It was a classic case of a Victorian philanthropist who wanted to help out those less fortunate than himself with a little known Liverpool connection a part of his story.

Thomas Cook , whose travel company bearing his name has collapsed after 178 years , was a Leicestershire cabinet maker and former Baptist preacher who believed that most social problems were related to alcohol.

But what is little known is that his first commercial venture was an outing to Liverpool in August 1845, for which he charged 15 shillings for first-class passengers and 10 shillings for those in second-class.

From these modest beginnings, Thomas Cook grew to become one of the world's oldest and largest travel companies, making its fall all the more shocking.

Closed sign in the window at the Thomas Cook on Liverpool's Church Street branch
Closed sign in the window at the Thomas Cook on Liverpool's Church Street branch

Leicestershire Live reported that Mr Cook organised his first trip in 1841, taking around 500 supporters of the temperance movement on a day trip by train from Leicester to Loughborough, 12 miles away.

The day was a success, so he went on to arrange excursions between Leicester, Nottingham, Derby and Birmingham for temperance societies and Sunday schools.

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Mr Cook went on to launch trips to Paris in 1855, before venturing to Italy, Switzerland, Egypt and the US in the 1860s.

His first high street shop was opened in 1865 in London and around the world tours began in 1872.

Pleasure trips by plane were launched in 1919.

Thomas Cook on Liverpool's Church Street.
Thomas Cook on Liverpool's Church Street.

The Cook family sold the business to the Belgian owners of the Orient Express in 1928, before it became state-owned as part of the nationalised British Railways in 1948.

By 1950 the number of British tourists travelling abroad each year exceeded one million, with France, Italy, Spain and Switzerland the most popular destinations.

 

Thomas Cook returned to private ownership in 1972 and has since switched hands several more times.

The most recent major change was in 2001 when a German travel group became the sole owner of the firm.

Thomas Cook Group employed around 21,000 people in 16 countries and had around 19 million customers each year.

Today, there is a statue of Mr Cook outside Leicester's railway station in London Road.