Making the most of the holiday

PUBLISHED: 12:22 25 August 2006 | UPDATED: 22:07 28 May 2010

Not a lot of people know that this coming Monday was once known as St Lubbock s Day. It got that nickname because, back in 1871, an MP called Sir John Lubbock (who was a campaigner for the rights of shop workers) won them an extra day s paid holiday: A

Not a lot of people know that this coming Monday was once known as St Lubbock's Day.

It got that nickname because, back in 1871, an MP called Sir John Lubbock (who was a campaigner for the rights of shop workers) won them an extra day's paid holiday: August Bank Holiday Monday.

For the first 100 years of its existence, the holiday was the first Monday in August. In its early days, workers (for whom a day-off was a complete novelty) wanted to make the most of the day.

Midlanders were prepared to leave home at the crack of dawn for the four-hour train journey to the coast. Lots of them passed through the Fens on special trains put on by the wonderful old Midland and Great Northern Railway - also known as the Muddle and Get Nowhere.

Its excursion trains trundled across our region from the East Midlands - some of them chuffing their way through Thorney, Murrow and Wisbech St Mary before reaching Norfolk.

The M&GN never indulged in luxuries such as on-board lavatories. More than one family (travelling on the slow-motion Nottingham to Yarmouth service) was extremely glad they had brought a bucket (as in bucket and spade) with them.

Better-off folk were able to stay longer than a day. Many of these holidaymakers rented rooms in boarding houses.

It wasn't all luxury. Yarmouth landladies would expect up to seven people to share a bed.

They also charged for cooking your food - which you had to bring with you. You then paid extra for salt, pepper and brown sauce.

In one guest house children were told to sleep in the cellar in a hammock made out of old carpet - and the family was then charged what we'd now call a supplement because that was the coolest part of the house.

None of this applied to Fen farm workers.

For starters, Fen children were expected to spend the summer helping with the harvest or picking fruit.

They may have wanted to say what today's children say at this stage of the holiday: "Mum, I'm bored."

They never said: "Mum, what can I do?"

If you find your children asking you that in the last few days before term starts, you could always send them out into the fields to pick stones.

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