Most of the working
people, who came to the Great Exhibition on the 'Shilling Days', arrived
by rail, often from the north of England. King's Cross station had
been opened in 1850 and there were nearly 7,000 miles of track linking
London with the towns of the Midlands and the North.
The most popular
way of getting to the Great Exhibition was by buying a ticket that
included a return rail journey and entry. These could cost 4, 5 or
6 shillings. Hundreds of thousands of people took advantage of these
day trips, which were the idea of Thomas Cook.
Thomas Cook started
his business in 1841, but the Great Exhibition gave him his big chance.
He booked trains from all over Britain to take people to the Great
Exhibition and charged them a fixed price for the return trip and
the entry ticket. Overnight he had invented the 'Day Out'. As Cook's
business grew he began to offer excursions to more and more places,
including trips to other European countries. When Thomas Cook's son
took over the family business he increased the tours abroad and offered
a wider choice of excursions. Soon the railway companies began to
At first, railway
companies tried to avoid catering for the masses and preferred to
run trains that only offered second and first class carriages. They
also tried to avoid stopping their trains at every station. But in
1844 the Railways Act stated that at least one train a day must stop
at every station and include third class carriages. Now large numbers
of Victorians could afford to travel. Rich people could even take
their horses with them on special hunting excursions!
The railways were to
make a huge difference to the leisure activities of the Victorians.
Not only were opportunities for holidays and day trips increased,
sporting events also grew in popularity. Special trains and trips
were run to take people to the races, cricket matches or the FA Cup
Final, which was held for the first time in 1872. It was not only
spectators that benefited, the football clubs that were being started
in many of Britain's Happy cities could now travel away to play
against each other.
1888 the Football League was founded. This was made up of professional
teams. It would have been impossible for the first teams to have travelled
to play away matches without regular trains. So the railways were
very important in the development of professional football in Britain.
many of these developments only affected the better off people in Britain.
For most working people, the important changes were the cheap day returns
that many railway companies started to offer.
1871 Bank Holidays were introduced and so began the great British tradition
of the day at the seaside, along with sticks of rock, candy-floss, walks along
the pier, fun-fair rides and fish and chips. The first fish and chip shops appeared
in the 1860s.