A Potted History

The story of Potters Resorts and the Potter family

Having first opened our doors in 1920 and now, with over 100 years of delivering happiness and hospitality in the truest sense of the word, I am extremely proud of our family history and their dedication through good and bad times. As the first and now the last surviving of the original pioneering families in our industry, it is my very proud duty to set us on course in our next chapter of delivering happiness to our amazing guests.

John Potter - Managing Director Potters Resortsw

While this page is about our family’s history in the business, over the years we truly feel we have an extended family helping us along the way, that is, our friendly team, past and present, and the many generations of friends and families who have helped to make our journey possible.

I am extremely grateful for this support and I know I speak on behalf of all my family, past and present. Notes of this gratitude are clear to see in my great-grandfather Herbert’s beautifully written family chronicles, and having grown up at Potters, I have personally and repeatedly heard my grandparents and my parents Brian and Judy say the same. In fact, it was my dear late father Brian’s last words in hospital to echo the sentiment of how grateful he was in life for the amazing support of what he genuinely referred to as his extended family.

May I take this opportunity to thank you visiting our family history page and indeed for your interest in Potters Resorts. We hope we get the chance to welcome you, your friends and loved ones to enjoy ‘Quality Time Together’ with us, and in doing so, helping us all be part of our continued journey over the next 100 years of happy memories to be cherished.

Yours In Gratitude,
John Potter
4th Generation

Our Story

Herbert Potter was one of 18 children born in a small house that has since made way for the impressive Forum building in the centre of Norwich. They were all raised by their sick and bedridden mother who was widowed when Herbert was still a young boy. Herbert would later write of his childhood memories in our cherished family chronicles, how they lived off the coal-man taking pity on them in winter and other stories of hunger and suffering that we would find hard to imagine today.

Fortunately Herbert, unlike some of his brothers and sisters, survived. And as a young man he would cycle from Norwich to Great Yarmouth every year to spend his holidays in a tent at Caister Camp, established in 1908 as an all male socialist camp.

Herbert wrote how he loved the friendly camaraderie of camp life. Inspired by this friendliness he dreamed of the possibility of building the first ever ‘permanent’ holiday camp with central facilities, permanent wooden huts and for all the family to enjoy quality time together.

On July 19th 1913 Herbert was by then a poorly paid solicitor’s clerk in Norwich, when his boss summoned him to the office telephone. It was the Sunday Chronicle newspaper informing Herbert that he had won £500 in their national newspaper competition.

Herbert Potter Winning Certificate

The newspaper competitions of the day were often based on wordplay, this one requiring a 3 word answer to another word, ‘Resemblance’, Herbert’s winning answer was “Rarely, Mutually, Approved”!

He had a talent for wordplay that was rewarded on more than one occasion, but it was those three words that won him the ‘big one’. £500 in 1913 (according to the Office For National Statistics) had the same "purchasing power" as £21,671.77 in 2018.

Now his idea to build the UK’s first ever permanent holiday camp suddenly became a possibility, and would later ultimately spawn a whole new holidaying concept in the UK.

Herbert’s plans would be put on hold however for a number of years due to the First World War. He was one of the lucky ones to survive the trenches and the infamous Battle of Somme. Returning home safely he set about building the first permanent and mixed use holiday Camp with timber huts. The year was 1920 and he called it ‘Potters Camp’.

Funded entirely by his winnings, Herbert realised his dream; a dream that has grown to become a national institution. A certain Billy Butlin liked Herbert’s idea so much, he followed suit some 16 years later with his first huts at Skegness in 1936.

Herbert Potter Prize table

For over 100 years and through four generations, the Potter Family has built on those early pioneering dreams. While constantly challenging the norm in the UK holiday industry, they have consistently re-invented their short breaks and re-invested in their facilities to provide everything needed to enjoy a break away, welcoming and entertaining guests as if they were visiting a second home.

Standing now as the UK’s Only All-Inclusive Resorts, we have a proud timeline which we share below for those interested in a little history. If you’re visiting Potters Resorts Hopton-on-Sea, some of this history is brought to life in our dedicated ‘museum’ room that features an original timber hut, many old mementos, video clips and the awards we’re so proud to have won over the decades. If you think you, or someone you know, can add to this timeline then please do feel free to contact us via email at nathan.moore@pottersresorts.com, we’d love to be able to fill in any gaps that we may have missed!

