Historic archives of collapsed Thomas Cook set to leave Peterborough

The former Thomas Cook archivist Paul Smith with some of the Thomas Cook collection during an exhibition at Peterborough Museum four years ago.The former Thomas Cook archivist Paul Smith with some of the Thomas Cook collection during an exhibition at Peterborough Museum four years ago.
The former Thomas Cook archivist Paul Smith with some of the Thomas Cook collection during an exhibition at Peterborough Museum four years ago. | jpimedia
The archives detailing the illustrious history of travel with Thomas Cook are to leave Peterborough.

The archives that were for years stored in the Thomas Cook offices in Bretton and more recently at Lynch Wood have been sold to the Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland.

The record office, which is run by Leicestershire County Council with Leicester City Council and Rutland County Council, secured the right to house the internationally significant collection following a bidding process following the holiday giant's collapse last year with the loss of at least 1,000 jobs in Peterborough.

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The entire Thomas Cook archive, which encompasses records from the earliest days of package travel right up to the modern day, is now being transferred to the record office in Wigston, Leicester.

The 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.

The enterprising Thomas Cook organised his first excursion, a rail journey for 500 passengers from Leicester to Loughborough for just one shilling on July 5, 1841.

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The archive will be the single largest collection at the record office, which has six miles of shelving representing 1,000 years of the history of Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland.

The Thomas Cook collection will be thoroughly catalogued by record office staff, before being made available to the public.

Senior archivist at Leicestershire County Council, Robin Jenkins, said: “This is an internationally significant archive relating to a company which began in Leicester and was operated from there in its formative years. We already house an important Thomas Cook collection relating to both the man and his business.

“We see the collection as ‘coming home’ to Leicestershire and we will be delighted to look after it here and promote its use.”

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Leicestershire County Council Leader, Nick Rushton, said: “I am delighted that the record office has been chosen as the permanent home for this important collection. The bid was a success because of the strong local links with Thomas Cook, as well as because the record office has an excellent reputation for innovative outreach work and the promotion of its collections.

“The fact that the Thomas Cook archive will be housed at the record office will preserve it for future generations, as well as providing a valuable resource to the people of Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland.”

In Leicester, an exhibition inspired by Thomas Cook’s story is set to open at the city’s Newarke Houses and New Walk museums in June.

City Mayor Peter Soulsby said: “Thomas Cook is one of Leicester’s best-known sons, and his pioneering work, which essentially invented the package holiday, means his name became known worldwide. It’s very fitting that this fascinating archive of the company’s history is housed in Leicestershire, so close to where his ground-breaking work in the holiday industry took place.”