Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire

New Crowds in New Spaces: Railway Excursions for the Working Classes in North West England in the Mid-nineteenth Century

Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire (2017), 166, (1), 93–115.

Abstract

The rapid development of Britain’s railway infrastructure in the mid-nineteenth century transformed the country in many ways, bringing technological, economic and social changes in its wake. The North West of England featured heavily in these changes, one of which was the introduction of a large number of mass railway excursions, enabling the working classes – ‘ordinary people’ – to extend their leisure trips for the first time. Huge crowds formed at stations and at destinations, a potential concern at a time of public worries about ‘the mob’ and crowd unrest. Research on the consumption of working-class leisure travel during this period has been limited by the difficulties of sourcing evidence, in the absence of personal accounts, diaries and letters by working-class travellers. However, the arrival of searchable online resources such as contemporary newspapers now provides a route to locating valuable evidence which sheds light on this activity. This article shows how newspapers can be used to examine how the working classes in the region were able to extend their leisure horizons. It looks at particular factors which shaped their access to leisure excursions, such as competition, Sabbatarianism, geographical features, wages, and a history of steamboat activity.

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Author details

Major, Susan