The Coronation Balloonist

by Peter Nelson


From the Berkshire Chronicle, 5th May 1827 :






RESPECTFULLY announces to the Nobility, Gentry, and Public, that he purposes making his SIXTY-EIGHTH AERIAL VOYAGE, with his New and Improved BALLOON, from the Gas Inclosure, Newbury, on FRIDAY, MAY the 18th, at three o’clock, in the afternoon.  For the accommodation of all parties, the ground will be divided into two parts, admission to which, 1s. or 2s. 6d.

The Balloon, (inflated with Gas,) together with the Car and Appendages, will be exhibited at the Gas Works, on Thursday, the day prior to the ascent.

From the Berkshire Chronicle, 19th May 1827 :


Berkshire Chronicle Office, Reading.

Half-past 5, p. m. – Mr. Green, who this afternoon made his ascent from Newbury, has just now “hove in sight.”  The altitude of the aeronaut is not great, probably about half a mile.  The progress he makes is very slow, and he appears to be in a new current of air, as his direction is materially altered, and the balloon seems to be floating majestically towards Wallingford.  A number of persons occupy the tower of  St. Lawrence’s Church, and all the high grounds near the town are covered with spectators.  There are a great number in the Forbury, and telescopes are of course in much “request”.

Six, p. m. – The course of the aerial voyager still continues the same — directly towards Wallingford and Oxford.

Seven, p. m. – The balloon is descending, apparently very fast, supposed to be near Streatley or Basildon, but in a line with Wallingford.

Half-past Seven. – We have now lost sight of the aeronaut.  The descent appeared to be near Wallingford.

From the Berkshire Chronicle, 26th May 1827 :


We gave in our last a notice of the progress of Mr. Green’s ascent to the hour of our going to press ; we now subjoin an account of the aerial voyage, as furnished by Mr. Green :

The aeronaut, Mr. Green, who has been for some days in Newbury, making preparations for his 68th ascent, fixed upon a convenient field near the Gas Works, and on Thursday partially inflated his balloon, admitting such visitors as chose to favour him with their company, to see it in that state.  Being market day, a great many visited it, and expressed themselves much gratified by this most magnificent object, as well as by the polite attention shown them by Mr. Green and his son, a very intelligent youth.  The day was unfavourable and stormy, and boded badly for the morrow.  On Friday, however, “the morning lowered, and heavily brought on the day ;” but about twelve o’clock the wind seemed to sink, the day continued to improve, and the balloon became sufficiently inflated to take its flight through the immeasurable expanse.  Company now began to flock into the town from every quarter ; horses, gigs, carts, carriages, &c. moved along the streets in every direction.  The concourse of spectators became immense ; the town was like a fair ; but the great attraction, about two o’clock, soon concentrated them all in one focus.  It gives us great pleasure to say, that, owing to the wise and judicious arrangements, every thing was conducted with the utmost propriety and decorum.  It appeared there were several thousand persons present, but the crowd was so dense, it was difficult to guess their numbers with any accuracy.

The balloon was now seen, riding with grand majesty, rolling from side to side, impatient of restraint.  For the accommodation of such as wished to make a short aerial trip, the balloon was disengaged from time to time, and numbers of people ascended about 100 feet, and seemed greatly delighted with the excursion : while this was going forward, two bands of music amused the company.  A pilot balloon was then launched, and marked the course the other was to follow.  Next, a dog was dropped by Mr. Green in a small basket, and came gently down, supported by the parachute.

A few minutes past five, every thing being arranged, Mr. Green, accompanied by his son, having politely thanked the company for their kind patronage, and promised another trip, the balloon majestically and slowly rose, to the great delight of the multitude, whose gratification (as expressed by their acclamations) we have pleasure in recording ; a sight of this description not having taken place before at Newbury.  About twenty minutes past seven, the aerial travellers made their descent on Mr. Parson’s farm, at Cold Harbour, in the parish of Crowmarsh, about two miles from Wallingford.  They first approached the earth in a field, where, ropes being thrown out, the balloon was guided from it (in order to avoid damage to the growing crop) into a green lane, part of the Icknild Street Roman way, and the voyagers effected an easy landing, amongst a large concourse of spectators, who had been attracted by the view of the balloon in the air.  E. Slocock, Esq. of Newbury, and two inhabitants of Reading, who rode a sort of steeple chase, were in at the death, if Mr. Green will pardon us the expression.