A Brief History of Potters Resort

Early 1900s
Herbert Potter inspired by friendliness of Caister Camp
Potters Resort - HistoryWhen visiting nearby Caister Holiday Camp which was then staying in tents and for men only, Herbert Potter enjoys the friendly nature of the camp, or ‘camaraderie’ as he called it. He is inspired and had the idea to build a permanent holiday camp, with wooden chalets and main buildings instead of temporary tented structures.
Herbert wins £500 in competition
Potters Resort - HistoryHerbert Potter wins £500 in the Sunday Chronicle’s wordsmith competition and vows to build the UK’s first permanent, mixed use holiday camp.
Outbreak of war
Potters Resort - HistoryHerbert’s dreams are put on hold following the outbreak of war. He fights and survives the legendary Battle of Somme, returning home in 1919.
Potters opens in nearby Hemsby
Herbert, along with brother Arthur find the perfect bit of land on a bike ride to the coast, through a hedge. Before long, Potters opens, becoming the UK’s first permanent and mixed use holiday camp.
Potters moves to Hopton-on-Sea
Potters Resort - HistoryThe Hemsby site is sold to Maddieson's with Herbert and brother Arthur splitting the proceeds. Arthur purchases Lord Duporth estate in Cornwall, establishing Duporth Holiday Camp as Herbert starts his second attempt from bare land by the railway line in Hopton-on-Sea (where ‘Potters Drive’ sits today, now entirely residential).
New seaside location opens
Potters Resort - HistoryHerbert leaves the reins of the camp to his daughter Rosa and her new husband, the local policeman Leslie Groome, as he opens a new site closer to the sea. The land is purchased from the Colman family, who themselves are a successful family in the area and the makers of a popular mustard. For a period, Herbert owns and markets both sites, ‘Potters’ and ‘Potters Cliff Top Camp’. However, before too long ‘Potters’ becomes ‘Groomes’ and Herbert’s seaside location becomes ‘Potters Beach Camp’ (where we remain to this day).
2nd Generation Hector and wife Vera become parents to Brian
All coastal camps requisitioned by Army
Potters Resort - HistoryThe Potter family, now joined by Herbert’s son Hector, wife Vera and their son Brian, are devastated to see the destruction of the camp following the outbreak of a second world war. Potters Beach Camp along with every other camp along our popular coastline is requisitioned by the army and many of the buildings and huts (even the grand piano) are used for firewood to keep soldiers warm in the winter.
Potters re-opens
Whilst many cut their losses after the war, Potters Beach Camp re-opens amidst a UK seaside holiday boom, with people heading to the coast in celebration of victory. With everyone holidaying, the Potter Family find it hard to recruit and are effectively running the camp on their own. From opening up in the morning, cooking breakfast and serving the hundreds of guests with the sole help of Mrs Black (the eventual and legendary long term restaurant manageress) through to being the last to close the bars at night. Vera Potter often recounted later in life how she “would never want a repeat of 1946, for all the tea in China”.
Herbert Potter 1881 - 1956
Potters Resort - HistoryFounder of Potters, Herbert passes away aged 75. Alongside brother Arthur, Herbert opened Potters in Hemsby in 1920; the first mixed use and permanent holiday camp. The site was found on a bike ride from Norwich to Great Yarmouth and funded entirely by Herbert’s winnings from a national newspaper competition. Having moved sites in the early days, Potters would become, in the decades ahead, a national institution that many others looked to as a blueprint. To this day, what ultimately remains and makes Potters unique is a feeling of happiness, warmth, family and the same, friendly spirit or ‘camaraderie’ that proved to be Herbert’s inspiration over 100 years ago.
Potters opens outdoor pool
Potters Resort - HistoryOne of the first on the east coast.
Rise of the package holidays leads to indoor investment
Potters Resort - HistoryThe 'package holiday' to sunny European destinations threatens the UK holiday industry and many pioneering families of the early holiday camp boom close in the face of stiff competition from cheap holidays in the sun. The Potter Family however, react by investing in more indoor facilities.
The 1970’s
Development continues as self catering takes off
Potters Resort - HistoryThe UK holiday industry sees a rise in cheaper self catering caravan holidays, with what is now Bourne Leisure opening its first site, 'Hopton Holiday Village' (which remains to this day and is now operated by Haven). Whilst the family would purchase a self catering site of its own in 1972, Corton Caravans and Chalet Club, development continued at Potters Beach Camp.
