The summer holidays are drawing to a close but there are still four months left of the year to enjoy a holiday or two. Us Brits do love a holiday, whether we’re sunning ourselves on foreign beaches, relaxing on a mini break or simply making the most of a Bank Holiday weekend.
These days while we enjoy these long established traditions, we don’t stop to consider the history of the British Holiday. Spanning centuries, the British holiday has changed a great deal from spa breaks to camping and seaside escapes. These brilliant illustrations tell the story of of our holidays have developed. Here are just a few of our favourites:
The craze for sea bathing dates back to the 18th century when doctors started prescribing the seaside, just as they had prescribed taking the spa baths at Bath. A number of scientific papers at the time suggested that bathing and actually drinking sea water was beneficial to health. The popularity of such healthy sojourns, mainly taken by the wealthy, was the precursor to the modern spa break.
While there had been huge expansion of the railways in the 1830s and 40s, there was not yet an established market for intercity travel. 1841 saw the birth of the package holidays as entrepreneur Thomas Cook arranged to take a group of 540 temperance campaigners from Leicester Campbell Street station to a rally in Loughborough. Cook arranged for the rail company to charge one shilling per person that included rail tickets and food for the journey. Cook established his travel agency, Thomas Cook & Son, and by 1888, the company had offices all around the world.
The Bank Holiday Act of 1871 was passed to give bank workers the chance to watch a day's cricket but also came at a time when railway travel was quickly becoming more prevalent across the nation. Suddenly, people had a little more free time and were able to travel much further than they were before - Brits flocked to the seaside and by the 1890s, about 360,000 Londoners headed to the coast for the August Bank Holiday.
The Victorians are well known for their obsession with modesty and the seaside was no exception. So that nobody of the opposite sex would see them in their swimming costumes, they used a 'bathing machine' - a roofed and walled, wooden cart - that they would change in, before it was rolled into the sea. Some resorts employed someone called a dipper that would push the bathers into the water and yank them out once they were done - all part of the Victorian seaside experience apparently!
The economic woes of the 2008 financial crisis brought an increase in the number of people taking so-called staycations rather than venturing abroad. However, despite the economy improving, fondness for holidaying at home has continued to stay high. Holidays in England jumped by 12% between 2008 and 2013. Short trips were the fastest growing area of domestic vacations, with 29.6 million one to 3 day holidays taken in England in 2013, a 17% increase on 2008.
We would like to thank Oliver’s Travels who were kind enough to bring these informative illustrations to our attention. You can see the full collection of these their blog here, and why not give them a follow on Facebook and Twitter.