IAN HART: Could things have been so much different if Butlin’s had come to Worthing?

Ian Hart
Ian Hart

To celebrate a friend’s landmark 50th birthday last weekend, I spent three very enjoyable days at the Butlin’s Bognor Regis 1980s weekender.

With the likes of ABC, Soul II Soul, Aswad and Doctor and The Medics providing the entertainment, backed up by a plethora of tribute acts, a great time was had by all.

Although greeted with a fair degree of cynicism by some people – mainly people who have never been – you can’t really go wrong with Butlins. Butlins first came to Bognor in 1932, when Sir Billy Butlin opened an amusement park on the Esplanade, which later incorporated a zoo.

He embarked on the idea of holiday camp and bought a further 39 acres in the late 1950s, and that is where a potential local urban myth surfaces.

Over the years I have been told by more than one reliable source that Billy Butlin was prepared to leave Bognor and open his new camp further down the coast in Worthing.

I’m told he went as far as approaching the then council in order to buy large parts of land in Goring.

Apparently, he receives short shrift and went back to Bognor council. And, as they say, the rest is history.

I’ve often thought about what might have been.

Butlin’s in Goring would have certainly changed parts of the demographic of the town. It certainly would have helped the local economy, none more so than in the job market. So did Worthing miss the boat all those years ago?

That, in itself, would be an interesting debate.