General Article The history of Thomas Cook, from tours for teetotallers to boozy packages in Spain

Topic Selected: Travel and Tourism Book Volume: 365

Thomas Cook, one of Britain’s oldest travel companies, ceased trading last night. Here, Chris Leadbeater recalls a trip down memory lane with the company’s archivist.

Thomas Cook. The two words have become synonymous with the modern concept of package travel, but they come with plenty of heritage. The company can trace its origins back 178 years, when the very first tour was organised by a Leicestershire printer who could not have envisaged that his simple scheme would become a colossal company.

Born in the Derbyshire market town of Melbourne in 1808, Thomas Cook was a man of religious conviction who, in 1841, began dabbling in transport plans for his fellow followers of the temperance (abstinence from alcohol) movement. That first jaunt was a rail hop from Leicester to Loughborough – but operations quickly expanded beyond local trains. A tour to Liverpool, just four years on, was booked by 1,200 people. It was so popular that Cook had to r

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