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Thomas Cook, travel pioneer, 1808-1892

A statue of Thomas Cook by James Walter Butler RA stands on London Road, outside Leicester Railway Station. The statue was commissioned by Leicester City Council with assistance from British Railways Community Unit and Thomas Cook Ltd, and was unveiled by Thomas Cook, great-great-grandson of the subject, on 14 January 1994.

 

Thomas Cook's career as a travel pioneer began in 1841, when he hired a train to take a party from Leicester to a temperance rally in Loughborough. The success of this first trip led him to establish his travel business, and in 1851 he transported thousands of visitors to the Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace.

 

The Paris Exhibition of 1855 drew Thomas Cook abroad for the first time, and within a year or two he was arranging holidays all over the continent. Cook joined the Prince of Wales at the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, and took parties to Syria and the Holy Land. By the 1880s, his firm had obtained a monopoly of Nile passenger traffic and had set up their own fleet of steamers.

 

Thomas Cook died in 1892 and is buried in Welford Road Cemetery, Leicester. After Cook's death, the business was continued by his son John Mason Cook.

 

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Thomas Cook