So, Husband and I were talking about bank holidays and how they came about. I thought it sounded like a post-war thing, round about the time the NHS was introduced. I've just googled it and it turns out bank holidays became law in 1871 following a campaign by Sir John Lubbock, a Liberal MP. (Remember the days when Liberal MPs cared about the people?)
There were originally 4 bank holidays: Easter Monday, Whit Monday, the first Monday in August and Boxing Day. Christmas Day, Good Friday and Sundays were already 'days of rest' so didn't need to be included. An interesting fact is that bank holidays are not automatically public holidays although most workers' contracts will have them written in.
Bank holidays since 1971 are appointed each year by royal proclamation and extra ones can be appointed for special occasions e.g. last year's wedding of William and Kate. They can also be used in emergencies as in 1968 when a one-off bank holiday was declared, after a middle of the night Privy Council meeting attended by the Queen, to stem losses in the London gold markets.
Finally, while England, Wales and Scotland have 8 bank holidays, Northern Ireland has 10!