The origins of the Bank Holiday!



We are in the midst of that time again. There is a flurry of Bank Holidays in Britain.

It’s hard to be British and not feel something, either positive or negative, about Bank Holidays. For a start it’s guaranteed to rain. Families are together and feel obliged to do something with the children despite the weather, so look to events, shows, towns, beaches for something to do. All over Britain small families can be seen battling the elements with reluctant children! I remember as a child sitting in the back of an Austin 1100, feeling car sick, joining the queues of traffic to get to a ‘quiet’ spot (along with the rest of the population) in Dartmoor National Park for a picnic. Camping chairs were unloaded, Grandparents settled, dogs tied to something unstable, siblings caused trouble and mothers became fractious, then the weather would turn, the whole process would be put in reverse and we’d head home! But someone would be bound to say ‘well that was nice, weather turned out ok didn’t it?’ In the 1960’s if you were in Margate you might have seen Mods  and Rockers clashing!

This Spring Bank Holiday (last Monday in May) 11 million Britons are expected to take to their cars.

All in the name of The Bank Holiday!

There are now 8 Bank Holidays in the UK. The name comes from an act of parliament brought by the liberal politician Sir John Lubbock, he was a banker who introduced the Bank Holidays Act 1871 and the concept of holiday with pay. It specified the days when banks were closed and so trading could not be done. Rumour had it he was a cricket fan and tried to fit the new Bank Holidays in with his local cricket fixtures!

He added 4 new holidays to the existing May day, All saints Day, Christmas day and Good Friday. Christmas day and Good Friday were never Bank Holidays as they were Common Law Holidays as were Sundays.

So the added days were Boxing Day, Easter Monday, Whit Monday and the first Monday in August. The people were so grateful they called the first official Bank Holiday St Lubbocks day! Two of the original BHs have changed. In 1965 the August BH changed to the last Monday to try to extend the British summer holiday period and Whit Monday changed to the Spring Bank Holiday (last Monday in May).

But still the word ‘Bank Holiday’ brings feelings; nostalgia, frustration pleasure and sometimes loneliness to people all over Britain at this time of year.


Bank Holiday = National Holiday in the UK

In the midst = In the middle of something.

A flurry = A sudden, short period of activity.

Battling the elements = Coping with bad weather.

Fractious = Short tempered, bad tempered, moody.

Parliament = The part of Government that makes new laws.

The concept = The idea.

Trading = Buying, selling. When money changes hands

Rumour has it = It’s believed to be true but no proof!

Fixture = Sporting event


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