Nothing transformed the leisure activities of the Victorians more than the railways. The wealthy had always travelled but train trips allowed them to reach their destinations more comfortably, quickly and cheaply. But the working classes saw the biggest changes as they now had opportunities to travel not only for employment but also for holidays, day trips and sporting events. Special trains would whisk folk off to the races or the FA Cup Final which was held for the first time in 1872.
The year Okehampton station opened in 1871 saw the introduction of Bank Holidays. This started the tradition of away days to the moors for walking, picnics and fresh air, or trips to the seaside for sticks of rock, walks along the pier, funfair rides and fish and chips. All these destinations grew and prosperity as tourism became a national pastime. A whole industry sprang up to support holidaymakers in destinations all over the country.
On Monday 14th October 1895 Okehampton residents were invited to travel to London to see the Empire of India Exhibition. Earls Court was redesigned in a Mughal Indian style to show the British a culture so removed from theirs. We cannot imagine how amazing a sight this must have been for someone from Dartmoor. There was a ‘Gigantic Wheel’, 300ft high with 40 carriages, each holding 30 people! Not too different from the London Eye today. There was also a theatre that sat 6000 people to see a show about the history of India. For one price you received train travel and entrance tickets to the exhibition and also Crystal Palace and Madame Tussauds. The return trip was on Tuesday, and many would have stayed up all night, unable to afford accommodation.