Thomas Cook & Son

Thomas Cook & Son

Thomas Cook & Son, originally simply Thomas Cook, was a company founded by Thomas Cook, a cabinet-maker, in 1841 to carry temperance supporters by railway between the cities of Leicester, Nottingham, Derby and Birmingham.

In 1924, the company was renamed Thomas Cook & Son Ltd., after acquiring limited liability status. A new headquarters was opened in Berkeley Street, London in 1926. In 1928, the business was sold to the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits et des Grandes Express Européens, operator of the Orient Express.

After the outbreak of World War II the Paris headquarters of the Wagons-Lits company was seized by the occupying forces, and the British assets taken over by the Custodian of Enemy Property. In 1942, Thomas Cook & Son Ltd. was sold to the proprietors of Hay’s Wharf, the four major British railway companies at this time, with the aim of preventing its bankruptcy. The company was nationalised along with the railways in 1948, becoming part of the British Transport Commission.

In the late 1950’s the company began to promote ‘foreign holidays’ by selling “inclusive tours” (package holidays) using scheduled airlines but refused to sell cheap package holidays which compromised on quality and service. As a result, the company began to lose market share, although its operating profits exceeded £1 million for the first time in 1965.

The company was denationalised in 1972, when it was acquired from the British Government by a consortium of Trust House Forte, Midland Bank and the Automobile Association. The company’s name was altered from Thomas Cook & Son, Ltd, to Thomas Cook Group Ltd in 1974. Midland Bank acquired sole control in 1977.

It was succeeded by Thomas Cook AG after being sold to a German company in 2001, but since 2007 the descendant company is Thomas Cook Group plc.


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  • Salisbury


  • James Gavin
  • Keith Harrop