New sports hall opens
Potters Resort - HistoryWhilst Hector and Vera are holidaying, to their surprise Brian makes a bid to take control, knocking down the old ballroom to build a new, updated version (which has since also been knocked down following continued investment).
The 1980's
Potters moves into a league of its own
Potters Resort - HistoryA period which sees a once traditional holiday camp become something very unique in the industry, Potters Beach Camp is renamed to the short and snappy ‘Potters Holiday & Leisure Chalet Hotel’. To continue the battle against the foreign package holiday and self catering caravan alternatives, Potters invests in professional entertainment as a major selling point, allowing for the introduction of off-season weekends to expand the season. The phenomenon that is Geof Parsons, who had single-handedly manned all forms of entertainment at Potters for decades, gets a well deserved helping hand from the incoming Entertainment Director Nigel Pattle, ably assisted by a talented show team and a growing army of technicians, choreographers, vocal and dance coaches, costume creators and of course the comedy team including the ever present Mark Brewer and Buzby Allen.
Potters wins a 10 year planning battle, to create a clifftop 9 hole pitch and putt.
Hector Potter 1909 - 1984
Potters Resort - HistoryHector Potter passes away aged 75, leaving behind wife Vera and son Brian. Hector was instrumental in the re-opening of Potters after the second world war when so many others chose not to, keeping alive what has become a quintessential venue within the UK holiday industry. Hector, with the support of his family battled against the overseas and self-catering booms whilst handing the reins to his son and daughter-in-law, Brian and Judy Potter.
The great October storm
Potters Resort - HistoryPotters’ first ever weekend outside of the traditional season falls on the weekend of the great storms of 1987. The (then) flat roofs of the Ocean Spray bungalows are lifted off by strong winds and strewn across the football pitch. Guests are relocated to available units at nearby Gunton Hall that was, at that time, still closed in the winter months. 1987 also sees the main Reception area relocate and a new entrance opened.
Palms Health & Fitness opens
Potters Resort - HistoryPotters continues to respond to the warmer competition abroad through continued investment. The children’s outdoor pool, table tennis hall and jukebox room is knocked down and replaced with a tropical indoor pool, complete with state of the art Badju Jets to swim against, modern jacuzzi sauna, sun beds and full gym facility open to local members. The pool complex is opened by Olympic Gold Medal Swimmer, Duncan Goodhew.
Large Sports Hall adds to facilities
Guests can enjoy a plethora of activities in the new hall including badminton, table tennis, football, short tennis, short mat and carpet bowls and, some years later, a state of the art climbing wall.
The last of the wooden huts
Potters Resort - HistoryWhilst brick built bungalows had been steadily taking over for a number of years, the last of the wooden huts is quite literally blown up by Brian & Judy Potter, watched by hundreds. The stunt also features on ITV Anglia News. Many however are not filled with explosives, instead donated to local residents as summer houses for their gardens.
Supply meets demand for bowlers
Potters Resort - HistoryHaving opened two bowls rinks upstairs in 1989, the Bowlers Bar adds a further six rinks with Potters gaining a reputation as THE place to come and play this popular game whilst enjoying a holiday. The bar creates a comfortable area for guests to relax with a drink during the day, whilst watching their friends or family enjoy a game. The rinks are opened by Mark Hedges of Anglia Bowls and multiple World Champion, Tony Allcock of the then English Bowls Association (now Bowls England).
Ten Pin bowling added
Catering for all forms of ‘bowling’, Potters adds a six lane ten pin bowling alley, with added facilities for food, drink and games.
Return of the Prodigal Son
John returns to join the family business and along with Brian enlists a top London marketing agency to help rebrand from the snappy ‘Potters Holiday and Leisure Chalet Hotel’ to a new modern name for its time, ‘Potters Leisure Resort’. Believed to be the first to use the term ‘Leisure Resort’ it would later be copied by others in the industry.
Potters wins ‘Holiday Centre of the Year’
