FBJoin the Exeter Memories Group Page

A gas balloon ascent in Exeter - 1848

Back to historic events in Exeter

The world's first balloon ascent by the Montgolfier brothers was in 1783 when a sheep, duck and a cockerel became the first aeronauts. During the 19th-century, there had been many flights, both of hot-air balloons and gas balloons. The first balloon ascent in Exeter was from the Castle in 1786 by Mr. St Croix, and in June 1828, Mr Green made two ascents from the Bonhay, landing in Woodbury and Sowton, respectively.

This balloon ascent took place in Exeter on 26 August 1848 from Castle Yard, and although it was not the first, it may have been the first gas filled balloon ascent.

A Mr Wadham of Bristol brought his balloon down to Exeter for his 63rd ascent, and Exeter Gas Company were brought in to supply the gas. The yard was packed with 600 spectators while thousands stood in Northernhay Park Gardens and every other vantage point to watch the event. A band played martial and popular tunes while preparations were made for the flight. Trewman's Exeter Flying Post reported on the ascent and wrote of the flight itself -

"The aeronaut on this occasion had an adventurous companion in the person of Mr Roger Acton, of the Western Times newspaper office; and at half-past 5 o'clock all being ready, these stepped into the car, the cords were loosened, and the vast machine shot up to a great height amidst the hearty huzzas of the many who witnessed it. The balloon at first took a northern direction, and a parachute was dispatched to terra firma, which fell near Mr Kingdon's house in St David's. The course of the balloon however as it ascended, suddenly changed to the east, and passing over the high ground of St. David's and St. Sidwells, at a considerable altitude and presenting a fine object to those below, it passed Heavitree, and the Clysts, Sowton, &c., and at ten minutes to 6 o'clock descended in a field in the occupation of Mr Samuel Davy, of Weir, a short distance from Newcourt House, the seat of J.B.Cresswell Esq. and about three miles from the city."

A horse and cart were sent to retrieve the balloon. The landlord of the Black Horse Inn in Longbrook Street who had followed the balloon in his carriage, gave the aeronauts a lift back to Exeter before it got dark. It was estimated that the envelope of the balloon had a capacity of 20,000 cubic feet of gas and that its maximum height was 1¼ miles (2,000 m).

Sources - Trewman's Exeter Flying Post

Top of Page