1786 Ballooning event.
We are often greeted in Summer evenings, and occasional mornings, with the sight and sounds of an air balloon. A well established birthday or anniversary treat. When we recently looked at the Tithe Map, there was one location identified as “Air Balloon Field”, and recognising that this map is of the 1840’s, an event must have occurred some time earlier to have established this area with a permanent noteworthy name.
The history of Hot Air Ballooning began on 21st November 1783 when two French brothers, Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier, attempted the first manned flight from the centre of Paris and flew for twenty minutes. This enterprising science was quickly taken up by other engineers, both in France and across the channel here in England, and just two years later in 1785 a French balloonist, Jean Pierre Blanchard and his American co-pilot, John Jefferies, became the first to actually fly across the English Channel. These first few years were a frenzy of activity with many flights being made in London, Oxford, Bristol, Liverpool and Edinburgh.
The diagram shows two sections of the Tithe Map, where half way along Pike Fish Lane there is this triangle area called “The Green”. Adjacent is a lane leading south, and to the right of that is a rectangular area numbered 1594 that was named “Air Balloon Field”.
Research has revealed an article in The Times dated, Thursday June 8th 1786, that states:-
“The balloon that ascended with Mess. Blake and Redmill, after floating in the air for more than six hours, descended three miles from Yalding in Kent, in a field belonging to Farmer Felder; 500 people assembled about noon in the course of about three minutes, and rendered every assistance in their power. On their arrival at Yalding every token of joy was signified, by the ringing of bells and shouts of applause.
At one time they were very near the Nore, and were in hopes to reach France; but a different current of air sent them back again.”
and where it meets Pike Fish Lane at Fowlhall. This event is so near the early history of ballooning, that the labouring class villagers would not have even heard of the possibility of balloons, so the whole experience must have been more overwhelming than science fiction is to us.
This is another benchmark in the story of our Local History, and one unique to Yalding.
This third map shows the relationship of Air Balloon Field with the Darmon Lane that goes back to Laddingford school,