Potters Resort - HistoryAs voted by the (then) English Tourist Board, Potters wins the number one award in the country for 1994/5, at the Savoy Hotel in London.
Brand new Atlas Theatre opens
Potters Resort - HistoryThere is huge investment in entertainment facilities over a 12 month period. Evening entertainment goes up a notch as the old theatre is knocked down and rebuilt as the state of the art Atlas Theatre, a process completed in just 14 weeks during the off season. The Gallery Lounge is opened as an additional space for guests to relax and enjoy some quiet time in the day, or a disco by night.
Brand new Garden Restaurant opens...just!
Potters Resort - HistoryFollowing the Atlas Theatre, it is the turn of the restaurant to be knocked down and replaced. The only time this can be attempted is during the closed season, between the end of the 1996/7 New Year Break and re-opening for Easter. The kitchen is demolished (and bulldozers can be heard!) whilst departing New Year guests are eating their breakfast. Equally, as Easter guests are arriving for their first meal, John can be seen laying carpet tiles and Judy hoovering the new grand staircase. It takes just short of 13 weeks to demolish and rebuild the restaurant and kitchen; a new record even for Potters, but it's a close call!
Continued investment in your facilities
Similarly to the now established Atlas Theatre, the old restaurant is knocked down and in its place comes the new Garden Restaurant, completed in just 12.5 weeks and again, during the closed season.
An unprecedented hat-trick of Awards for Potters
Potters Resort - HistoryAs development and investment continues, 1997 also recognises Potters Leisure Resort as the first and unprecedented winners of the prestigious Norfolk Business Awards, scooping three awards including the overall ‘Business of the Year’ Award. Potters would go on to win many more, the proudest of which are always those for customer care.
New International Arena opens
Potters Resort - HistoryA new six rink bowls venue, the best in the world, is opened by Brian and Judy Potter alongside special guests Ian Schuback and David Bryant MBE. A number of national events are held before the World Bowls Tour agree to bring their flagship event to Potters Leisure Resort; the World Indoor Bowls Championships.
Potters features on Wish You Were Here
Potters Resort - HistoryPotters receives a visit from Judith Chalmers (her second visit!) as it features on ITV’s Wish You Were Here. Incoming telephone calls during and following the show cause the local Blundeston phone switchboard to crash.
The world comes to Potters
Potters Resort - HistoryPotters Leisure Resort hosts the World Indoor Bowls Championships for the first time, with the World Bowls Tour moving from their long-standing Preston location. This puts Potters on the map as the ‘home of indoor bowls’ and sees the start of a partnership with the World Bowls Tour that would remain to this very day. The event is also remembered for a televised first in the game of bowls; a streaker who ran the full length of the rink to plant a kiss on player David Gourlay. 1999 also sees Potters host the ITTF Pro Tour English Open (Table Tennis) which is broadcasted and watched by millions across the world (particularly in Asia).
Potters Leisure Resort opens Hotel
Potters Resort - History86 new hotel rooms are opened on the resort, offering guests the chance to stay for a short break in added comfort and luxury. The hotel features Premier and Deluxe rooms, as well as Four Poster and Penthouse Suites, complete with jacuzzi and TV in the bathroom. 1999 is also the first year Potters Leisure Resort is open all year round.
2000 - 2003
Additional facilities for guests
This period sees heavy and continued investment in guest facilities with synthetic outdoor bowls rinks added, a new relaxation welcome area within Palms Health & Fitness and the outdoor activity centre opens featuring archery, rifle and clay pigeon shooting.
Potters Leisure Resort becomes the UK’s first Five Star Holiday Village
Potters Resort - HistoryIt isn’t long before Potters is ‘officially’ regarded as the leading venue for short breaks in the country, as the English Tourist Board (now VisitEngland) award the very first Five Star rating for Holiday Villages. That same rating would remain to this very day. The award recognises the huge investment in accommodation, entertainment, sports and leisure facilities and of course the amazingly friendly and hardworking team that look after our guests so well.
Potters Holidays Ltd takes off
Potters Resort - HistoryPotters launches festival holidays in Paphos, Cyprus at the Athena Beach Hotel.
