Bank Holidays

For most people taking holidays, either abroad or in the UK, is a normal part of everyday life. But for many of those in Victorian England, the concept of taking a holiday was completely unknown.

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Everyone was entitled to days off during religious holy days but these were unpaid. It wasn’t until the Bank Holiday Act of 1871 that workers in banks were allowed a certain number of days paid holiday a year; Easter Monday, Whit Monday, the first Monday in August and Boxing Day.

By 1936, 1,500,000 workers had at least six days paid annual leave but this did not apply to workers in the heavy industries. Despite the fact that these workers were entitled to Bank Holidays, they received no payment. In many cases this led to financial hardship.

The 1938 Holidays with Pay Act guaranteed one week’s annual paid leave to all full time workers.

Fortunately, considering many did not get paid for the Bank Holidays, cheap and affordable railway excursions were available. The Brighton Herald, August 3, 1872 carried an advert for the Railway Company offering cheap day return tickets from Brighton to Victoria and to other resorts, such as Hastings, where the new pier was about to be opened.

In the same year, auctioneers, house and estate agents in Brighton announced that they would be closing their premises on all Bank Holidays. In addition, the people of Brighton sent a petition to the Mayor requesting that all shops be closed on Whit Monday and that it should be made a general holiday as well as a Bank Holiday. The resolution was passed by the council.

As more people could afford to take holidays, resorts such as Brighton increased in popularity. The Brighton Herald reported that 66,000 people went on the Palace Pier during the August Bank holiday of 1911.

The popularity of resorts such as Brighton declined in the 1960s and 70s as more people could afford to go abroad but with the current economic crisis there has been a return to traditional holidays by the sea in the UK.

  1. SilverTiger

    I remember as a kid how crowded Brighton became in summer. (We are talking about the post-war period.) You had a job to find a couple of square yards to lay out your towel on the shingle beach (especially when the tide was in), people swarmed along the seafront and the buses became packed. There were boat trips from the beach and excursion coaches drawn up along the promenade: Wannock Gardens and mystery tours were two popular choices.

    I remember the first pedestrian crossing controlled by lights being installed on the seafront. Instead of a green man, the words “Cross now” appeared.

    My mother, like many local people, used to rent out a room for overnight bed and breakfast stays.

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