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1824: Aeronauts land in Cuckfield

Sussex & Surrey Chronicle - Wednesday 09 June 1824


In spite of the awful warning held out to aeronauts, by the melancholy fate of Mr. Harris, another of these adventurous flights took place on Wednesday, and one of the fair sex was again found sufficiently courageous to take a seat in the car. Mr. Graham, who has already made several excursions, was the aeronaut, and the lady was his wife.

The place fixed upon to ascend from was White Conduit House:

George Graham and His Wife, Margaret, making a balloon ascent, London, 1823 (John Hayter,)

The balloon is an entirely new one, constructed of a strong silk, thickly varnished; the colours crimson, blue, and very bright stone-colour. The shape, when inflated, is as similar as possible to that of a pear. The process of inflation commenced about twenty minutes before one, pipes being laid on from the Gas Works of the Imperial Gas Company, at Hackney.

The fatal result of the recent attempt of Mr. Harris had thrown about the present a degree of interest which would not otherwise have attended it, and the number of spectators was commensurately great. From eleven. o'clock in the morning great crowds were hastening to the scene of action, and by three the gardens were neatly filled with respectable company, and the concourse of people outside Was immense. In every direction, as far as the eye could reach the crowd was as dense as it was possible to be, and the roofs of the houses which commanded a view of the gardens were covered with spectators.

A great many temporary stages were erected, upon which the curious were allowed to risk the safety of their necks at a shilling a head. The inflating process went steadily on, and by four o'clock the balloon was almost sufficiently filled for ascension.

To prevent the inconvenience and danger experienced by Mr. Graham upon a former occasion, by the erection of poles, to which to fasten the confining cords, he had adopted the plan of having an additional number of lines, and merely held by men stationed for that purpose at proper distances. A large and heavy looking car, very gaudily decorated, was exhibited on the ground during the day, but before it was attached to the balloon, it was divested of most of its cumbrous ornaments, and was then a very pretty, light, and tasty vehicle. About a quarter before five o'clock, Mr. and Mrs. Graham came from the tavern, and ascended the stage amid loud plaudits. Mr. Graham was dressed in a suit of black, and wore a cap, and his lady was attired in a pelisse and bonnet of white satin. She seemed in delicate health, but perfectly collected, and conversed cheerfully with those about her while the final preparations were making.

At twenty-five minutes past five, Mr. and Mrs Graham entered the car, and the suspending cords having been brought up and lashed to the balloon, his friends meanwhile holding it down, and every thing being ready, Mr. Graham gave the word, and the balloon was let go.

It ascended only five or six yards, and then lowered almost to the ground, and there were apprehensions that it would come in contact with the houses adjoining the garden' but a long rope had been attached to the car, which was held by those upon the stage and they pulled with all their strength, cleared it of the houses, and it ascended steadily and majestically. Mr. and Mrs. Graham stood up in the car, and bowed repeatedly to the crowd below, and the cheering was loud and hearty.

The balloon proceeded rather slowly in a south-westerly direction; and it had not arrived at a great altitude, when Mr. Graham discharged a quantity of ballast, and this he repeated several times before the balloon disappeared. The atmosphere was much clouded, and the balloon, after being twelve minutes in sight, entered a dense cloud, and was lost to the view. It is impossible to conceive a finer ascent.

The aeronauts descended in a field belonging to Mr. Brown, at Cuckfield, in Sussex, 40 miles from London, atlive minutes before 'seven o'clock, having been exactly one hour and twenty minutes on their voyage. They took a post-chaise at the King's Head, Cuckfield, and reached their residence in Poland street a little before three o'clock in the morning. Their thermometer at a quarter past six was at the freezing point, and at half past six was as low as 27. The highest elevation they reached was about three miles. .


On ascending we were obliged to throw out all our ballast, owing to the clouds being heavily charged with rain; had the City in view full thirty-one minutes; on entering the first cloud, we experienced cold, and a very great thirst, which we unfortunately had not the means of allaying, as we bad no liquor with us but brandy. After passing through a vast number of dense clouds, we reached a clear atmosphere, when the sun shone forth in the greatest splendour, the clouds beneath us having the usual appearance of snow mountains, but much more clear than I ever before observed.

We were not entirely in the dark in passing through the dense clouds. The thermometer at a quarter past six stood at the freezing point, and at half-past six as low as twenty. Passed several currents of air, which whirled the car round several times. After passing the clouds, the inclination of the balloon to ascend was extremely strong, in consequence of the rarefaction of the atmosphere, and my having parted with all my ballast.—l here lowered my grapple-iron, to a considerable extent of rope, to obtain gravity, and discharged a portion of gas.—

Having remained in the air one hour and twenty minutes, we began our descent, which was as gradual as our ascent. We alighted in a field a short distance from the village of Cuckfield, in Sussex, forty miles from town. Immediately on our descent, we experienced a heavy shower of rain; the balloon at this time remained as erect as when on the stage at the gardens; and it afforded shelter for thirty persons from the shower. After the storm abated, I drew the machine nearer the earth, and discharged the gas; Mrs. Graham and myself having safely stepped out of the car. A club being then held at the village of Cuckfield, about 200 persons were on the spot at the descent. We experienced the greatest courtesy from the inhabitants of this romantic village; a carriage was brought into the field, which took Mrs. Graham off to the King's Head, amidst the shouts of the assembled throng, and was then sent back accompanied by a cart to carry the balloon. We are indebted for much kindness to Mr. Kemp, toy merchant of Barbican, who happened to be in this place; also to Sugden, Esq. of Cuckfield. Having taken refreshment, we started for home, in a chaise and four horses at half past nine; and arrived at Poland-street at half past two this morning, having experienced no other inconvenience than Mrs. G. and myself having a violent ear-ache and slight deafness.—

When in the air, for some time we could not hear each other speak, in consequence of the density. The length of line to the grapple-iron was two hundred and seventy feet. Mrs. G. looking over the car, observed the grapple looked about the size of a small knife. The greatest height we reached appeared to be, by the gage, two miles and a half. Mrs. Graham threw over the car an empty ballast bag ; after this had descended a considerable distance, it became inflated, and ascended to the level of the car, and remained with us till we descended, having at one time reached as high as the equator of the balloon.

We beg to return our most unfeigned thanks to the public for the very liberal support afforded us on this occasion; and also to congratulate them on the circumstance of there not having been the least accident.


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