brought tragedy to neighbouring resorts such as Mablethorpe and Ingoldmells.

In the aftermath of the disaster, people in Yorkshire and the East Midlands were unstinting in their relief efforts.

This intriguing retrospective looks back both at the floods and the many other remarkable events of that remarkable year.

Because very few people owned a TV (they cost £100), many people (mostly women)  watched the Coronation in black-and-white on a 15in screen at the Embassy ballroom. In pouring rain, they queued from 8am to get a seat!

The publication explores the many other remarkable events of that year – for instance. a fire on the dodgems at Billy Butlin’s fairground which threatened to craze the lions, bears and other animals at the nearby zoo.

Police marksmen attended, with rifles at the ready just in case.

This booklet also contains the entire lyrics of a song about Skegness written as a rival to I Do Like to Beside the Seaside which had been claimed by Blackpool as its own.

There is also a report about the warning issued by Skegness police chief Sidney Barnes about the increasingly common practice known as “pimping” – spying on courting couples in the sand dunes.

“We deplore this type of conduct,”he told a magistrates’ hearing.

Among notable visitors to the town were TV personality Eamon Andrews, billiards ace Joe Davis and politician Aneurin Bevan.

Another was retired Scotland Yard detective Robert Fabian who described his interrogation techniques in an address to a women's group.

"The time to get the truth from anyone is about two o'clock in  the morning,"he confided. "People's resistance then is at its lowest. Try it on your husband!"

June Stevens, of Leicester, was crowned September carnival queen and Thelma Claffey of Birstall was runner-up.

On the local football scene, there was controversy in a match between Wainfleet Utd and Derbyshire Miners' Home when the latter's goalkeeper swung on the crossbar, causing it to snap.

The referee abandoned the game to the anger of the Wainfleet team who had been winning 3-2.


SIXTIES memories of  a resort  long popular with  holidaymakers are revived in this title.

It was a decade of exuberance and increasingly liberal attitudes – and also of  social upheaval, notably when Mods and Rockers frightened holidaymakers by doing battle  on the beach and trashing foreshore fixtures.

The period  was largely defined by its pop music, and the town hosted visits from the likes of such beat groups as Amen Corner and The Small Faces – though never the big acts such as The Rolling Stones or The Who.

Ringo Starr was on an engagement at Butlin’s as a drummer with the band, Rory Storm and The Hurricanes, when he got the call to jump ship and join The Beatles.

Skegness also produced its own chart-topping act in the form of The Marbles - a duo who had a bumper success with a song called Only One Woman. One of the twosome, Trevor Gordon, was related to the Gibbs brothers who were better known as the Bee Gees.

Among politicians who visited Skegness were Enoch Powell, Barbara Castle, George Brown, Harold Wilson and Sir Alec Douglas-Home.

On the movie front, the James Bond films, starring Sean Connery, were popular as was The Sound of Music, with some enthusiasts returning to see it again and again.

But as the decade drew on, there were increasing worries on the future of seaside tourism, with more and more people choosing to take their holidays at cheap Mediterranean destinations.

EVERY English schoolchild is taught that King John lost his treasure while crossing The Wash.

But where is the treasure now? What did it consist of? What is its value? Why has it never been rediscovered?

These questions are explored in the publication. 

It runs the rule over many of the bizarre theories that have been born of the fateful incident on an October's day almost 800 years ago - including one that the treasure might be buried in a back garden somewhere in Grimsby.

Even more fanciful is the belief held by some that the booty was discovered during construction by Enron of the power station at Sutton Bridge, then smuggled out of the country to the United States.

Back in the 1930s, an American-financed team sought - with the co-operation of landowners - to discover what happened, but the mission collapsed when funds ran dry.

Also  examined is the character of John - for instance, his love of hunting, especially falconry, and his promiscuity.

His second wife is thought to have been only 12 when he married her.

The strange circumstances surrounding the death of King John are also explored - for instance. whether he might have been poisoned by monks when he stayed at an abbey in Swineshead, near Boston.

ALTHOUGH it seldom  attracts the same depth  of  rarities as, say, Spurn Point,  unusual species often turn up on or near the Lincolnshire Coast – especially at Gibraltar Point, near Skegness, and at Frampton Marsh, near Boston.

