Skegness is a seaside town and civil parish in the East Lindsey district of Lincolnshire, England. Located on the Lincolnshire coast of the North Sea, 43 miles (69 km) east of the city of Lincoln it has a total resident population of 18,910.
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.
The civil parish extends westwards along the A158 to the west side of the South View Hotel, and the boundary follows North Drain, bodering with Burgh le Marsh. Just north of Mill Hill, it borders with Addlethorpe, passing to the west of Ash Tree Farm, the airfield and Skegness Water Leisure Park. At the north end of the leisure park it borders with Ingoldmells, and the boundary follows to the south of Wall’s Lane. The boundary crosses the A52 at a subway across the road, just south of the Butlins camp.
To the south of the hotel on the A158, the parish follows Main Drain, to the west of Warth Lane. Just south of Ivy House, it crosses the A52 and borders Croft. The boundary follows Cow Bank Drain, over a level crossing, to the north of Croft Grange, then passes through Bramble Hills, just north of Seacroft Golf Course to the sea.
Skegness enjoys its position on what is officially recognised as ‘the drier side of Britain’, being the east coast – a fact that has often been used to some advantage in promoting it as a holiday resort.
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. The town’s name means either “Skeggi’s headland” or “beard-shaped headland”, depending on whether the first element represents the personal name Skeggi (meaning ‘bearded one’), one of the Vikings who established the original settlement to the east of the current town which was washed away by the sea in the early sixteenth century; or the Old East Norse word skegg “beard”.
Lying within the historic county boundaries of Lincolnshire from a very early time, for governance, the parish of Skegness was in the Marsh division of the ancient Candleshoe Wapentake in the Parts of Lindsey.
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.
Skegness was primarily a fishing village and small port until the arrival of the railway in 1875. In 1908, the Great Northern Railway 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. 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 12 guineas. Paradoxically, Mr Hassall did not visit the resort until 1936. He is said to have died penniless.
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, 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 World War II currency restrictions were lifted and travellers could leave the UK with more than 50 pounds.
Ingoldmells, the parish to the north of Skegness, was the site of the UK’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.
The Wash Incident took place in the early hours of 5 October 1996 when a strange red and green rotating light was seen by many Skegness residents and police officers to the southeast of Skegness, who then contacted the Coastguard at Great Yarmouth. It later involved many RAF stations, including RAF Neatishead, and GCHQ. The object was not an aircraft because although it could be seen on radar, it had no transponder. The Skegness News, a local newspaper which no longer exists, investigated the incident and sought confirmation of the object from the Jodrell Bank Observatory. In their report to the RAF, the observatory said that Venus, ‘the queen of UFOs’, which had been shining with exceptional brilliance in the early morning sky to the east, probably explained the light shown on the video. The object was caught on video by Skegness Police. The RAF decided the stationary ‘blip’ was a permanent echo of the 83m tall St Botolph’s Church, Boston, and the object on the video was the planet Venus. It coincided with the Westendorff UFO sighting.
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. 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 that year.
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. The slogan is thought to have come from an unknown member of staff of the railway. The poster was first seen at Easter in conjunction with an excursion from Kings Cross Station. The last of these trips ran in 1913.
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 UK 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.
At the end of Lumley Road is the town’s prominent clock tower, its most well-recognised landmark, built in 1898-99 to mark Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee back in 1897 and funded through public subscription and along side the towns “Jolly Fisherman” mascot is the most recognised symbol of Skegness although its official name is the Diamond Jubilee Clock Tower it is simply referred by locals and holiday makers as “The Clock Tower”. 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. It is also featured as a 3D rendering in Google Earth.
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 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. The gardens have events during the summer.
Skegness had a 1,843 foot (562 m) long pier which was opened on Whit Monday 1881 at a cost of £20,840 and was at the time the fourth longest in England and was originally a T-shaped pier with a saloon/concert hall at the Pier head. 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. During the Second World War the pier was closed and parts of the decking was removed as part of anti-invasion policies and didn’t reopen until 1948 following repairs costing £23,528. The north east corner of the pierhead suffered some damage during the 1953 East Coast Floods and the pier entrance was flooded but the main structure survived. In the early 1970s the famous pier entrance archway was demolished despite it being classed as Grade II listed building and at the same time the pierhead theatre was enlarged from a seating capacity of 700 to one thousand.
On Wednesday 11 January 1978 a northerly severe gale and storm surge which coincided with high spring tides brought disaster and Skegness Pier along with other piers at Margate, Herne Bay and most coincidentally Hunstanton was irretrievably damaged and only 380 feet of landward pier deck walkway from the main entrance was left with the eastern shelters and the pierhead totally cut off and isolated from the shoreline. It was one of the saddest events to hit Skegness and debris from the wrecked pier was left scattered for several miles around with souvenir hunters quickly coming into the area to see what they could find. For several years following the storm these two isolated structures remained as features on Skegness beach whilst plans to try to repair the pier and relink the structures were sought but this failed citing the costs as simply too high and in 1983 the eastern shelters were dismantled and demolished. By 1985 the decision was made to demolish the now derelict and isolated pierhead and theatre as the building was falling into a state of disrepair as the upper deck of the structure had been badly damaged following the 1978 storm although it had become a roosting heaven for hordes of starlings. It was considered a risk to small shipping and also to the public and special permission for its demolition was granted as it was a Grade II listed building as was the rest of the pier. It was originally planned to dismantle the pierhead in stages starting from October 1985 and just as work was getting underway the structure caught fire and two stranded workmen had to be rescued by the town’s lifeboat and after the fire burned itself out only the cast-iron stanchions were left and these were removed in January 1986 on one of the lowest tides of that year.