The Great Flood
Potters Resort - HistorySeptember sees record rainfall over a 48 hour period, resulting in the flooding of the Bowlers Bar. Nobody is hurt but the damage is extensive. Given the (now) all year round nature of Potters, clean up is challenging but made all the more easier by an army of volunteers including guests who, aside from being amazingly understanding, jump in to help.
The Great Fire
The resort’s laundry and workshop is destroyed by fire overnight. Nobody is hurt.
'Zest' open for business
Potters Resort - HistoryPotters opens Zest Rooms; a state-of-the-art conference and events facility with its own kitchens, designed for corporate functions, team building days, weddings, meetings and much more. The Black Rock Grill at Zest opens shortly after on Valentine’s Day in 2010. Zest would also begin hosting The Sunday Carvery in 2011.
Hotel is extended to meet demand
Potters Resort - HistoryIn view of its popularity, a new Hotel extension is completed with a further 26 rooms, featuring added single accommodation, very large family rooms and some ease of access rooms.
Atlas Theatre is extended
Potters Resort - HistoryWith more people holidaying at Potters Leisure Resort than ever before, added comfort is created within the facilities, namely the Atlas Theatre, featuring one of the longest lit bars in the UK complete with cocktail bar. The extension is combined with a new stage, and sound and lighting equipment making it the number one venue for shows in the country. There is no disruption to guests as the Atlas Theatre continues to host nightly entertainment during the works and upon completion.
Brian Potter Honoured
Potters Resort - HistoryChairman and 3rd generation Brian Potter is named in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for his long standing services to the industry. In February 2013, he receives an MBE award at Buckingham Palace.
Bungalows get a new look
Potters Resort - HistoryOver £1.5m is invested into the refurbishment of Bungalows, with a fresh, modern look created and combined with added comfort for guests.
Potters loses the ‘Leisure’
Potters Resort - HistoryName changes to Potters Resort and the vision of ‘Quality Time Together’ incorporated into its logo and branding.
Brian Potter MBE 1940-2014
Potters Resort - HistoryOn Tuesday 4th November 2014, Brian Potter, who had recently been awarded with an MBE for his services to the holiday industry, passes away, leaving behind wife Judy, daughter Jane, son John and partner Celia, and grandchildren Amelia and Harry. With the help and support of his family, he had inspired the transformation of a traditional holiday camp to how it lies today; a unique holiday resort with no equal. He leaves a lasting legacy not just at Potters Resort but on the entire UK holiday industry.
Potters Friends Foundation formed to help worthy causes
Potters Resort - HistoryIn memory of Brian Potter MBE, the Potters Friends Foundation is formed to continue his legacy and in turn, help worthy causes in the wider Potters community. The Potter Family are patrons of the Foundation, led by the charitable efforts of the now near 600 friendly team at Potters.
The Show Must Go On
Potters Resort - HistoryAs was Brian Potter MBE’s wish, investment does not stop. Bungalows continue to see improvement along with Palms, Aphrodite and the addition of the Hair Studio. A stunning new multi-million pound Reception and GameZone open in time for the summer season. The Bowlers Bar and Atrium areas are refurbished and the shop relaunched as the ‘Pop-in-Shop’, doubling in size and featuring Potters Bowls Shop, operated by the Resort’s Bowls Ambassador, Greg Harlow.
Protecting the next 100 years
Potters Resort - HistoryThe changing of the tides following the construction of Great Yarmouth’s outer harbour, exacerbated by storm damage in Autumn 2014 forces Potters to kickstart an ongoing, multi-million pound project to shore up a precarious coastline. Whilst the investment is not seen directly on Resort, thousands of rocks are sent from Norway and aligned along the beach and into the sea, securing our coastal location and the next 100 years of happiness.
New screens take shows to next level
Potters Resort - HistoryContinued investment in the already state-of-the-art Atlas Theatre sees new LED screens installed, made up of well over one million individual LEDs, creating a truly immersive show experience and firmly establishing the Atlas Theatre as the the number one entertainment venue in the UK outside of the West End.
Potters wins award
Potters Resort - HistoryPotters Resort wins the award for ‘Great Customer Service’ at Great Yarmouth’s Spirit of Enterprise Awards.
