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24 September 2014
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Early days at Caister Camp
Early days at Caister Camp

Inside Out: 100 years of holiday fun

The golden age of the British holiday camp started in Norfolk in 1906 when the first camp opened in Caister-on-Sea, near Great Yarmouth. Inside Out takes a look back at the country's oldest holiday centre during its centenary year.

Inside Out takes Roy Hudd back to his comedy roots with a trip to Caister-on-Sea, the first holiday camp in England.
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Packing our bags and heading off for a couple of weeks at the seaside is something most of us do each year and take for granted. But 100 years ago it was a very different story.

There were no package tours to the Costa del Sol or Benidorm, no bargain airlines or last minute online deals - a day trip to Clacton was about as good as it got.

But all that changed when John Fletcher Dodd took a trip to Caister-on-Sea, near Great Yarmouth.

He fell in love with the place, bought a house and pitched a few tents in the garden. The world's first holiday camp was born.

John Fletcher Dodd

John Fletcher Dodd, a former grocer, was a founder member of the Independent Labour Party. The first guests to his holiday camp were socialist friends from London.

The camp quickly became a big hit and attracted leading lights from the Labour Party including George Bernard Shaw, Kier Hardy and Herbert Morrison. They even held the odd cabinet meeting there.

Margaret Perry
Margaret Perry

"Fletcher Dodd was a teetotaller and a pillar of the community," said his granddaughter Margaret Perry.

"He was very strict about what campers could and couldn't do.

"If you didn't obey his rules them you were out. There was a ban on alcohol, also no gambling, improper language or noise after 11pm.

"Families were invited, but no children under two were allowed," she added.

Booming business

Throughout the 1920s and 1930s the camp continued to grow. A dining hall was built which could accommodate 500 people.

In 1924 it cost 21 shillings for a week's stay at Caister camp - an equivalent to £1.05 in today's money.

With the onset of the Second World War, the camp closed to holiday-makers. In their place came the army who used Caister as a training and transit depot.

But once the war was over, the camp got back to business.

By the late 1950s up to 1,000 people a week would come to Caister camp for their holiday.

Memories of Caister holidays

John Fletcher Dodd
John Fletcher Dodd

Bernie Bannister and his family have been coming to Caister for their holiday for 40 years.

Despite the attractions of going abroad, Bernie wouldn't dream of going anywhere else. There are too many fond memories of years spent on the Norfolk coast.

"We used to come down on the train, meet up with friends and come into the camp," he said.

"We used to go into the competitions, the camp was split up in different zones and we all belonged to a different one as we came in.

"There was fancy dress, Miss Caister, there was a knobbly knees competition - we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves," he added.

Camping turns to chalets

As the years went by the camp expanded. Canvas was replaced by chalets. It also stopped being a socialist holiday camp - anybody could come and stay.

It soon became a regular holiday centre and eventually passed from the Dodd's family into the hands of a major holiday company.

Throughout the '60s and '70s many leading entertainers performed at the camp, including Des O'Connor, Ronnie Corbett and Roy Hudd.

Roy was a regular during the summer season and performed at Caister over many years.

Inside Out, featuring 100 years of the holiday camp, is screened on Monday, 18 September, 2006 at 1930 BST on BBC One in the East or nationwide for satellite viewers on D-Sat 951.

The programme also includes Kim Wilde on a big cat hunt to investigate if sightings of cats in the wild are fact or fiction and the fresh light surrounding the curious circumstances of the death of 1960s pop icon Steve Marriott who died in a fire at his Essex home.

last updated: 19/09/06
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