This is an edited version of an article written in the “STAR OF THE EAST” (now the Ipswich Evening Star) on Monday 4th June 1888 describing a balloon trip that started in Ipswich and ended in Redlingfield. It was part of the celebrations for Queen Victoria’s birthday.
Over Suffolk in a balloon (By our own correspondent)
A journalist from the paper looking for something to report on regarding Queen Victoria’s birthday celebrations was told about a balloon flight. The opening of the Ipswich Public Park was part of the celebrations. The balloon, Eclipse, was to ascend from the park at 4.00 pm. with Captain Dale in charge and one other passenger. Conditions were good. - “The balloon had been filling since early morning, bands were playing, children were being marshalled in, in endless Battalions, and crowds of expectant citizens thronged around the ring in which the captive monster was taking in the last course of a protracted refection, served up in faultless style by the Ipswich Gaslight Company……
And the band plays the “Tarantara”! But the eventful moment has arrived. Insinuating ourselves between the apparently tangled network of ropes by which the car is attached to the balloon I find myself vis-a-vis with my fellow amateur passenger. The car is five feet by three, and as it contains ten bags of ballast, weighing in all about 16 stone, besides the packing paraphernalia, it will easily be imagined that when Captain Dale vaults in, completing a living freight of 29 stone there is not much room for waltzing round. The anchor’s weighed, the word is given to let go, the band changes its tune to the inevitable “Up in a Balloon Boys,” and as we commence the ascent at 4.07 p.m.
4.10 p.m. - The three minutes that have elapsed seem rather long, but we are already nearly 2.000 feet up and I as look over the edge of the car I can see the Burlington Road immediately under us. We turned out our third bag of ballast and we are running straight for Framlingham … we have passed Wickham Market and are now somewhere between Charsfield and Letheringham”.4.40 p.m. There was now not a breath of wind, the balloon was falling – 3,000 feet only – and travelling more quickly. 4.44 p.m. Only 1,500 feet up and Framlingham is about three miles away to the right. 4.52p.m. Not more than 500 feet from the ground. Captain Dale tells his passengers to pack up as they will soon go to earth. The descent looks easy but there is no pastureland and the Captain wants to avoid standing crops. They are making for Dennington; he decides to head for Harleston. They still have four bags of ballast so should be able to keep going for several miles. “Suddenly the wind changes and we fly off at a tangent making straight for Eye. We keep at an altitude of 500 feet for five minutes and then finding ourselves falling we empty a bag of sand which flies in our faces, showing the rapidity of our downward course. This lightning has an instant effect and we shoot up to 1,000 feet as we scud over Earl Soham, Monk Soham, Kenton and Rishangles at the rate of forty miles an hour. A little information will be worth a good deal of pity at this stage, but our first attempts at eliciting it from one of a party of yokels is but a qualified success. “Where are we?” We yell from our 1,000 feet height. “Whoy, yar in a b’lune!” Is the rejoinder of that much too humorous bucolic. And we are half a mile off before we can think of a suitable repartee.
5.10 p.m. -We have just passed over Bedingfield Church and the barometer registers 1,250 feet. The captain spots a large meadow about two fields are ahead of us and without a minute’s hesitation he calls out “Hold tight; we’ll come down in that meadow!”
5.19 p.m. - On terra firma without a scratch …. The wounded balloon now wasted to a shadow, is emitting its last few gassy breaths on a meadow belonging to Mr Frederick Goldspink, in the parish of Redlingfield, three miles from Eye. By a quarter to six the balloon is packed up in the car, and the whole hoisted onto a cart which is conveniently near at hand. The crowd of wondering bucolics, meanwhile, is assuming large proportions - over hedges and ditches they come, and before we get away quite seventy have paid their homage to the unexpected visitors. Mr Goldspink, the owner of the field in which the descent was made, is among the first arrivals, and he generously omits to allude to the damage which I am afraid we were obliged to inflict on his young crops. Thirsty work I have found ballooning, and I’m not sorry to see the signboard of a humble hostelry whence, after a brief period of refreshment, we drive into Eye in triumph on the top of the balloon and are fortunate enough to catch a train without any tedious wait. The “Eclipse” being sent direct to London by the luggage train while Captain Dale and I returned to good old Ipswich having parted with our fellow passenger at an earlier stage.
On our arrival at Ipswich we are met by a party of friends, and we all join the Captain in a parting goblet, wishing him good luck, and many another such successful journey as I have enjoyed with him this afternoon in the car of the Eclipse."
Unearthed by Linda Hudson (Published in Athelington, Horham & Redlingfield News Summer 2022 issue No 57).