Way back, before the Industrial Revolution there was no such thing as a bank holiday. There were certain days observed by everyone as public holidays, such as Christmas Day and Good Friday. Presumably, by tradition, going back hundreds of years, these days were not work days. There was no need to pass a law to say they were public holidays, they just always were and always would be.
During the second half of the 19th century, an important change took place. Sir John Lubbock was a Liberal politician and a banker who loved his cricket and he encouraged his staff to support and play in the local village cricket matches which took place on certain specific days each year. He couldn't stand the idea of his competitors gaining an advantage over him by trading on the days he and his staff were otherwise occupied. He introduced the Banking Act of 1871 which recognised four new official holidays when all banks would be closed – Easter Monday, Whit Monday, first Monday in August and Boxing Day. These became known as “bank holidays”. For some years after, these days were known as "St Lubbock's Days".
There have been a few minor changes to these since 1871, mainly in 1971 when New Years Day and May Day were added to the list of bank holidays and Whit Monday became “Late Spring Bank Holiday” being the last Monday in May.
What is strange is that each year because of the vagaries of the calendar, the actual dates when these bank holidays fall has to be announced in advance by Royal Proclamation. This stops some bank holidays falling on weekends and when this occurs the bank holiday is technically renamed a “bank holiday in lieu” or “substitute day”.
From time to time, the Government announces additional public holidays for special occasions, the last of which was to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of the Queen in 2012.
It is a general perception that we English have less holidays than our European cousins. While it is true that we have less bank holidays in the UK than in other countries of the European Union, the difference is not as great as widely thought as they do not have “substitute” days and when a holiday falls on a weekend their day off is lost !
I wish all bloggers and readers of blogs a Happy and Peaceful Easter ....... and those of you in GB, enjoy the public holiday on Good Friday and the bank holiday on Easter Monday !