British summer holiday habits of the past revealed by University of Leicester researchers

Posted by ap507 at Jul 17, 2017 09:12 AM |
Historical interviews show that seaside holidays and trips to local tourist attractions were popular choices in the 19th century

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 17 July 2017­

Images of historical British holidays are available here (credit University of Leicester):

Visiting different countries and traveling the world is a common way people spend their summer holidays - but the historical British summer holiday would have been a much less frequent and far more local affair.

Researchers from the University of Leicester Special Collections have explored the sorts of holidays people in the UK went on in the past by examining a variety of historical interviews with residents from throughout Leicester and Leicestershire contained within the University’s East Midlands Oral History Archive (EMOHA).

During the eighteenth century, the majority of people were unable to take paid time off from work, and as a result were far less likely to go on holiday as wages were low and many could not afford to go without pay.

In 1871 the Bank Holiday Act was introduced, which brought about the beginning of official holidays. In 1938 the Holiday Pay Act recommended that full-time employees should be allowed one week’s annual paid vacation time, finally making it easier for people to go on holiday.

In 1841 Thomas Cook organised his first railway excursion from Leicester to Loughborough. This was the birth of Thomas Cook’s package holidays all over the UK, Europe and eventually the world and was the UK’s first package holiday.

As the train became a more reasonable mode of transport for the majority of people, holiday destinations and habits changed.

The rise of the summer holiday saw people flock to tourist attractions a short journey away, such as Bradgate Park – but it was the seaside that held the greatest attraction for many.

Seaside holidays were very popular from the 1880s onwards, and due to a rise in wages and the railway becoming more accessible day trips to the seaside were very popular, especially as people did not have to pay for accommodation.

Many people in the early 1900s could not afford to go on holiday, which led to charities, schools and churches organising outings for those who couldn’t afford to go on holiday, especially children. One such charity was the Leicester Poor Boys’ and Girls’ Summer Camp Institute, who in the 1920s sent around 600 children to Mablethorpe each year.

While the locations of summer holidays may have changed in recent years due to more advanced technology and cheaper prices, people’s desire to visit different locations – particularly the beach – and soak up the sun has remained consistent. 

More information about the history of British summer holidays is available here:


Notes to editors:

For more information contact the University of Leicester’s Special Collections on



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