The role played by Thomas Cook in organising visits to the Great Exhibition of 1851 is well documented. He acted as agent for the Midland Railway's excursion trains from Yorkshire and the Midlands to London. It is arguable that this was the real beginning of the Cook travel business.
However, less well appreciated is that there were two other individuals involved with the series of daily excursions from as far north as York to London's Euston station (St Pancras came into existence over a decade later). But both John Cuttle and John Calverley, the two men concerned have been almost totally forgotten. John Cuttle is shown in the 1851 Census as an accountant from Wakefield and, at about 35, was a little younger than Cook. After the Hyde Park event ended in the autumn of 1851, he appears to have bowed out of the excursion business and by 1861 seems to have moved to Scarborough.
John Calverley was also a Yorkshireman and again appears to have played no further part in the tourist business after 1851. Both Calverley and Cuttle are shown at the bottom of a poster, along with Cook, produced to promote the Midland Railway special deals to London.
A further point often overlooked in the mainstream reports of 1851 Great Exhibition excursions is the operation of similar excursions from other parts of the country by other excursion organisers. The Manchester Guardian of 31st May 1851 ran advertisements for excursions organised by the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway by Grant & Co from Manchester and the London and North Western Railway, where H.R. Marcus was excursion organiser. Both remained prominent players in the North West of England for at least a further decade.
H.R.Marcus was in fact replaced as the main LNWR agent by Henry Gaze in 1868, a change that began a rapid expansion of the Gaze business and its emergence as the main competitor and rival to the Cook business until just beyond the turn of the 20th century.
The author of this blog will be presenting a lecture, "Thomas Cook's 19th century competitors" to the Leicester branch of the Victorian Society on Tuesday evening (7.30pm) 5th April at the Leicester Adult Education College in Wellington St Leicester