Star species of  the past 15 years have included Sardinian Warbler on Skegness foreshore and numerous rarities at Gibraltar Point, four miles to the south  of the resort, plus a snowy owl at Wainfleet St Mary.
Another  was an American robin that spent three months on a Grimsby industrial estate before falling victim, as it was being watched by birders, to a passing sparrowhawk.

As the title indicates, this publication also looks at some of the birding hotspots in this part of Lincolnshire and at trends (some of them disturbing) that may be affecting avian populations.

Contains more than 20 colour illustrations.

MILLIONS of people  have spent happy holidays at Butlin's - including the one at Skegness which was the first.

This publication  traces the twists and turns of  its founder's remarkable career.

Since his death in 1980, Butlin's  reputation has fallen into neglect. There is now a tendency to sneer at his legacy.

But he was one of the most remarkable entrepreneurs of the last century. Even today, Butlin's remains probably the best-known brand in British holidays.

The booklet follows the course of his life - including  the cruel bullying he endured as a schoolboy. Because his mother was too poor to buy him shoes, fellow pupils took delight in stamping on his feet.

Later, he survived the horrors of trench warfare in the 1914-18 war, then went on to build a vast leisure empire, starting out with a humble hoopla stall on a travelling country fair, before retiring to Jersey.



OVER the years many thousands of people, residents and holidaymakers alike, have attended one of the highlights of the Skegness summer season – the celebrity switch-on of the foreshore illuminations.

This fascinating publication charts the first half-century of the switch-on celebrations.

It is a ceremony which was launched in 1953 - partly to mark the Coronation and partly to emulate Blackpool which already had a similar event. 

But it was sometimes marred by controversy – for instance when celebrities (such as Stratford Johns of Z Cars and Paul Shane of Hi-de-Hi) used language deemed unsuitable for a family audience.

Among those twice asked to perform the honours was holiday camp king Billy Butlin who said: “I have a great feeling and affection for Skegness – it has been a very lucky place for me.”

The biggest draw (1962) was 37-year-old Pat Phoenix (Elsie Tanner in Coronation Street) who is reckoned to have attracted some 50,000 people.

Plans for her to arrive in a horse-drawn landau had to be scrapped for fear the creature would be frightened by so many people. Instead she was driven in a police car.

On stage, she brought  roars of laughter as she uttered her famous phrase: “Give over muckin’ about, will yer!”

Among the most controversial celebrities was Jimmy Savile (1965) because many hoteliers feared he would “lower the tone” of the event and possibly attract gangs from two rival youth cults, the Mods and Rockers.

But his visit – he stayed at The Vine Hotel in the resort –  proved to be a great success.

Other celebrities to have done the honours include:

  • Gilbert Harding
  • Bob Monkhouse
  • Arthur English
  • Stratford Johns
  • Leslie Crowther
  • Miss World
  • Norman Vaughan
  • Fred Trueman
  • David Nixon
  • Lenny the Lion
  • Bobby Bennett
  • Ray Clemence
  • Ann George
  • Bill Maynard
  • Pete Murray
  • Henry Cooper
  • Big Daddy
  • David Hamilton
  • Tony Blackburn
  • Derek Batey
  • Bobby Charlton
  • Rod Hull
  • The Krankies
  • Wendy Richard
  • Lynne Perrie
  • Stu Francis
  • The Roly Polys
  • Bernie Clifton
  • Paul Shane
  • Mr Blobby
  • Panther
  • Barry McGuigan
  • Chuckle Brothers
  • William Roache
  • Kirsten O’ Brien
  • Norman Wisdom
  • Patrick Mower
  • Wendi Peters

* Skegness - Lincolnshire's Famous Seaside Resort
* Skegness At War
* Skegness in The Fifties: 1952 - Dawn of a New Elizabethan Age 
* Skegness in The Fifties: 1953 - Year of The Coronation
* Skegness in The Swinging Sixties
* Sucked Down by The Whirlpool - The Quest For King John's Lost Treasure
* A Birdwatching Guide to The Lincolnshire Coast
* The Amazing Life of Billy Butlin
* 50 Years of Skegness Stars

All titles are available at £1.75 each (post free). Please send a cheque/ postal order (payable to James Wright) to:

James Wright
33 Parker Street
North East Lincolnshire 
DN35 8TH
Tel: 01472 603861

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