Does anyone have memories to share of going on holiday from the Humberstone Road station in Leicester?
Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the July fortnight holiday in Leicester, changed from August to the first two weeks in July in 1965 after a ballot of local ‘workpeople’. Holidays were often cheaper in July, and it also had the advantage of avoiding the ‘great rush’ that the Leicester Mercury described just before the holiday fortnight in August 1956, when over 90% of rail tickets were already sold at local travel agents, and up to five million vehicles were expected to be on the roads nationally.
All the trains going to Skegness and other east coast seaside resorts in 1965 left from London Road station, but for years before this many of them left from the Great Northern railway station on Belgrave Road. This also had a station not far from Charnwood Street on Humberstone Road, saving people a journey into the city and out again – but it wasn’t just the factories that shut down in Leicester during the July fortnight.Some offices and other businesses also closed, buses ran on a reduced service, and the city seemed almost deserted at times. More than 100,000 people left Leicester on holiday in July 1965, the Leicester Mercury reported, with ‘a cool £1 million pounds’ in their pockets, including holiday pay. Around 10,000 of them travelled on the 19 East Coast ‘specials’ from London Road station, and ‘everyone had a seat’ thanks to a free ‘book in advance’ scheme (3 July 1965).
Most people did travel by rail, either because they didn’t own a car or to avoid what the Mercury described as the ‘nightmare drive to the coast. ‘Is it safe? Is it necessary?…’, it asked in 1964 of the ‘Friday night rush down to the South coast’ at the start of a holiday week:
The Friday is bound to be a day of tension – for mother who has to cope with packing and meals to eat on the way; for the children who are excited at thoughts of what seems like endless days by the sea; and for father who is expected to do a day’s work, rush home and change, load up the car, and then start on a drive of 200 or more miles, a good slice of it during the hours of darkness… [It] can often become a nightmare for the man behind the wheel (7 July 1964).
The weather on the East Coast for the July fortnight in 1965 was said to be ‘improving after a mixed fortnight’ – but there was no need to miss out on news from home as holidaymakers could still buy an edition of the Leicester Mercury (and maybe the Leicester Mail as well?) in Skegness and other popular resorts. Some people from Leicester were also venturing further afield for their holidays by the 1960s: the Spanish resorts of Lloret, Sitges and Torre were said to be popular destinations, along with those on the Italian Adriatic coast.
As a footnote, some years after the Great Northern line closed the station was sold by British Rail to Leicestershire County Council for £1, and rebuilt on the Battlefield Line at Shenton, near to Market Bosworth – see the picture below.