Visit date, June 22 2020.
Skegness is the first of many British seaside towns that I intend to visit over the next year or so. I have not taken a holiday in my home country for many years. Even though there are some beautiful coastal areas, I usually like to travel overseas to spend my vacation time. However, as we can not travel at the moment, I decided to rediscover my own country and the many incredible and interesting places that it has to offer.
I decided on British seaside towns as they remind me of my childhood, but they are also something that is distinctly British. Most of us Brits have had fish and chips and ice cream during a day out at the coast. For me, the seaside represents nostalgia, family, being young and carefree. If you have seaside memories, please leave them in the comments as I would love to hear them. Anyway, a little bit about Skegness.
The name Skegness comes from the old Norse words ‘skegg’ meaning beard and ‘nes’ meaning a headland or promontory. The area is one of the places where the Vikings landed in the 9th century. The town developed as a harbour, trading in timber and other merchandise.
By the 1850s the village still had less than 400 inhabitants. Most residents worked as fishermen or farm labourers as the surrounding Lincolnshire land was some of the richest grazing lands in the country (and still is).
In the 19th century, the local gentry used to take their families to Skegness to indulge in the fashionable practice of sea-bathing during the summer months, but it was not until the railway reached Skegness in 1873, that working-class leisure trippers started to visit the town in large numbers.
Most of the land around Skegness belonged to the Earl of Scarbrough. He envisaged that the seaside would become a popular leisure pursuit and so he employed an architect to plan a model Victorian ‘watering place’ as they were known back then. A park, pier, shopping street, church, gardens and tree-lined streets promenades were all built in the late 1870s.
In 1881, a new pier was opened by the Duke of Edinburgh. At the time, it was the fourth-longest in Britain. In 1919, the pier was damaged by the schooner Europa. It was repaired and survived until 1978 when another storm damaged a large part of it. The 1000 seat theatre survived but was burnt down in a fire in 1985. The modern pier was built in the 1990s, the deck was refurbished in the early 2000s, and further improvements were made in 2016–17.
In the 1920s and ’30s, Skegness was popular with caravan camps, but after the war, they expanded on a huge scale to make making the East Coast of England the most popular caravan coast in the country. In 1929, Billy Butlins opened a large amusement park by the pier and in 1935–6, he opened the Butlins Holiday Camp, boasting that it was the “largest hotel in the world”, containing around 20,000 beds.
Through the Edwardian years, Skegness continued to grow, attracting more and more visitors. In 1938, Parliament passed the Holidays with Pay Act. However, the implementation was delayed until the late 1940s due to the war. During the war years, Skegness suffered heavy bombing, it was also used to house the armed forces. In the late 1940s, the wartime damage was repaired and extra housing was constructed for the newly returned servicemen, and an industrial estate was built to attract year-round jobs.
In the 1950s, car ownership increased, which meant that visitors flocked to the coast under their own power instead of on the train. An improved road system was built to facilitate the increasing volume of motor vehicles.
There doesn’t seem to be much info regarding the 1960s onward, I presume it continued to develop as a seaside town. I do know that caravan ownership increased significantly in the area, If you visit today, you cannot miss the thousands of static caravans that are scattered across the landscape. I remember visiting Skegness in the 1980s as a child, usually for day trips as it was only a 2 or so hour drive from our home.
When I visited, in June of 2020, the UK was just emerging from the lockdown and many of the businesses were still closed. There were a few tourists about, nothing like the normal numbers that you would usually see in June. Hopefully, small seaside towns like Skegness can recover from the issued caused by Coronavirus, I believe many businesses are able to re-open with safety measures in place from the 4th of July 2020.
Thanks for reading. Please share your memories of Skegness in the comments.