The History of England

from Celts through 20th century

Bank Holidays

Category: Customs + Festivals

Three times a year according to an Act of Parliament the offices and banks of England are closed on a Monday (Easter Monday, Whit Monday and the last Monday in August) and these are called Bank Holidays. The August Bank Holiday is also called “St Lubbock’s Day’’ because the Act wasdue to the statesman and scientific writer John Lubbock.

Londoners spend these holidays in different ways. If it happens to be August Bank Holiday, car-owners dash down to the sea-side town of Brighton for a bathe in the sea, or to the Devil’s Dyke, a famous beauty-spot, to take it easy on the grass, eat sandwiches, and look at the sky. Others go to the zoo in the country at Whipsnade where they feed the kangaroos and tame monkeys which roam at liberty, and havea ride on a slow, silent elephant.

But the real cockneys collect all the money they have saved and set off in the direction of Hampstead Heath, a large natural park in Greater London, whole families of them from grandma to grandchildren. They whirl round on merry-go-rounds until they are dizzy, or slide down a wooden spiral on a piece of carpet and merrily turn head over heels as they reach the bottom, or aim wooden balls at coconut shies and win a live canary. Punch — the cousin of Petrushka — will squeal loudly and flog his long-suffering wife

Judy with a stick. Finally there are the “Pearly Kings and Queens’’ who walk proudly up and down. These are cockneys who have sewed pearl buttons all over their suits and dresses. In short it is a first-class popular celebration.

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