AS we begin to plan this summer’s holidays it is a chance to remember the Essex coast is itself a popular summer destination.

And thousands will remember when Clacton was home to its very own Butlins.

Billy Butlin bought former amusement park West Clacton Estate in 1936 and set about refurbishing it and turning it into a holiday camp and after earning the support of the council, building work began and the camp opened in June 1938.

Soon after, with the outbreak of war, the camp and its counterparts across the country were requisitioned by the Government but rather than be used as a prisoner of War Camp, as originally feared, it became a training site for the Pioneer corps.

During its occupation, the camp suffered badly and incurred significant damage.

Substantial repairs had to be carried out to put the camp back into operation but it re-opened in 1946.

In 1972, the Butlin’s organisation was bought by the Rank Group and the Clacton site remainined open until the early 1980s.

It was the second of Butlin’s camps to be built and originally catered for around 1,000 holidaymakers, increasing to 1,500 just a year after it opened.

The camp had an amusement park and an outdoor pool which and during an expansion in 1955 the capacity for visitors shot up to 6,000.

it also had a miniature railway, which arrived in 1960 and ran on a route near its boating lake.

Ten years ago a series of events were held to mark the 70th anniversary of Butlins arriving in the town.

Nearly £88,000 was awarded to the project by the Heritage Lottery Trust and Creative Partnerships to fund the events.

Billy’s son Bobby told the Gazette at the time the camp had not turned a profit for the previous three years.

At the time it could accommodate 5,400 people but by the arrival of the Millennium it had been replaced by a coach park and Martello Bay Housing estate.

Redcoats from the former site unveiled a commemorative plaque three years ago as a lasting memory.