Here is our latest article from Vintage Life magazine, all about the Great British holiday!
As schools are finishing for the summer break, now is the time to get ready for your annual holiday. With so much opportunity for world travel nowadays, it’s hard to imagine life before package holidays and cheap flights. However, even though we now can explore far off lands, we are beginning to fall in love again with a simpler experience, similar to the holiday adventures which began back at the start of the 20th century.
Escaping the city
The Victorians were the first to enjoy camping holidays but it was between the 2 wars that it began to really take off. People craved a sense of healthy, outdoor living alongside a strong desire to escape the city. With the increase in pollution due to the manufacturing boom, urban families needed to escape to the countryside. Later, as car ownership increased and motorways opened up new possibilities, whole families and friends all travelled together to create a real home from home. Often camped alongside the British beaches, the main objective was to get as much air as possible. Playing on the sands, collecting shells, watching Punch and Judy and riding donkeys…children were out from dawn to dusk and their parents were happy that their offspring had unpolluted air inside them. Some families by now owned a caravan; a cramped affair with no electricity but parked alongside your neighbours it helped to add to the sense of community. Mother created a little haven with her usual china and linen, still keeping up her traditional look far from home. For some, this experience was enjoyed up to the late 70s with china swapped for more practical melamine, embroidered linen for a wind breaker and a tartan blanket.
An alternative experience was the Great British holiday camp. The first one opened in 1906 but it wasn’t until the 30s that the holiday camp experience really came into it’s own. Butlins was a key player, opening Skegness in 1936 which accommodated 2000 guests in purpose built chalets. It was handed over to the soldiers during the war with Butlins able to buy it back after victory. Ironically, one regimentation was swapped for another, with the red coated staff dictating when you woke and when lights were turned off. Because of this, many people rejected the camps especially the middle class who didnt want to spend their precious days off with just anybody. But for most, these holidays were fun with non stop entertainment even if it rained in the shape of Glamorous Granny and Knobbly Knees competitions. More importantly these holidays were safe, with the red
coats entertaining children all day and baby sitting all evening. For the adults (and some teenagers), this was the time to relax and take to the bar. These were often decorated with a Hawaiian theme adorned with pineapple ice buckets, hula girls and cocktails with parasols on the side.
Into the late 60s, the baby-boomers were now teenagers and wanted more excitement further a field. In 1950, Horizon introduced the first package holiday to Corsica but it took another 15 years for it to be affordable for most. Holiday makers flew for the first time to Spain to enjoy the sunshine and by all reports rather a lot of sangria! It was still quite regimented though with everyone sharing meals together in long rows. This was a real turning point for British homes as everyone brought back souvenirs to remember their good times. Suddenly Flamenco dancers, bull fighters and traditional costumed dolls adorned walls and shelves as well as again, the recreation of a cocktail bar.
Now the Hawaiian influence had gone, replaced with a more Spanish feel with macrame hanging baskets and carafes of wine. Before this, wine wasn’t generally drunk let alone
used as a table centre piece. How many of us can recall an empty bottle of Mateus Rose with a candle burning in it?
These holidays not only changed what we drank but also what we ate. Paella and later pasta became desirable forecasting the change in the way we cooked with a need for larger saucepans and fewer roasting trays and carving knives.
This holiday trend continued to grow through the 70s with holidays to most European destinations. The 80s saw the rise of skiing trips and package holidays to Florida. With city breaks, African safaris and cheaper long haul flights since the 90s we have been able to travel where we want as often as we can afford. Now however, having developed an understanding of the environmental
impact of cheap air travel we are re-discovering the simple delights of holidaying in our own country, exploring the beautiful coastlines and countryside. It seems we’ve come full circle back to our camping roots.