Filey’s ‘Big Charlie’ features in book on the British seaside

Photo credit: Mary Evans Picture Library. This photo is from the author Lucinda Goslings personal collection.
Photo credit: Mary Evans Picture Library. This photo is from the author Lucinda Goslings personal collection.

This amazing photograph of an elephant strolling among the crowds at Butlins in Filey is just one of the nostalgic images to feature in a book on the British seaside.

Drawing on the archives of the Mary Evans Picture Library, ‘Images of the Past – The British Seaside’ is a nostalgic promenade through the history of Britain’s seaside resorts from their early genesis as health destinations to their glorious, mid-20th century heyday, subsequent decline and recent regeneration.

This photo was taken at Butlins, Filey and shows ‘Big Charlie’, who was moved from Ayr, Scotland, to Filey in the late 1950s.

Billy Butlin put an advert in The Times offering £1,000 in cash for the safe delivery of Big Charlie from Ayr to Filey.

The advertisement caused a media storm and Big Charlie became an overnight celebrity.

He was described by Butlin’s publicity as “the largest elephant in captivity”.

The book features many nostalgic images and takes a look at how British coastal resorts developed during a period of vast expansion and social change.

‘The British Seaside’ reveals the seaside’s traditions, rich heritage and unique character in all its sandy, sunny, glory.


It is published by Pen and Sword Books.