Hotel revamp
Potters Resort - HistoryAn extensive refurbishment plan begins rollout in the Hotel, with a new stylish design for all 110 rooms.
Planning for the Centenary
Potters Resort - HistoryCelebratory plans are firmly in place as Potters Resort approaches its centenary year in 2020, including a brand new Potters Theatre Company production to mark the occasion. An original timber hut from the very early days is recovered from the local area and restored to its former glory as work on the ‘history room’ commences; a dedicated space to celebrate 100 Years of Quality Time Together at Potters.
COVID-19 closes Potters Resort in its 100th Year
Potters Resort - HistoryIn what is Potters Resort’s centenary year, its doors are forced to close in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While plans for the centenary are paused during lockdown, members of the Potters Theatre Company volunteer their time to create live streamed entertainment, including the 12 hour ‘Over the Rainbow’ Festival in May, which raises over £20,000 for the NHS and NARS (Norfolk Accident Rescue Service). Potters reopens in July for a successful summer period, following further investment in the new South Terrace and Garden Bar. However, Potters is again forced to close in October due to the continuing pandemic, this time for the next 7 months.
Bouncing back from the pandemic
Potters Resort - HistoryPotters reopens in May 2021 as the UK’s First and Only All Inclusive Resort, once again setting the bar for others in the industry to follow. This industry-unique offering, coupled with a boom in UK staycations, sees breaks at Potters sell out in record time. It becomes clear a second location is required to meet the heightened demand, culminating in the acquisition of Five Lakes Resort in Maldon, Essex. As such, on the 1st Nov 2021, Potters Resort officially becomes ‘Potters Resorts’. Shortly after, Potters Resorts win the ‘Customer Excellence’ and ‘Resilience & Innovation’ Awards at the prestigious East of England Tourism Awards.
Potters Resorts Five Lakes opens
Potters Resort - HistoryWhile Potters Resorts Hopton-on-Sea retains its Five Star status with enjoyEngland.com for the 20th consecutive year, work commences at Five Lakes to transition the resort from a quiet, corporate hospitality venue to an All-Inclusive Resort made for the UK staycation market. Over a challenging 3-month deadline, made increasingly more difficult by a continued supply chain crisis, Five Lakes sees a multi-million pound investment with new bars, entertainment venues and leisure facilities introduced, as well as the expansion of its existing restaurant and kitchen facilities. However, the bulk of the investment would be seen in what was previously an unused events space, with the completion of the brand new state-of-the-art Glade Theatre, as well as an indoor sports park. Potters Resorts Five Lakes, the UK’s second All-Inclusive Resort, opens its doors for leisure breaks in May 2022 to much fanfare, having already seen over 20,000 guests hold advance bookings at the new resort.

A Message from the Family

Potter Family

If you have come this far, we thank you for reading about our history. As the last of the pioneering families still operating in our industry today, we are extremely proud to continue Herbert Potter’s original 1913 vision written in our family chronicles, to re-create a permanent site with the camaraderie and friendly spirit he so enjoyed himself on his own holidays, spent then under canvas.

It is this friendly spirit that has carried through the generations and permeates through all of our team to this day. We believe this defines the very special culture that exists at Potters. It is, and always will be, the secret sauce of Potters’ success; a vision unchanged for over a century.

This culture has been complimented hugely by our many loyal and friendly guests over the years and amplified by their generous word of mouth advertising. All together this has made it possible for us to (quote Brian Potter) ‘re-invent and re-invest in your facilities’, not least the acquisition and redevelopment of our second resort at Five Lakes, which now sits alongside our ever-popular Resort in Hopton-on-Sea as the UK’s Only All-Inclusive Resorts.

So, to our marvellous team, fantastic guests and anyone reading this today, we say a huge thank you for your support over the years. Here’s to the next chapter in our long and proud history of friendly service, special memories and above all else, Quality Time Together.

The Potter Family
Judy, Jane, John & Celia, Amelia & Harry