5 Surprising sites that tell the story of travel

Join us on a journey across the country to top up your travel trivia.

These 5 places bring to light a glowing history of innovation in travel and tourism – which ones have you heard of?

1. Croydon Airport (now Airport House)

dh91 at croydon infront of tower
DH91 at Croydon, in front of the control tower. via Historic Croydon Airport Trust (Feature image: Morton Air Service DH Dove G-AMYO via Historic Croydon Airport Trust)

From 1920, Croydon was London’s main airport and the UK’s first international airport. It had the most advanced air traffic control tower and it was here that radio telephony (speech transmission) was used for the first time in place of morse code. It also had the first departures board – essentially just a wall of clocks.

Most of the flights were from Croydon to Paris, so in 1923 when senior radio officer Fred Mockford was asked to come up with a distress call he proposed ‘Mayday, Mayday, Mayday’ as it sounded like M’aidez – French for ‘help me’.

2. Leicester Railway Station (formerly Leicester London Road)

Leicester railway station CC79_00499
Leicester railway station © Historic England Archive CC79_00499

In 1841 Thomas Cook organised the first railway excursion for 500 people from Leicester station to a temperance meeting in Loughborough. In 1855, he planned his first excursion abroad when he took two groups on a ‘grand circular tour’ of Belgium, Germany and France. By the late 1860s he was taking groups to Switzerland, the USA and Egypt.

From these early excursions sprang the idea that more people could travel, not just the very rich, using the new railway system. So the concept of the annual jolly is somewhat down to one Leicestershire man.

3. Ivinghoe Beacon, Hertfordshire

EAW003356.tif
Ivinghoe Beacon © Historic England Archive EAW003356

Thought to be the oldest road in Britain, two paths – The Ridgeway and the Icknield Way – connect at Ivinghoe Beacon to form part of an ancient trading route between the Dorset coast and Norfolk. It has been in use for at least 4,000, possibly 5,000 years. Views from the hill stretch towards ancient sites including Avebury stone circle and the Uffington White Horse.

4. Migration Platform, Hull Railway Station

Emigrant waiting room, Paragon Station, Hull. Constructed 1871 c Historic England Archive
Emigrant waiting room, Paragon Station, Hull. Constructed 1871 © Historic England Archive

Increased emigration to the United States in the late nineteenth century prompted the building of a migrant station at Hull. This was partly due to public health concerns over things like cholera, and separate waiting rooms were also constructed.

Over one million migrants travelling from Scandinavia, the Baltic and Europe arrived in Hull by boat to this platform before either settling in the UK or continuing their journey to North America from Liverpool or Glasgow.

The migrant platforms and waiting rooms are still in use – the waiting room is now a pub.

5. Number 24 Bus Route, London

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National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London 1962 © Historic England Archive aa076858

You may not know that the number 24 between Hampstead and Pimlico has the distinction of being the oldest bus route in London. The route began in 1910 and has changed little since 1912, except the fare has increased somewhat from a penny a journey. The Number 24 remains a familiar sight at some of London’s iconic spots, from Trafalgar Square and Horse Guards Parade, right up to Camden Town.

Further Reading

100 Places logoEach of these places were nominated for Irreplaceable: A History of England in 100 Places – but they didn’t make the top 10 as chosen by judge Dr Bettany Hughes. Listen to our podcast to find out about the top 10 places in the category Travel & Tourism. 

Join in the conversation on twitter using #100Places

Irreplaceable: A History of England in 100 Places is sponsored by Ecclesiastical

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