This page gives a brief outline of how Caister Holiday Park became one of the biggest and most exciting holiday centres in the UK. From its humble beginnings in 1906 on the east coast of Norfolk to the ownership today by Bourne Leisure trading as Haven Holidays. Caister Holiday Park no longer offers tents as holiday accommodation. Instead, an impressive choice of all grades of static caravans on a self-catering basis are available from Haven and by private caravan rental from their owners.
Caister Holiday Park first opened in 1906 and is the oldest holiday centre in the UK. It was set up by John Fletcher Dodd, a former grocer and a founder member of the Independent Labour Party, as a socialist holiday camp to offer cheap holidays and breaks to the working people of East London. They came because of the easy direct access to the wide sandy beaches and the close proximity to the large seaside town of Great Yarmouth and all its attractions. But they had to put up with some very strict rules such as no alcohol on site, no gambling after 11pm and no children under 2 years old. The camp was then called Dodd's Socialist Holiday Camp.
The first accommodation at Caister was in a few tents but as the holiday camp became more and more popular the number of tents increased and, after the First World War, they were soon replaced with chalets. During the 1930s the holiday camp built the largest dance hall for miles around - it was big enough to accommodate 600 couples on the dance floor! A new dining hall was also built that could seat 500 people. When the Second World War came the entire camp was taken over by the military and used as a training centre by the army and to house Italian and other prisoners of war. When the war was over it was time to improve and modernise the camp and offer holidays to all families regardless of background. The 1950s saw an important change and various petty rules and customs were abolished. Caister camp was now starting to become a real family holiday camp with upgraded accommodation and a choice of bars and entertainment. Soon, the ever-popular shops, bingo halls and sports facilities started appearing. So many people were now wanting to experience a seaside holiday at Caister that the former Midland and Great Northern Railway laid on a special summer Saturday express train from Liverpool Steet called the Down Holiday Camps Express. This ran from London to Caister-on-Sea via Cambridge, Ely, Norwich and Wroxham until the line and station closed in 1959. The railway station was originally called Caister Camp Halt.
Caister Camp Halt Railway Station (Photo: Public Domain)
The 1970s was another time of great changes when the camp came under the ownership of Ladbrokes and more was done to improve the comfort of the accommodation and the quality of the meals. More thought was also given to entertainment, facilities and activities for children such as playgrounds and amusement arcades. This was the key to the continued increasing popularity and paved the way to greater success. In 1987 Ladbrokes sold Caister Holiday Park to Mecca, which was eventually bought up by the Rank Organisation.
Today, the self-catering Caister Holiday Park is owned by Bourne Leisure and is a vast, modern, busy holiday centre catering for all ages with comfortable static caravan accommodation, excellent bars and restaurants, and some of the best family holiday entertainment, facilities and amenities in the UK. The staff are friendly and helpful, and the well-kept holiday park is clean, tidy and cleverly laid out. Just as all those years ago, the direct access to the wide sandy beach is greatly appreciated by all.