I was thinking this had to be a 20th century thing, but I've just consulted Wikipedia and find that something like the modern pattern was established in 1834 and got firmed up into law in 1871. The guy who framed the Bank Holidays Act- Sir John Lubbock- was a cricket nut and made sure the traditional dates of important matches in his corner of rural England got Bank Holiday status.
I was going to leave it at that but you know what Wikipedia's like. Lubbock's name was blue and clickable- so I clicked and what do you know? The man was a star. He wrote the 19th century's most influential book on archaeology, coined the terms palaeolithic and neolithic, was a friend of Charles Darwin's, an advocate of proportional representation and the founder of The Electoral Reform Society. When he was elevated to the peerage in 1900 he took the title Lord Avebury after the village that contains southern England's most remarkable prehistoric monument.
Please be upstanding. I give you...
Sir John Lubbock aka Lord Avebury (1834-1913)