City marks 175th anniversary of travel pioneer’s first excursion
Thomas Cook’s railway excursion to a temperance rally in Loughborough on 5 July 1841 made him one of the world’s first travel agents – and gave Leicester the right to call itself ‘the birthplace of tourism’.
To celebrate the anniversary, City Mayor Peter Soulsby will lay flowers at Cook’s statue – which has stood outside the city’s train station since 1994 – and launch a brand new walking trail that will guide visitors around the coffee houses and chapels of Thomas Cook’s Leicester.
“Thomas Cook was a truly remarkable man who had a huge impact on Victorian Leicester,” said City Mayor Peter Soulsby.
“He was a founder member of the Leicester Coffee and Cocoa Company Limited, which set up more than a dozen coffee houses in the town to give working men an alternative to the pub, and he was inspired to organise his first excursion – to a temperance rally – by a deep belief that drunkenness was the cause of many problems in society.
“But perhaps his greatest gift was to make travel accessible - making it easier for ordinary men and women to experience life outside their home, to broaden their horizons, and to discover the world.
"Today, tourism is worth around £540million to Leicester’s economy, so it’s quite extraordinary to think that the modern travel industry all began with a 12-mile train ride 175 years ago.”
Leicester’s Campbell Street station – used by Cook for his first excursion – was replaced by the London Road station in 1892.
To mark the anniversary, staff at the station will be decorating the booking hall, distributing commemorative pin badges, and selling tickets to Loughborough for just 5p (one shilling) to the first 175 passengers travelling after 10am tomorrow (Tuesday).
Monies raised will be donated to Railway Children.
Peter Koukoularides, business development manager for East Midlands Trains, said: "Today, Leicester has some of the best railway connections in the UK but it's important that we recognise such an important milestone in railway history.
"We are pleased to be joining in with the celebrations to mark the 175th anniversary of Thomas Cook and hope our customers in Leicester will enjoy the activities we have planned."
Copies of the Thomas Cook Walking Trail – which takes visitors on a tour of the buildings where Cook lived and worked, the coffee houses that he founded, the chapels where he worshipped, and the grave where he is buried – are available for 50p from the Visit Leicester store on Gallowtree Gate.
The trail can also be downloaded free of charge at www.visitleicester.info