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Butlins and The Bay Filey

You may not know, but The Bay Filey is built upon part of The original Butlins Holiday Camp in Filey – which boasted its own train station, beach access (the same as the Bay Fileys today) and even an elephant (which is buried on the Meadows). 

The original Butlins camp was started to be built before the war was declared in 1939. During the war, the Butlins site (and hence the Bay) was RAF Hunmanby Moor becoming Butlins after the war in about 1945 in a partial sense. 

In the years that followed, it was clear that Filey Camp was Billy Butlin’s pride and joy and all his new ideas he poured into Filey first, this was to be the “king” amongst holiday camps, the jewel in his crown. It was also the biggest, extending to some 400 acres and eventually accommodating nearly 11,000 campers. Billy Butlin liked it so much he had a beautiful art deco house built on the beach – which you can see as “the white house” which is on the left hand side as you walk from the bay (on the beach) into Filey itself. 

The Butlins Camp circa 1960
Bultins House

The site was close to the main railway line to Scarborough, so a short branch line was built and a new station opened in 1947. The station was on the opposite side of the main road so a short subway tunnel was dug to connect it with the camp. A road-train would meet the campers and carry them through the tunnel to the reception building. In the early days around half of the camp visitors used to arrive this way but dwindling figures finally closed the station at the end of the 1977 season. You can see the remains of the station on google maps but also if you walk out of the Bay and turn right – across the road you can just make out the two platforms. 

Aerial View of the Camp with Platforms in the foreground

The Butlins railway was added in 1953 and ran on a circular route around and across the boating lake (you can just make out the outline in Primrose Valley) at the front of the camp – it once apparently ended up in the lake itself! The chairlifts appeared in 1961 and ran for some half-mile from the centre of the camp towards the headland at the beach. One of the camp pubs boasted “the longest bar in the world” and another, the Parliament Bar, was an exact replica of the bar at Westminster. Paul McCartney once stayed at Filey as part of a family holiday in August 1957 and reportedly made his first ever stage appearance here whilst participating in a talent contest with his brother.

Butlins Pool

A shock announcement was made in October 1983 – the camps at Filey and Clacton would be closed. Butlins said that bookings at Filey had been declining for several years and that the centre was no longer viable. The closure came as a shock even to the local management. Right up until the last minute chalets were being redecorated ready for the 1984 season. The news was a particularly hard blow for the surrounding area which relied heavily on the camp for it’s income. The local council was also hard hit, the camp had been paying around £344,000 a year in rates.

The Pool prior to demolition

After an attempt at a new camp – Amtree park, the site closed for good in 1986. An auction of the contents was held in April 1988 and the site was sold again the following month, this time to Birmingham Estates who had hoped to turn it into a residential site complete with golf course, nature reserve and leisure facilities. Demolition of the camp commenced in 1989 and was completed in 1991 with the new development to commence almost immediately. However in August 1991 Scarborough Borough Council refused planning permission and insisted that the site be cleared and grassed. Birmingham Estates eventually found itself part of the recession and went into liquidation in 1994. Although most of the buildings had been demolished, leaving behind an estimated 100,000 tons of rubble and debris, it was still possible to pick out some of the old camp features – the dry and overgrown boating lake, the outdoor pool and fountains, the indoor pool building, and a selection of chalets. The site became a favourite haunt for Butlin historians.

Most of the original Butlins site is now Primrose Valley caravan park – but to the south end of the Bultins camp the Bay does “overlap”. For example Seaford Avenue now was Kent Road (part of the main entrance) to the camp and the car park in Butlins era is now Trinity Way.

Map then and now – note the Bay to the right (under construction)

Sadly there is nothing left of this amazing history apart from Butlins House and the outline of the boating lake in Primrose Valley, but you can make out the original entrance on the Moor Road (just to the North of The Bay entrance) and of course the beach access in 1945-1986 is the same as it is now!

Why not book a holiday and relive part of this magic with Anchor Bay Holidays

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