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Green Plaque Unveiled to Honour Leicestershire Travel Pioneer Thomas Cook

The pioneer of package tourism, Thomas Cook, has been honoured with the unveiling of a Green Plaque at Loughborough Railway Station.

The plaque to commemorate Thomas Cook’s historic connection to the station was unveiled last Tuesday, October 17 by Leicestershire County Council Chairman, Dr Kevin Feltham, representatives from East Midlands Railway, Honorary Alderman Mike Jones, and Stan Cramer from Loughborough Baptist Church, who nominated Thomas Cook for a Green Plaque award, along with Carol Kirk.

Leicester Time: Green Plaque Unveiled to Honour Leicestershire Travel Pioneer Thomas Cook
Picture: Leicestershire County Council

Thomas Cook was born into a poor family in 1808 in Melbourne, Derbyshire. He was committed to the ideals of the contemporary temperance movement, abstaining from alcohol throughout his life. In July 1841, Cook hit upon the idea of hiring a train on the Midlands Counties Railway to take people from Leicester to Loughborough to attend a temperance rally being held there. He sold nearly 500 tickets for the return trip at a shilling a piece with tea and buns included – and so his first, and one of the earliest on record, package excursion was born.

Cook went on to arrange many more package excursions and holidays to the growing English seaside resorts and spas and later expanded to Europe and America. In 1872, by then a household name, Cook organised his first around the world trip.

A lifelong philanthropist, Cook died in 1892 and is buried in the Welford Road Cemetery in Leicester.

Unveiling the Green Plaque, Dr Feltham said: “Thomas Cook was a man of real vision, who transformed the travel industry. I hope the many passengers who pass through Loughborough Station might pause at this plaque and remember a local man who literally changed how we travel and see the world.”

Joe Hoy, EMR Customer Service Supervisor at Loughborough Station, said: “We welcome this plaque at Loughborough Station. It’s important to recognise the historic connection the station has with Thomas Cook and the impact he had with the railways, tourism in general and the local communities. 

“It’s in a great, eye-catching location for our customers to see. It acknowledges the long, proud history of the station and will bear witness to its future.”

In 2019, the Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland was selected as the new permanent home of the Thomas Cook archive collection, which encompasses records from the earliest days of package travel right up to the modern day.

The huge collection is made up of thousands of individual items, including minute books and staff records, posters, travel guides and timetables. It also features 60,000 photographic images and souvenirs from Thomas Cook’s 178-year history, including glass and china, uniforms through the ages and even a model of a Nile steamer.