Collection: Pontins Hemsby Holiday Camp (Maddiesons)

The little 9-acre Hemsby Holiday Camp was opened back in 1920 by Hector Potter. It was the first camp in the country to have permanent structures as opposed to tents and is widely regarded as the first proper holiday camp in the country.

hemsby holiday camp

In 1924 Potter sold the camp to Harry Maddieson for £8,000 and later went on to establish the Potters Camp in Hopton which still continues to thrive today. Over the next 46 years the Maddieson family continued to operate and improve the camp until selling to Fred Pontin in 1970.

map of pontins hemsby holiday camp

Pontin immediately acquired more land to the south, increasing the size to 22 acres, and soon converted the site into one of his huge new self-catering mega-camps. All the old chalets were swept away and replaced with new apartments arranged mostly in two-storey blocks. Unfortunately the camp lost a lot if its old charm and many thought the new complex looked more like a housing estate. The old outdoor Maddiesons pool was  enclosed inside a new building.

The newly rebuilt camp opened in July 1971 but construction wasn't quite finished which resulted in a few complaints with some customers walking out or demanding refunds. Once the initial troubles were ironed out it settled down to a successful existence. 

pontins hemsby holiday camp

Each of the 512 apartments had a kitchen, bathroom, lounge and one or two bedrooms. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s an apartment in August would consistently rent for the equivalent of around £500-£600 per week in today's money. 

Electricity and heating was supplied via a coin meter, along with coin-operated TVs. The showers had a button that had to be pressed every few seconds to keep the water flowing, a feature that remained on most apartments until the very end. The apartment meters also remained but were later converted to accept prepaid cards.

Facilities included a large indoor swimming pool, boating lake, huge ballroom, several bars, outdoor playground, a kids nursery with resident nanny, games room, launderette, hairdressers and a first aid surgery with registered nurse.

pontins hemsby holiday camp

By the 1990s, and in response to the declining holiday camp industry, Pontins cut back on investment and seemed more interested in selling off the assets. 12 camps were sold or closed that decade. Hemsby was retained but started suffering from a lack of investment and began looking very rundown. Instead of fixing the issues the company simply went after the budget end of the market with all kinds of deals and special discounts. 

pontins deals and discounts

In January 2009 it was announced that the camp would be closing with immediate effect. The site sat abandoned and derelict for the next 11 years while various applications to cover the site with housing were rejected. In 2018 a huge fire destroyed the main entertainment building which dated from the 1960s Maddiesons era.

In 2020 the site was sold and plans were announced to keep most of the chalets but convert them into 279 private apartments. Work soon began on stripping out the interiors down to the brick, knocking down internal walls and adding pitched roofs. The end results were highly impressive. The first family moved in during October 2023.

old site of Pontins Hemsby

Photo (above) Eastern Daily Press