On the whole, we consider this to be one of Mr. Green’s most brilliant ascents, as he was in sight the whole of the time, and the balloon must have been visible at the same time to the towns of Newbury, Wallingford, Henly, Oxford, Windsor, and Reading, and even at Heckfield, eight miles southward of the latter place.  As soon as Mr. Green had alighted, he dispatched a carrier pigeon to Newbury, to inform his anxious friends of his arrival in safety.  It appears that the greatest elevation which the balloon attained was 8,700 feet, at which height it continued moving in an horizontal direction.  Amongst the great assemblage of distinguished persons present were, the Earl of Craven, the Bishop of Bangor, Admiral Sawyer, Sir James Fellowes, Bart., General Cockell, the Mayor of Newbury, together with many other gentlemen of the neighbourhood.  The Messrs. Green arrived in a chaise and four, at about eleven at night, and expressed their gratitude for the kind manner in which they had been treated at Wallingford.

From the Berkshire Chronicle, 2nd June 1827 :



         The following is Mr. Green’s account of his voyage from Newbury on Thursday the 24th ult. :

         “My second ascent from this town since I left London, being fixed to take place on Thursday the 24th of May, all the necessary preparations were made, and the balloon was inflated at an early hour.  Notwithstanding the morning being very squally, a great number of spectators had assembled in the ground before two o’clock, at which hour we were visited by a most tremendous storm of hail, rain, and thunder, the wind at the time blowing a perfect hurricane, which, in a very few minutes, cleared the ground of the company, and threatened destruction to the balloon, which could scarcely be kept down, although loaded with two tons weight of iron, and the united exertions of nearly one hundred individuals holding to the net-work.  This continued nearly one hour, when the storm partially subsided, and between four and five o’clock the clouds broke up and dispersed ; but the wind continued to rage with unabated fury the whole of the evening.  A little before six o’clock, the ground being crowded with company, I entered the car, followed by Mr. H. Simmonds, and having secured the grappling iron, and all the necessary apparatus, at six o’clock precisely I gave the word “away.”

         The moment the machine was disencumbered of its weights, it was torn by the violence of the wind from the exhausted assistants, who had been contending with the combined fury of the elements during the whole day, and bounded off with the utmost velocity in a south-easterly direction, and in a very short space of time we attained an elevation of two miles.  At this elevation we perceived two immense bodies of clouds, operated on by contrary currents of air, until at length they became united ; at which moment my ears were assailed by the most tremendous and long-continued peal of thunder I ever heard.  These clouds were a full mile beneath us ; but perceiving another strata floating at the same elevation we were sailing, which, from their appearance, I judged to be highly charged with electric matter, I considered it prudent to discharge 20 lbs. of ballast, and we rose nearly half a mile above our former elevation, which I considered perfectly safe, and beyond their influence.  However awful our situation might have been considered by those who witnessed the storm from the earth, it was highly interesting to us, as we had an opportunity of observing, amongst other phenomena, that at every discharge of thunder, all the detached pillars of clouds within the distance of a mile round, were attracted, and appeared to concentrate their force with the first body of clouds alluded to, leaving the atmosphere clear and beautiful behind and beneath us.

         With very trifling variation we continued the same course until about a quarter past seven, when I began to make preparation for a descent ; and having opened the valve and suffered a quantity of gas to escape, we reached within five hundred feet of the earth ; but perceiving from the disturbed surface of the lakes and rivers beneath us, and our own rapid motion, that a strong and powerful current of wind still existed near the earth, we again rose and continued our course until upwards of half-past seven, when finding the wind considerably abated, I determined on making a final descent, which was safely and easily effected in a meadow field in the parish of Crawley, in Surrey, between Guildford and Horsham, and 58 miles distant from Newbury, which stormy, although interesting voyage, was accomplished in one hour and a half.

         Every accommodation and hospitality were afforded us, and the balloon and its appendages being properly secured, we returned to Newbury on Friday, and met the hearty congratulations of those, who, from the effects of the storm below, had entertained strong fears of our reaching terra firma in safety.  My companion expressed himself highly delighted with his voyage ; and I cannot speak too highly of his coolness and intrepidity amidst the impending danger.”




A Few Words of Explanation :


         Mr. Charles Green was a professional balloonist who made more than 500 ascents in his lifetime.  His first was at the coronation of King George IV in 1821, and that was also the first ever ascent of a balloon filled with coal gas, which was cheaper and more readily available than hydrogen.  The two ascents from Newbury, with its convenient gas works, were his 68th and 69th.

         St. Lawrence’s Church, Reading was close to the ‘Forbury’, an area of open ground within the walls of Reading Abbey.


1 thought on “The Coronation Balloonist”

  1. Oxford also had an early balloonist. James Sadler (1753–1828) was the first English balloonist and took off from near Deadman’s Walk in Christchurch meadow on 4 October 1784 just across the Thames from the A34. He landed at Woodeaton about 6 miles away.

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