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The Beach, Skegness - - 815642.jpg
Skegness Beach
Grid reference: TF5663
Location: 53°8’24"N, 0°20’24"E
Population: 18,910  (2001)
Post town: Skegness
Postcode: PE24, PE25
Dialling code: 01754
Local Government
Council: East Lindsey
Boston and Skegness

Skegness is a seaside town in Lincolnshire, in Lindsey. The town stands on the North Sea coast, 43 miles east of the city of Lincoln.

The first Butlins holiday resort was opened in Skegness in 1936. Partially owing to this, the resort is one of the better known seaside resorts in the United Kingdom.

Longshore drift carries particles of sediment southwards along the Lincolnshire coast but at Skegness, the sand settles out in banks (tombolos) which run at a slight angle to the coast forming the beard. The slightly elevated dune land sheltered the small natural harbour which the Danes found behind the banks. The finer sediment drifts on to find a home in the mud of The Wash, beyond Gibraltar Point.

Skegness enjoys its position on what is officially recognised as 'the drier side of Britain', being the east coast[1] - a fact that has often been used to some advantage in promoting it as a holiday resort.


Early history

The name would appear to indicate that Skegness has its origin in the Danish period of settlement of England although there is no reference to a village named Skegness in the Domesday Book. Local historians say that the town took its name from an otherwise unknown man named Skeggi (meaning 'bearded one'), who may have established the original settlement to the east of the current town, which was washed away by the sea in the early sixteenth century. However, it is more likely to have derived from words which appear in modern Danish as skæg, beard and næs, nose or in geographical terms, headland, comparable perhaps to the Skaw ("Skagen") which is the tip of Jutland.

In August 1642, a consignment of arms and money, probably raised by Queen Henrietta Maria, in the Netherlands for the support of King Charles I's campaign in the Civil War, was forced into Skegness by the ships of the Parliamentarian Earl of Warwick.[2]


Jolly Fisherman at the railway station

Skegness was primarily a fishing village and small port[3] until the arrival of the railway in 1875. In 1908, Great Northern Railways commissioned a poster to advertise excursions to the resort, the first being from King's Cross, London on Good Friday 1908, leaving London at 11.30 am.[4] The 'Skegness is so Bracing' poster featuring The Jolly Fisherman helped to put Skegness on the map and is now world famous. The poster, derived from an oil painting by John Hassall, was purchased by the railway company for the 12 guineas.[4] Paradoxically, Mr Hassall did not visit the resort until 1936. He is said to have died penniless.

Resort town and Butlins

Butlins 1938 badge

Most of the land in what is now the downtown core formed part of the estate of the Earl of Scarbrough and he, together with his agent H.V.Tippet,[5] realised that the extensive sandy beach could be made attractive to holidaymakers from the industrial towns of the English Midlands, a clientele already developed by Thomas Cook. He planned the town as a resort from 1877 and it expanded rapidly, but along with many other UK resorts, especially those on the cold North Sea, it lost out to the cheap package holiday boom which opened up Spain (in particular) to the average holidaymaker after Second World War currency restrictions were lifted and travellers could leave Britain with more than 50 pounds.

Ingoldmells, the parish to the north of Skegness, was the site of the United Kingdom's first Holiday Camp, started by Billy Butlin in 1936. Butlins is still there today, in modern dress, at the north end of the town, on the road to Ingoldmells. It maintains its appeal as a popular destination for family holidays, and attracts thousands to the resort in the low season with music weekends encompassing 60s, 80s, soul and other genres.

Present day

St Matthew's church

In March 2005, Skegness took the top spot in a survey by "Yours magazine", looking at the best retirement places in the UK. Yours researchers visited sixty likely towns, and factors involved in judging included house prices, hospital waiting lists, the crime rate, council tax rates, activities and attractions, weather patterns and ease of transport.[6] It has also been described by Lonely Planet's Great Britain guide as "everything you could want" in a seaside resort. On 22 July 2008 the newly elected Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, caused controversy in an article in the Daily Telegraph where he declared "Stuff Skegness, my trunks and I are off to the sun" in his desire to have a foreign holiday this year.

Tourist industry

Skegness Pier entrance

The town is popularly known as Skeg, Skeggy, Costa del Skeg or Skegvegas or "the Blackpool of the East Coast", and has a famous mascot, the Jolly Fisherman (designed by John Hassall in 1908 for the Great Northern Railway), and a slogan - "Skegness is so bracing" - a reference to the chilly prevailing north-easterly winds that can and frequently do blow off the North Sea.[7]

Further up the coast are the other holiday resorts of Mablethorpe, Sutton-on-Sea, Ingoldmells and Chapel St Leonards.

Many of the hotels, guest-houses, self-catering apartments and bed & breakfast establishments in and around the Skegness area are members of the "Skegness East Coast and Wolds Hospitality Association" or SECWHA for short. An association formed in April 2008 after the merging of two previous associations known as "The Skegness Hoteliers Association", consisting of Hotel, bed and breakfast and guest house accommodation providers and the "Skegness Self Catering Association", consisting of holiday flats, chalet and caravan parks.

However, Skegness, like many British resorts, has suffered in recent years due to the increase in cheap foreign package holidays over staying at home. Its past two summer seasons have been marred by rain, and in the 18 months leading up to the end of 2008, the resort had suffered the destruction by fire of three of its most popular attractions - The Dunes pub at Winthorpe, the Parade Complex which housed a nightclub, bar and amusement arcade, and most recently a seafront building housing two bars and a fish-and-chip shop.

