Thomas Cook & Leicester; Railways & the Dickens Connection

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July 18th 2016
Published: July 18th 2016
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Thomas Cook (1808-1892) began his international travel company - now the world's best known name in travel - when he organised a special train to carry 500 passengers from Leicester to Loughborough to attend a temperance meeting. A distance of 12 miles there and back, Cook charged one shilling for the return journey which took place on 5 July 1841. Four years later his travel business was showing a profit by which time he had expanded the services offered. By 1851 more than 150,000 people from Yorkshire, Derby, Nottingham and Leicester travelled through Thomas Cook's agency to London to visit the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park. Four years later Cook offered his first continental tour. And so a travel business was born. To honour Thomas Cook there is a statue of him close to the entrance to Leicester Station.

We were at the station to catch a train to Aberdeen where I'm attending Dickens Fellowship International Conference. Once inside the station I discovered that Thomas Cook's first travels took place from Leicester's Campbell Street Railway Station which has since been demolished, and not the London Road Railway Station - built in 1892 - which we left from. Charles Dickens himself used the Campbell Street Station in the 1850s and 60s when he travelled to Leicester to give public readings of his works. Railways transformed Britain in the nineteenth century so it was exciting times for the likes of Dickens who, despite the fact that he was involved in the Staplehurst rail crash in 1865, lived at a time when this new mode of transport was taking off with a vengeance.

And it's still a great way to travel as, having now arrived in Aberdeen, we can attest.

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