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The day North Mymms entered aviation history

When the first flight over England touched down in a local field


Lunardi during his historic flight over Hertfordshire
Drawing by George Moutard Woodward
Image courtesy of The British Museum released via Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0
On the afternoon of Wednesday 15 September 1784, North Mymms entered aviation history. The Italian balloonist, Vincenzo Lunardi, making the first manned aerial voyage over England, touched down briefly in a cornfield near the parish border with Northaw.

Thirty-year-old Lunardi had earlier taken off from the Artilliery Ground in London on the inaugural flight across the English countryside.

Travelling with him were a pigeon, a cat, and a dog. As he flew over the Hertfordshire countryside the cat became unwell, so Lunardi decided to touch down briefly to release the animal.

Farmer Nathaniel Whitbread was riding his horse across a field, when he saw “a large machine sailing in the air”.  He watched as it “came to ground” and “dragged along in a slanted direction”.

Whitbread and 12 men and 13 women who were working nearby had just witnessed history in the making.

The field where Lunardi touched down is opposite Queenswood School to the south-east of Brookmans Park and north of Shepherds Way (B157).

A stone commemorating the landing sits almost three miles away to the north-west at Balloon Corner, Welham Green.

The North Mymms History Project has published a feature about the landing which includes copies of the original witness statements and other documents.

The historic North Mymms balloon landing

On the afternoon of Wednesday 15 September 1784, North Mymms entered aviation history. The Italian balloonist, Vincenzo Lunardi, making the first manned aerial voyage over England, touched down briefly in a cornfield near the parish border with Northaw.




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