Up, up and not quite away

From Aris’s Birmingham Gazette Monday 23rd October, 1826. Birmingham’s 19th century newspapers are available on microfilm in the Local Studies department at the Library of Birmingham.

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Balloons could be a spectacular sight

Birmingham’s own local Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens were situated very closely to the barracks and held regular military concerts and several ballooning events. The lively event described in the report appears to have taken place in the barrack yard and, although the balloon was ultimately unable to take off, it nevertheless makes an entertaining read.

An immense concourse of people assembled on Monday in the neighbourhood of the barracks, in the expectation of seeing Mr. Graham ascend with his balloon; and the barrack yard, from which the ascent was announced to take place was nearly filled with persons who paid to view the process of inflation. The time appointed for the ascent was two o’clock, and the balloon commenced filling a little before eleven. The gas was supplied from the works of the Birmingham and Staffordshire Gas-light company and the inflation proceeded for some time favourably, but towards two o’clock a rent was perceived from which the gas was rapidly escaping. The balloon, however, continued to fill for some time, when Mr. Graham stated that the action of the wind on the top of the immense machine counteracted the operation of the gasometer, and prevented any more gas from entering. The people who had paid for admittance became very impatient as the afternoon advanced, and suspected that no ascent was intended. In order to satisfy them, Mr. Graham seated himself in the car at four o’clock and the balloon was released from its fastenings, but it had not obtained sufficient buoyancy to rise from the ground, and only dragged for about the yard. The populace seeing there was no possibility of the balloon ascending, became enraged and would have torn the machine to pieces had not the soldiers kept them off, and succeeded with some difficulty in clearing the ground.  Numerous are the accounts given why the balloon did not ascend. Mr. Graham says that a number of persons who had bets depending upon its non-ascent held the car down until the gas had escaped through an aperture they had purposely made in the silken fabric. During the time the gas was escaping in volumes. The stench through the yard was most intolerable. Mr. Graham declares that he will shortly make a gratuitous ascent, accompanied by Mrs. Graham as some compensation for the disappointment.

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