England’s First Balloon Flight

In 1784 the grounds of the Honourable Artillery Company made history for the first time, when they were the setting for England’s first balloon ascent, by pioneering Italian aeronaut Vincenzo Lunardi.

Despite a flying craze in France and Scotland in the 1780s, the English remained sceptical. So George Biggin and 'Vincent' Lunardi, "The Daredevil Aeronaut", together decided to demonstrate a hydrogen balloon flight at the Artillery Ground of the Honourable Artillery Company in London on 15 September 1784. The balloon was later exhibited at the Pantheon in Oxford Street.

However, because the 200,000 strong crowd (which included eminent statesmen and the Prince of Wales) had grown very impatient, the young Italian had to take-off without his friend Biggin, and with a bag that was not completely inflated, but a dog, a cat and a caged pigeon accompanied him.

The flight from the Artillery Ground travelled in a northerly direction towards Hertfordshire, with Lunardi making a stop in Welham Green, where the cat was set free as it sadly became airsick.

Lunardi eventually brought the balloon to rest in Standon Green End. The road junction in Welham Green near to the site Lunardi made his first stop is, to this day, called Balloon Corner in his honour.

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