Pontins Middleton Tower Holiday Camp - History

Located near Heysham, about 5 miles south of Morecambe, this 65 acre full-board camp was opened in June 1939 by Harry Kamiya, a Blackpool-based amusement concessionaire. He is credited as being the first person to use the term 'Ghost Train' to describe a scary dark ride. The camp was officially opened by Lady Bridget Poulett who cut a 200 pound cake made in the style of the old 17th-century Towers. At opening there were 600 chalets with a price of £3 per person, per week.

The camp contained numerous relics from two old ocean liners and a team of workers spent weeks stripping out the parts in Jarrow and transporting everything back to Heysham. 

The ballroom and palm Lounge from RMS Leviathan were faithfully rebuilt inside a new building "right to the last wall panel and wall light". In another large building, which also contained a 2,000 seat theatre, the dining room and smoking room from RMS Berengaria were reconstructed. This included four 15ft x 12ft paintings. The exterior of this building was even built to resemble an ocean liner, complete with portholes, funnel and exterior "decks". Smaller relics were scattered throughout the camp including in each individual chalet. 

Map of Middleton Towers Holiday Camp

The whole site was requisitioned for wartime use just 6 weeks after opening, but it reopened again in June 1946. John Lennon's dad spent the 1950 season working here as a dishwasher. Harry Kamiya died in 1951 and operation of the camp was taken over by his wife and daughter.

The camp had a string of bad luck when it came to fires and in 1948 the Berengaria building burned down, taking with it all those priceless ship relics. In was rebuilt the following year and was reopened by the Bishop of Lancaster. But in 1955 it burned yet again. And was rebuilt yet again. In 1959 it was the turn of the Leviathan Ballroom to burn, taking with it the last of the ocean liner relics. It too was rebuilt, in just 143 days, and was reopened by comedian Al Read. 

In 1960 the 14th annual Middleton Beauty Contest was held in the Berengaria with George Formby and Bill Grundy as judges. At the end of that season the camp was sold to Pontins who soon started replacing all the old wooden chalets with 920 new brick apartments. A new dining hall was built, and the old outdoor pool was enclosed inside a new building. Work was complete by 1964 after a total investment of £300,000. It then became the largest camp in the Pontins empire. 

MIddleton Tower Holiday Camp

It was decided to retain the full board concept so all meals were included and were taken in the huge communal dining hall which could accommodate over 3000 people in a single sitting. Employing 140 people (with 30 more in the kitchen) it could serve a 4 course meal to every person in just 40 minutes. The kitchen had a huge rotary oven capable of cooking 400 chickens at once! 

Chalets were hotel-style which basically meant a bedroom, bathroom and not much else. Only deluxe chalets had TVs, and even that didn't happen until well into the 1980s.

In 1975 the Berengaria was transformed into a nightclub with tables and chairs replacing the old theatre-style seating, supposedly as a way to increase alcohol sales. The following year the venue hosted the Miss Great Britain finale which went out live on national TV.

From the 1980s onward the camp entered a period of decline with fewer bookings and cutbacks on repairs and maintenance. By the early 1990s it was looking pretty rundown, and closed for good at the end of the 1994 season. It was sold to a company who announced they would refurbish and reopen it, but it never happened. Shortly afterwards plans were announced to turn the site into a medium security prison, but this never happened either after objections from local residents.

Map of Middleton Tower Holiday Camp

The camp sat abandoned and derelict until 2005 when demolition began for a new retirement community, supposedly one of the largest of its type in the country. But the project collapsed after only about 50 homes had been built. After a long pause, permission was granted in 2023 to build another 50.

The only things remaining from the holiday camp era are the Grade II listed 17th Century farmhouse and adjoining barn. The farmhouse was previously used as a popular pub (Ye Olde Farm House) and the barn saw various uses including the 'Tudor Bar', a nightclub and staff bar. These buildings have since been converted into a restaurant and mini leisure complex, complete with indoor pool, dance studio, gym and a couple of holiday apartments. For the time being the old circular fish pond has also survived. 

Location of Middleton Tower Holiday Camp


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