Thomas Cook began his international travel company in 1841, with a successful one-day rail excursion to Loughborough on 5 July. It was from these humble roots that a whole new kind of travel business developed.
Thomas Cook, originally from Derbyshire, moved to Market Harborough to work as a wood-turner in 1832. Whilst there, he joined the congregation of the local Baptist church and became actively involved in the promotion of temperance (the practice of drinking little or no alcohol). On June 9th 1841, he set out to walk from Market Harborough to Leicester (15 miles) to attend a Temperance Society meeting in the town. On route, an idea occurred to him:
"A thought flashed through my brain – what a glorious thing it would be if the newly developed powers of railways and locomotion could be made subservient to the promotion of temperance"
He suggested hiring a train and carriages from the Midland Railway Company to transport the Leicester Temperance Society members to a temperance meeting in Loughborough the following month and the idea was received with enthusiasm.
he first railway excursion left Campbell Street Station in Leicester for Loughborough on 5th July 1841 at the cost of one shilling per passenger. Amongst the 485 passengers was Thomas Cook's seven year old son John Mason Cook. The party travelled in open tub-style carriages and was accompanied by a band.
After a successful day of marches, speeches, games and tea in Southfields park, the party arrived back at Leicester station at 10:30pm. History had been made.