The Isle of Wight, particularly the north coast, has strong military associations, with gun fortifications helping to defend the Solent and the access routes to Portsmouth and Southampton. In Victorian Times, the military either built or re-surfaced Monks Lane, so they could service Fort Albert and the Cliff End Battery.
The Lane also allowed access to Brambles Chine, which opened as Brambles Chine Holiday Camp in 1935; a proper ‘Hi-de-’Hi’ holiday experience with rows of chalets, wake-up calls, sports, games and activities outside plus dining room, bars, bands and dancing in the clubhouse.
Times changed and a ‘camp’ holiday was no longer in such demand and by the 1970’s holiday camp closed and the site was sold off for development. In 1972 one of the internal rooms in the club house was used for filming the roller skating scenes in the film “That’ll be the Day” staring David Essex. Brambles Chine was one of a number of venues across the Island used in the production of this film
During the 1960’s defence of England’s dockyards also became a lower priority. The MoD decommissioned the Cliff End area and for a number of years Fort Albert, became the Suncliff Holiday Camp. That site was subsequently sold to Croydon based companies, who had started to build and lease bungalows on Brambles Chine from 1974. Building started at Cliff End in 1978.
With developers ‘running’ the site it did not take long for things to begin to deteriorate for bungalow leaseholders. Despite longer lease terms being offered to raise funds for the owners/developers, and despite rising service charges, site maintenance was poor with no improvement were being made to either the site or to the potholed Monks Lane access.
Concerned bungalow owners formed the Brambles Chine Resident’s Association (“BCRA”), to have a collective voice. They collected funds and managed to resurface Monks Lane in 1981, while the site further deteriorated, utilities suppliers were left unpaid and bailiffs re-possessing all the owner’s grass-cutting equipment!
In 1984 BCRA managed to buy the freehold from the cash strapped owner. To keep the price down the final deal included permission for them to build an additional 50 bungalows. BCRA changed its name to Linstone Chine Management Company (LCMC), to better reflect the interests of both Brambles Chine and the Cliff End development and was incorporated as a company; most bungalow leaseholders became freehold owners and members of LCMC.
This was an extraordinary achievement by the bungalow owners involved and we are indebted to them for putting in place the bedrock on which the more recent success of the site is founded.
To provide an operational base for site administration, in July 1984, the company established its office in the former reception area, one of the few elements of the original Holiday Camp still visible today.
Since then the site has been much improved, particularly in later years, with the with the purchase and demolition of the old derelict clubhouse site, provision of new play equipment and a general improvement in site standards.
LCMC Members and our holiday visitors can enjoy the site, our facilities and the island just as much as the holiday camp visitors did in earlier years, maybe even more. Hi-de-Hi morning calls and communal facilities are thing of the past in our ‘independent, supermarket’ age but we have great beach access and the wide-open spaces for family fun and a safe, traditional holiday.
You have to look hard to find relics of the old Holiday Camp. The military has also long gone, but many military relics are within walking distance. Heading West will lead to the ‘pill-box’ in Totland Bay and on over the Iron Age hill to the Needles (or catch a bus!) Go East to discover the delights of Fort Victoria Country Park, with Fort Vic itself, and on to Yarmouth Castle. A walk inland on Monks Lane will take you to Golden Hill Country Park. Golden Hill Fort is now luxury apartments but a walk around the earth parapets gives fantastic views over the island.
Fort Albert was sold for separate development, it and all the adjacent land is private, with no access. The derelict and dangerous Coastguard Lookout Tower still perches above us all, overlooking our entire site. The tower, the associated battlements and ‘Caves’ can be only viewed from below – they are far too dangerous to access, but they are a reminder of the long military associated with the site.
You will find some great pictures of holiday makers and the old site on display in the Site Office at Brambles Chine.