Clements Hall
Queen Victoria St  with tram

Clements Hall Local History Group

Exploring the Scarcroft, Clementhorpe, South Bank and Bishophill areas of York

Clements Hall Local History Group

Exploring the Scarcroft, Clementhorpe and South Bank areas of York

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Early Victorian Railway Excursions: ‘The Million Go Forth’

Susan Major writes:

Early Victorian Railway ExcursionsMy book on railway excursions has just been published by Pen and Sword Books Ltd. Based on my doctoral research with the Institute of Railway Studies at the University of York/National Railway Museum, it explores the way that the new railway excursions of the 1840s made it possible for ordinary people in Britain to travel cheaply for leisure over long distances for the first time and return home.

These excursions caused great shocks to observers at the time, until they became routine by the 1860s. Using contemporary newspaper evidence, the book looks at how these excursions were shaped and the experiences of working class travellers during this period, demolishing a number of clichés and myths endlessly reproduced in traditional railway histories. While Michael Portillo paints a picture of travellers sitting tidily in their railway carriages, consulting their Bradshaws, many working class excursionists on their ‘cheap trips’ were hanging on to the roof of a crowded carriage, endangering their lives, or enduring hours of travel in an open wagon in heavy rain.

The book also highlights the very minor role played by Thomas Cook in mass mobility at the time, when compared to other agents (such as Henry Marcus), companies and organising groups.

Although the book covers Great Britain generally, there is much about York and Yorkshire as well as the North West of England. I will be talking about it at an event in Clements Hall in the New Year.

With a foreword by Professor Colin Divall, it is fully referenced and has an index and colour plates with maps and illustrations. See for details.

I will be talking about my book at an event in Clements Hall on Friday 5th February 2016 at 7.30pm.