Today the pier is only a shadow of its former glory and is only 387 feet (118m) long and no evidence remains of the old pierhead and shelters but what remains of the landward pier deck walkway has since undergone major refurbishment and is now once again a thriving tourist attraction. Despite its much reduced length it can still be well seen as a major landmark along the beach as far as Gibraltar Point to the south and Ingoldmells to the north.
Well-known hotels include the “North Shore”, the Vine, Southview Park Hotel (west along the A158), the Crown, the County, the Links, and the Royal Renaissance Hotel, which was formerly known as the Seacroft.
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 (3 km) 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.
Lumley Road, High Street and Roman Bank are the main shopping areas, with plenty of fish and chip shops and pubs. There are large Lidl, Morrisons and Tesco supermarkets and a smaller Iceland store all located in the centre of the town near the railway station. There is also a Co-op store in the Hildreds shopping centre and Beales department store on Lumley Road.
On the main seafront road, Grand Parade, is The Embassy Theatre, fairground rides, amusement arcades, novelty outlets, a crazy golf course, fish-and-chip shops and other takeaways, and bars.
Skegness holds an annual carnival in August, which includes a week-long programme of events throughout the town. East Lindsey District Council previously operated the carnival procession but handed control of the event to a group of volunteers, who now run it on a smaller scale.
During the summer, since 2009, Skegness has held an annual music, art and cultural event, the SO Festival, which coincides with a switch-on of seafront illuminations.
On 16 August 2007 a fire at an entertainment and shopping complex on seafront destroyed a nightclub and an amusement arcade. Because of the severity of the fire, what remained of the complex had to be demolished. There are now plans to build a hotel on the site.In late-2008 a further fire at a building on the seafront destroyed public houses and a fish-and-chip shop.
The long and wide sandy beach features a herd of donkeys for riding, and has several times won the Blue Flag beach award for cleanliness. The Central beach has retained its blue flag status for 2011/2012. From 2007 the Quality Coast Award was introduced by Keep Britain tidy, an environmental charity focusing on raising the standards of beaches in England. This award is handed out in recognition of the achievements of beach managers and guarantees holiday makers that the beach is of the highest standards The Central beach has been given the coveted award. Quality Coast Award
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. The boating club now has a new compound just off the Princes Parade car park.
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. 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.
Natureland Seal Sanctuary provides visitors with entertainment, education and conservation. The sanctuary opened its doors in 1965 and attracts thousands of visitors each year. The sanctuary features seals, penguins, tropical and seawater aquariums and koi pond, a pets corner, tropical house and floral palace. Natureland works with abandoned baby seals which are often washed up on the beach and in need of medical care. Staff treat and rear the seals until they are well enough to be returned to the sea.
- 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 and opened in September 1989.
- Botton’s Pleasure Beach, featuring roller coasters, mini merry-go-round (the Gallopers), dodgems and many traditional and modern rides as well as its spectacular annual end-of-season firework display.
The A52 passes through the town from Boston to Mablethorpe. The A158 connects Lincoln to Skegness, and connects with the A16 to the north via the A1028. A 36-mile-long (58 km) Roman road passes between Lincoln and Skegness via Burgh le Marsh, initially following the A158, then to the north of the road, across the Lincolnshire Wolds.
The town’s railway and ‘bus stations are located next door to each other at the bottom of Richmond Drive in the town centre. Skegness railway station is the terminus for the Grantham to Skegness Line. Trains run the full length of this and the Nottingham to Grantham Line to give connections to the East Midlands. For the current amount of traffic, the station is bigger than necessary with four long platforms. Each platform can accommodate a full HST. The station decor has seen better days, and much heavier throughput since the main interconnecting line, the East Lincolnshire Railway, was dismantled from Firsby to Grimsby. Access from the north was discontinued from 1970. The station is currently having a major renovation programme costing £290,000
Nottingham, Grantham, Boston and Sleaford have direct connections, while popular places such as Leicester, Derby and Kettering require a change at Nottingham. The track from Boston to Skegness, although once part of a busy longer-distance line, is not suited to large heavy trains, therefore line speeds are generally restricted to a maximum of 30 mph (for locomotive-hauled trains).
In 2009, East Midlands Trains introduced a direct service from Nottingham to Skegness, operated using an HST. This service was extended in 2010 as far as Derby, which will hopefully be continued in 2011.
Fine beaches link the coastal towns, and there are many large caravan parks in the surrounding countryside. Skegness Water Leisure Park, a short distance to the north of the town, near Ingoldmells, has its own airfield, with two runways. Visiting pilots can call the airfield on 132.425 MHz, although PPR (Prior Permission Required) is stated for landing.
A number of years ago, pleasure flights used to operate from the original Skegness airfield which used to be located close to the current site of Butlins. Vintage Austers were taking off and landing several times an hour in summer as holidaymakers sampled the joys of flying. At the time the shortest runway was just under 400 yards, making it challenging for less experienced pilots. Many pilots from other airfields were sent to Skegness as part of their qualifying cross country, it was a vibrant general aviation airfield.
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. The Skegness Braves failed in both of their attempts to operate there for a full season.
The local authority is Skegness Town Council, which comprises five seats in each of four wards – St Clements, Scarbrough, Seacroft and Winthorpe – making 20 seats in total. The council has achieved Quality Status, which is an official mark of recognition that it conducts its affairs well in areas including official procedures, the qualification of its clerk and the effectiveness of its communications.