Items relating to almost any topic under the sun can be found within the collections at Gloucestershire Archives – and that includes hot air balloons.
After the success of his visit to the Whitsun Fete in June 1895, Professor Gaudron, a French aeronaut from London, brought his hot-air balloon to Gloucester again for the August Bank Holiday in the same year. This extravaganza was held over two days on the Gloucester Rugby Club’s ground in Kingsholm.
Reports in both The Citizen and the Gloucester Journal give a vivid picture of the excitement of this event. Although the balloon remained fixed to the ground on the first day many of the 5000 visitors were able to make a ‘captive ascent’ in its basket to have a bird’s-eye view of the city and surrounding countryside from a height of about 700 ft. In the days before air travel, this would have been a unique and breath-taking experience!
On the next day, Professor Gaudron offered visitors the chance of making a ‘free flight’ – going wherever the wind took the balloon. Three men volunteered: Mr McCrea, the event organiser, Mr Bingle, the Rugby Club’s treasurer, and Mr Seacombe, from the City Council. Weather conditions meant that Professor Gaudron could take only one passenger and Mr Macrea was the lucky man. When the balloon was released, people across the whole city watched as it drifted off towards Cheltenham. It landed an hour later in a field near Chipping Norton in Oxfordshire and Mr McCrea sent a telegram to confirm their safe arrival.
It was over one hundred years later that the next balloon was launched from the Kingsholm ground – this time the maiden voyage of G-RENI (aviation code for the balloon), sponsored by Renishaw, and carrying Ben Morgan, England international and Gloucester player. And although history doesn’t to relate where the balloon landed, no telegrams were sent this time around.