Sights of the town

Clock tower

The Clock Tower

At the end of Lumley Road is the town's prominent clock tower, its most well-recognised landmark, built in 1898-99 and funded through public subscription. The clock tower became the subject of a hoax in the Skegness Standard on 1 April 2009, when the newspaper claimed that it was about to be dismantled and moved to a museum.[8]


Beyond the clock tower, Tower Esplanade leads to the beach, with a statue of the Jolly Fisherman in the Compass Gardens to one side and the entrance to the once-popular boating lake on the other. The name Lumley comes from the surname of the Earl of Scarbrough's family. St Matthew's church[9] of Early English Gothic style is on Lumley Avenue, being built by the Earl of Scarbrough in 1879, and [St Clement's] is on Church Road North. Tower Gardens, previously known as the Pleasure Gardens, opened in 1878 after being generously donated by the Earl of Scarbrough.[10] The gardens have events during the summer.[11]


View from the pier

Skegness had a 1,843 foot long pier which was opened on Whit Monday 1881, at that time it was one of the longest in Britain. Steamboat trips ran from the pier to The Wash and Hunstanton in Norfolk from 1882 until 1910. In 1919, it was damaged by a drifting ship, the schooner Europa, and it took twenty years to raise the money to fully repair it. In 1978 the pier was badly damaged and considerably shortened; this time by severe gales.[12] The pier has since undergone major refurbishment and is now once again a thriving tourist attraction, although it no longer extends far seaward of the high tide line.


The RNLI has a station in Skegness. It is manned by a crew who are all volunteers except for the coxswain, and equipped with two lifeboats - the all-weather Lincolnshire Poacher and a smaller dinghy-style inshore boat. The town has a long and rich lifeboat history. The Coastguard have a base on the town's industrial estate.

Two miles out to sea is an offshore drilling platform for gas, and clearly visible from the beach - and indeed several miles further inland - is the large Lynn and Inner Dowsing Wind Farm operated by Centrica. A larger windfarm further out to sea had been proposed.


The main strip of road along the beach is a kaleidoscope of neon and flashing lights advertising arcade machines, slot machines, fairground rides, crazy golf, fish-and-chip shops and various bars. The Embassy Theatre is the East Coast's Premier Entertainment venue on Grand Parade, Skegness.

On 16 August 2007, a huge fire hit an entertainment complex on the Skegness front, wiping out the town's main nightclub and a large amusement arcade. No-one was injured but the severity of the fire meant that the complex had to be demolished.[13] There are now plans to build a hotel on the site.

In the latter part of 2008, another fire broke out at a building a little further along the seafront. This time, pubs and a fish-and-chip shop were gutted.

Skegness has an annual carnival in August, along with a week-long programme of events throughout the town. The council used to operate the carnival procession, but they handed over control of the event to a group of volunteers who now run it on a smaller scale.

Skegness is also host to the annual SO Festival, July's largest music and arts festival, which it now combines with the switch-on of the seafront illuminations.

Places of interest

Donkey rides on the beach


The long and wide sandy beach features a fine herd of donkeys for riding, and has several times won the Blue Flag beach award for cleanliness, though it failed the test in 2008.[14]

The shape of the beach itself has changed considerably in the last decade. In the mid-1990s an extensive programme of enhancement to the sea defences was carried out, with the installation of rock armour along the length of Lagoon Walk. This provided a very effective barrier against the sea's tremendous power, but consequently the highest tides were forced southwards. The Environment Agency predicted that the sea would destroy Skegness Boating Club's boat compound and possibly wipe out a grassed picnic area just behind it. As the tides shifted, the boat compound was indeed flattened by the sea. Sand dunes were washed away and significant new creeks were carved into the beach, but so far the picnic area remains intact.[15] The boating club now has a new compound just off the Princes Parade car park.

Fairy Dell

The Fairy Dell

On the southern foreshore sits a popular family attraction, the Fairy Dell paddling pool. Closed by the district council because of health and safety fears in 2004, the pool soon became the centre of controversy as people from Skegness, elsewhere in the country and as far afield as Australia voiced their dismay at the loss of such a time-honoured free facility.[16] Taxpayers and town councillors joined forces with the local press to campaign for the Fairy Dell to be reopened, and the district council gave way to public pressure and promised to have it back in operation by summer 2006.

On 22 May 2006 the Fairy Dell re-opened following a major refurbishment during which many improvements were made to the pool such as clean-filtered water and extra water features.[17]


Boating lake
  • To the south of the town is Gibraltar Point National Nature Reserve, on the northern limit of The Wash.
  • Church Farm Museum is a museum of agricultural life covering the 17th to 20th Centuries.
  • The town is also a major centre for bowls.
  • Annual world's premier Meccano exhibition is staged in the Embassy Theatre, on the Grand Parade by the seafront.
  • Botton's Pleasure Beach, featuring roller coasters, mini Carousel|merry-go-round (the Gallopers), dodgems and many traditional and modern rides[18] as well as its spectacular annual end-of-season firework display.
  • Seals, crocodiles, penguins, tarantulas, tropical birds and butterflies and many other animals at Natureland Seal Sanctuary.


Skegness Stadium, just outside the town, hosts stock car racing throughout the year, with special events such as truck racing, stunt shows, firework displays and caravan racing. Speedway racing was staged at the stadium in 1997.[19] The Skegness Braves failed in both of their attempts to operate there for a full season.

Skegness is home to Skegness Town A.F.C. and also has a rugby club, Skegness RUFC, and is home to Skegness Cricket Club.


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