England has a long history of innovation and over the years it has paved the way for the rest of the world in several industries. As well as being home to the world’s first motorcar and being the first ground of several of the world’s first sports, England has also led the way in tourism.
With the first ever English Tourism Week taking place this week (10th – 18th March), VisitEngland takes a look back at some of the country’s tourism contributions that have shaped how we holiday today.
First Afternoon Tea
The tradition of taking Afternoon Tea is said to have been started at Woburn Abbey by the wife of the 7th Duke of Bedford, Duchess Anna Maria, during the 1840s. The Duchess felt that taking tea and delicate sandwiches, cakes and biscuits bridged the long gap between luncheon and dinner. We couldn’t agree more. Today, afternoon tea is still our preferred way to break up the afternoon, meet friends, or celebrate – and it is still served in traditional form in the Duchess’ tea room at Woburn Abbey. £12.50 per person. www.woburn.co.uk/abbey
What goes around the world and stays in a corner? The answer… a postage stamp, and the first method of pre-paying to send mail in a convenient way was invented right here in England. The first stamp in the world was posted from Bath in May 1840. The Penny Black officially came into use on 6th May 1840 and was sold in 1990 for £55,000. To learn more about England’s postal history, visit Bath Postal Museum. Adults: £3.50, Child over 6: £1.50.
Ryde Pier on the Isle of Wight is thought to be the oldest pier in the world. Built in 1813 and opened in 1814, the pier certainly made the experience of coming ashore more pleasant than being carried on a porter’s back or walking half a mile through wet sand in your fineries. The pier has recently been renovated to preserve its Victorian heritage and today is home to the Wightlink catamaran service between Portsmouth Harbour and Ryde. Return crossing on the Catamaran from Portsmouth Harbour to Ryde is £16.
2010 marked the 1,000 year anniversary of the first flight, when Brother Eilmer, an 11th century Benedictine monk, attached wings to his arms and legs and attempted man’s first recorded flight. He jumped off Malmesbury Abbey tower in Wiltshire and managed a downward glide of some 200 metres. You could say this was the precursor to Hang Gliding. To learn more about aviation, visit the flight gallery at the Science Museum in London, which is brimming over with extraordinary exhibits reflecting both British and international achievements in aviation. Entry is free but charges apply for the IMAX cinema, flight simulators and some special exhibitions.
Englishman John Thomas Moore, the man who bought the deckchair to world, took out a patent for an adjustable folding chair made of wood and fabric in 1886. Mass production of the deckchair started in Macclesfield in Cheshire, before becoming part of the furniture on ocean liners travelling all over globe - including the doomed Titanic. They became - and still are - an essential part of British piers, beaches, promenades, cricket grounds and back gardens. Beer beach in Devon is a picturesque beach with striped deckchairs and charming beach huts. Head out mackerel fishing, or simply recline in a deck chair for the afternoon and watch the world go by…
First Package Holiday
It was a 32-year old cabinet-maker named Thomas Cook who pioneered the very first package holiday back in 1841, when he organised a rail journey from Leicester to Loughborough to allow 500 people to attend a temperance meeting on July 5th that year. During the next three summers, Thomas arranged a succession of trips between Leicester, Nottingham, Derby and Birmingham on behalf of local temperance societies and Sunday schools. His first commercial venture took place in the summer of 1845, when he charged patrons to join an organised a trip to Liverpool. Today, Thomas Cook is the UK’s largest retailer of breaks on home turf, as well as being the official provider of short breaks to the London 2012 Olympic Games and providing more trips to UK sports events than anyone else.
First Hard Rock Café
You can go all around the world from Aruba to Sharm El Sheikh and find a Hard Rock Café. But if you want to find the original, head to Old Park Lake in London. In June 2011, the Café celebrated its 30th birthday; the brainchild of Isaac Tigrett and Peter Morton, the central London restaurant offered first-rate American food, a fascinating collection of memorabilia with live music. Still housing the first ever piece of memorabilia donated to Hard Rock Café, Eric Clapton’s Lead II Fender – originally donated to reserve a space at the busy bar – the London café today is as authentic and popular as ever.
For events and offers taking place this week for English Tourism Week, visit www.enjoyengland.com/English-Tourism-Week