The bookstall inside Rayleigh Lanes recently had a couple of copies of “Essex And Its Race For The Skies 1900-1939” by Graham Smith.
As you’d expect from the title, it deals with flying in Essex before WW2. But it also covers flights in Essex before 1900. A really long time before.
Let’s go back to 1783. The Montgolfier Brothers in France invent a hot-air balloon and Etienne Montgolfier makes the first manned ascent. News of this travels fast.
By the next spring there are already flights taken in place in England. On June 3rd 1784 one arrived at Fambridge! According to the diary of John Crosier, A Maldon miller:
“3rd June, a large balloon descended in a field near Fambridge … with Major Money and another gentlemen, both heavy men. They came down about three o’clock in the afternoon, pack’d it up and convy’d it to Maldon in a cart. The car, in the form of a boat, was superb’
It’s not altogether clear that this was South Fambridge rather than North Fambridge. But even so , it must have been a startling site for anyone who saw it. Men descending out of the sky!