Trip Week: a Swindon institution for over 100 years
It was the highlight of the GWR workers' year and an occasion that left Swindon a ghost town for a short period every summer.
Highlight of the year 1913:
workers queue to board trains for
the annual GWR trip to the seaside
It was, of course, Trip Week. Typically the first or second seven days in July when the employees of the Great Western Railway and their families boarded trains in Swindon and headed off for a well earned break by the sea.
A Swindon event for over 100 years
Destinations included Weston-Super-Mare, Weymouth, Torquay and Tenby, with St. Ives in Cornwall even becoming known as 'Swindon-by-the-sea' such was the influx of the town's workers during the Trip heyday.
Swindon Trippers enjoying
the sea in Paigton 1949
Most people - all dressed in their Sunday best - boarded trains at Swindon station between 4:00am and 8:00am in the morning. Some years over 26,000 crammed into carriages at a rate of over 100 per minute.
And, as you would expect, the whole process was organised with typical GWR efficiency; every train had a number, and every person was allocated a specific train. Everyone's accommodation was also organised well in advance, and every worker was keenly reminded when the return train was leaving. It was 'wo-be-tide' anyone who missed it!
The only problem was, Trip week was unpaid. The GWR didn't allow paid holiday until 1938, so up until that time a week away from the toil of the factory, although welcomed, very often led to cut-backs and bad debts when the workers returned, most of them penniless.
For that reason, most of the traders in Swindon very often simply shut up shop knowing full well the streets would be empty. And if that wasn't enough, the majority would then be faced with a double-wammy of families unable to pay their bills in the immediate weeks after the shutdown.
Trip week poster for the annual
holiday in 1931
But for all the hardship and money worries it may have caused, it was the GWR Trip Week that most people remember with the greatest fondness when the subject of the Works comes up.
It would be no exaggeration to say that in Swindon life from 1880 - 1960, Christmas, Easter and Trip were the three most cherished times of the year.
It is for this reason that local author, Rosa Matheson, has written the definitive account of Swindon's big yearly excursion.
Trip book written by
Entitled 'TRIP - the annual holiday of GWR's Swindon Works' it chronicles the complete history of how Trip came about right through to its heyday in the 1940s, 50s and 60s and its demise in the 70s. Packed with evocative memories, humerous anecdotes and fabulous pictures it's a must-read for any Swindon historian or Tripper looking to relive a bygone era.
Find out more about the book via the link below.