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Heysham Towers (Morecambe Bay) Holiday Camp

Heysham Tower, built in 1838-40 on the site of a former dwelling, was a gentleman’s residence for the Knowlys family for more than 30 years followed by the Bennetts and then the Cawthras. With the coming of the railway it was bought by the company in 1896 and became the Midland Hotel, Heysham.

Then in 1925 it became Heysham Towers (gaining an ‘s’ akin to Alton Towers or Fawlty Towers) Holiday Camp run by the new owners Mr & Mrs B S Holden.. It had distinct similarities with  a Butlin’s or Pontin’s Holiday Camp but was privately run.

This picture below of one batch of campers has been beautifully restored by Steve Smith PrintsAlive and reproduced with his permission. He tells us it has 1942 on the back of the original though that seems to conflict with the fairly well documented military use of the Tower in WW2 (War Ministry requisition) mainly as an Officer Cadet Training Unit (OCTU).  A close examination of the campers attire could give a clue to the period; a small number of the ladies are wearing ‘Cloche’ style hats which are usually associated with the 1920s and 30s and one young man has a flat cap also typical of those years.


There are in the region of 120 people in this photograph, akin to a very large family group at, say, at a wedding or other occasion.  At some points of the week‘s holiday like the one in the photograph they would all come together and the existence of a camp song  rather suggests this may have happened. This front page of the song (from the HHA archives) is covered with signatures but in the full page picture they have been ‘bleached’ out in order to show the other detail. A selection of the signatures is on the far right and at least one has the date of July 1939 on it. Campers have come from as far afield as Manchester, Wembley and Newcastle.

In WW 2 The Tower was used by the Army primarily as a training camp for officers. (OCTU)  See separate page  for details.

After the war the Tower soon reverted to a holiday camp  and expanded through the heydays of holiday camps the 1950s and 60s catering according to the records for up to 500 campers.


The 1950s and 60s were the heyday of holiday camps over the country and Heysham Towers expanded to cater for up to 500  campers accommodated in numerous extra chalets on the site. The land available restricted further expansion unlike the Middleton Towers Holiday Camp (Pontins) which was able to spread to cater for up to 3000 campers. This photograph shows a group of some of the entertainers at the Camp . Anyone who remember those days will  instantly recognize Archie Collis a local celebrity in the entertainment world (second from right in back row with open collar).   IHe also entertained there in pre-war days and in a  more recent interview  with The Visitor  he recalled how the army moved into the Tower in 1939.  He also organized shows for the army at the Tower nd the Americans who were later staged at Halton  Barracks.
Seated second from the left is Thora Hutchinson and to the left 
of Archie Collis  is James Layden who was prominent in the  Heysham Amateur Operatic and Dranatic Society (founded 1928).


To the left is a poster (mid1960s as the M6 not completed until then) from a Butlin’s website. Below it are two post cards of scenes in the camp, the second by Nostalgia. In this one you can see a less primitive type of chalet to the ones in the Butlin’s poster.The poster does refer to ‘new luxury chalets’.
For more pictures of the camp  by Glen F on Flickr click  here


Our correspondent Ken Mellor, recently sent us the 1950s postcard below


He further tells us that his late wife played the cinema organ at the Camp.
He writes:

She played the organ there for the season in 1962 and 1963, having previously completed 7 summers at the Morecambe Winter Gardens between 1955 and 1960 (including a small part in the film The Entertainer,staring Laurence Olivier). I thought t here may be some interest. Her name was Lois Sagar and it would be of interest to me should there be any memories amongst visitors to your very interesting website.


There are recordings available of Lois Sagar playing an organ at the Odeon Cinema in Sunderland

HeyTowersPC1960(Nostalgia) HeyTowersPCSiesta