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1824: Audacious aeronauts land in Cuckfield and receive warm welcome at the Kings Head

The Examiner - Sunday 06 June 1824


The melancholy fate of Harris does not seem to have alarmed Mr. Graham; nor the fright and danger of his female companion to have acted with much sympathetic force on the nerves of her own sex. Scarcely is the Coroner's inquest over on the deceased, and the survivor recovered from her bruises and terrors, when the public is called upon to witness another ascent of the same idle kind.

The balloon which went up on Wednesday was entirely new formed of alternate stripes, 18 inches wide, of pink and white and round the middle was inserted a complete circle of cerulean blue; the dimensions of the machine are thirty-seven feet in diameter, and with its car, it stood nearly sixty feet high; its capacity was 29,522 cubic feet. The place fixed upon for the ascent, was the garden of White Conduit-house, Pentonville. The crowd collected outside the enclosure was immense. All the streets and avenues north of the New-road leading to the gardens, were filled with carriages, carts, waggons, and all descriptions of vehicles, supporting a dense mass of spectators' About five o'clock Mr. Graham ascended the platform. The preparations now proceeded with spirit; and by 25 minutes to five the car was attached to the balloon, the net-work properly adjusted round, and everything prepared for the ascent. He was accompanied by his wife. At 25 minutes past five, Mr. and Mrs. Graham entered the car, and having ordered the thongs which attached it to the' platform to be loosened, and made their salutations to the company, the balloon began to ascend amid the shouts of the spectators, which were answered by the obeisances and waving of the aeronauts. As there was little wind, the balloon ascended .slowly, but steadily, inclining gently in a south-westerly direction, Mr. Graham threw ballast out repeatedly in the first ten minutes, in order so promote the rapidity of his ascent. The balloon was visible nearly twenty minutes.

At the moment Mr. Graham's balloon passed over Tottenham court road, the mourners of Mr. Harris were returning from St.James’s burial ground, where they had just deposited the remains of that unfortunate adventurer.

The aeronauts descended at Cuckfield, in Sussex, 40 miles from London, at five minutes before seven o'clock, having been exactly one hour and twenty minutes on their voyage.


Shortly after their ascension, Mr Graham found it necessary to rid himself of all the ballast from the car, and, indeed, of everything else of a weighty description; this he attributes to the clouds being heavily charged with rain. They kept the city in their sight for full half an hour, and they lost all earthly views, by the balloon entering a large cloud, in which they experienced much cold. They passed through several others, and the effects of which completely deprived them of hearing. The thermometer, at this period, which was about 6:10 o'clock, was at freezing point, and then about a quarter of an hour after, it was as low as 20. The thirst that they now experienced was unprecedented, which they had no way of decreasing, having no liquid in the car but brandy. At length they reached a clear and serene atmosphere, and the sun shone forth in its brightest rays, the clouds below having their usual appearance, that of snow mountains lumped together.

The tendency of the balloon to ascend was very great, and it was found necessary to open the valve a little, in order to discharge a portion of gas, and to prevent the vehicle ascending. Having been in the air one hour and 20 minutes, they began to descend, and took out the grappling irons, which were fastened to a rope, 270 feet in length. Mrs Graham looked over the side of the car, and observed that the irons appeared like a table knife.

They now began as gradual a descent as they had ascended, and having obtained a gravity, in 10 minutes they reached terra firms in a field belonging to farmer Brown in the village of Cuckfield, about 14 miles from Brighton, in one of the most tremendous showers of rain ever remembered. The car slightly rebounded three times on touching the earth, but not to injure it or the adventurers. There being a club at the house of Mr Webber, the Kings Head, in the village, upwards of 80 persons came running to their assistance, and they were assisted out of the car, and conveyed immediately after to the above house, where they experienced the most hospitable treatment. J Sudwin, Esq near whose seat they descended, sent an invitation to them to his home, but Mr Mrs G. wishing to get to town, declined the offer. At 9:30 o'clock they left Cuckfield in a chase and four on the roof of which were the balloon and car, and arrived safe at their house in Poland Street at half past two o’clock in the morning. It is said to be Mr Graham's intention to make another ascent shortly.

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