Wish you were here! 175 years of Thomas Cook goes on show at Peterborough Museum

Thomas Cook exhibition at Pboro Mureum. Paul Smith the company archivist EMN-160922-232654009
Thomas Cook exhibition at Pboro Mureum. Paul Smith the company archivist EMN-160922-232654009
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Postcards may have been replaced by Facebook photos, but the desire to share our holiday experiences has not dimmed.

The last 175 years has seen a huge evolution in how we take our vacations ever since a former gardener, cabinet-maker and Baptist missionary called Thomas Cook hosted a successful trip for 500 passengers to travel by railway from Leicester to Loughborough for just one shilling.

Thomas Cook exhibition at Pboro Mureum. Deputy Mayor Keith Sharp with Kevin Tighe head of Vivacity EMN-160922-232708009

Thomas Cook exhibition at Pboro Mureum. Deputy Mayor Keith Sharp with Kevin Tighe head of Vivacity EMN-160922-232708009

Since then, Cook’s ambitions saw his trips venture further afield with multiple visits abroad, eventually leading to an annual world tour, ‘To Egypt via China,’ before he passed the torch to his children then grandchildren.

The Thomas Cook Group has called Peterborough its home for almost 40 years and is now a world leading leisure travel group which serves more than 22 million customers.

To celebrate its 175th anniversary, representatives of Thomas Cook, Vivacity Culture and Leisure and Peterborough City Council came together last Thursday at Peterborough Museum for a specially arranged after-hours viewing of the Wish You Were Here! exhibition.

One of the lucky few to attend was Deputy Mayor of Peterborough, Councillor Keith Sharp.

Thomas Cook exhibition at Pboro Mureum.  Thomas Cook staff  Maija Noble and Sally Cooke with Yield and product director Tony Hopkins EMN-160922-232735009

Thomas Cook exhibition at Pboro Mureum. Thomas Cook staff Maija Noble and Sally Cooke with Yield and product director Tony Hopkins EMN-160922-232735009

He said: “It was informative and I learned quite a lot from it - for instance how the first journey from Leicester to Loughborough, came to Peterborough.

“The exhibition itself was very interesting and very impressive.”

The exhibition runs until Sunday, January 8 and visitors can learn why the travel agents was nationalised during World War Two and its aspiration, as Thomas Cook said himself, to be “the willing and devoted servant of the travelling public.”

Paul Smith is the company’s archivist and helped choose what material should go on show to the public. He said there are items from the Victorian and Edwardian eras through to the modern day which tell the story of Thomas Cook.

Thomas Cook exhibition at Pboro Mureum.  Visitors  Siva Kumaran with Stewart Francis looking at the exhibition EMN-160922-232750009

Thomas Cook exhibition at Pboro Mureum. Visitors Siva Kumaran with Stewart Francis looking at the exhibition EMN-160922-232750009

He added: “It’s the biggest name in travel. The history of Thomas Cook is unparalleled in the world of travel.

“Thomas was really a man who believed that travel was good for the body. He believed everybody should be able to travel. He made it his mission to make travel more accessible to everybody.”

Paul admitted he had a lot of fun going through the archives and picking through the uniforms, brochures and even the cutlery used on the Nile steamers.

Asked what is his favourite item now on display, he said: “The letters written by Thomas Cook himself. You have a letter that’s more than 130 years old and that piece of paper was in his hand, he touched it.

“That connection with the past is very special.”