Thomas Cook must be the most famous Leicester citizen ever. He is famous for being the first travel agent and tour operator, and the company which he founded has since expanded to become one of England’s biggest.

Thomas Cook was born in 1808, in the village of Melbourne on the Leicestershire/Derbyshire border. In 1841, at the age of 33, he chartered a special train to take a group of people from Leicester to Loughborough, on the Great Central Railway. This trip was a success, and led to the formation of a travel agency, which bears his name. Cook began to run tours all over Europe, many of which he personally conducted. He also provided travelling services and organised service personnel for government travelling. He founded a group of Hotels throughout Europe, that is still around, albeit under a different name, today. He even organised transport of troops fighting under General Charles Gordon in the Sudan war of 1884.

 Cook died in 1892, at the age of 84. He was by that time very rich and well known throughout Europe. Thomas cook’s travel business is still going today. People can see his original premises on Gallowtree Gate, with the interesting wall carvings on the front depicting the first ever trip.

By Daniel J Spencer