Up, Up and Away !

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The Balloon ascent from Queen’s Park on 2nd August 1905.

Eustace was one of the first Britons to fly with the Wright brothers, and Shorts later produced
Wright aircraft in the UK. Member of the family later established the firm of Short Brothers in
Belfast where the Stirling Bomber and Sunderland Flying Boat were manufactured.

(from the History and Guide: Chesterfield by Geoff Sadler)


Experiences of a Chesterfield Amateur.

Interesting Interview with the Aeronauts.

Derbyshire Times 5th June 1905

When we saw an immense cloud of silk, with the small speck of a car dangling underneath it, rise
gracefully from the Queen’s Park Ground at Chesterfield on Wednesday, a variety of conjectures
passed through one’s mind. It was twenty seven years since the last balloon ascent was made in
the town of the Crooked Steeple, and on that occasion it rose from the open ground in Saltergate.

Since then great strides have been made in aerial navigation and what was twenty seven years
ago. A risky experiment is today perhaps sensational to the onlookers but to the skilled a fairly
safe adventure.

There is no doubt that this new feature in the Chesterfield Flower Show programme attracted
many people to the Queen’s Park, and the only regret was that owing to the inability of the
balloonists, Messrs Eustace and Oswald Short, to get their balloon completely filled with gas only
a single passenger, in addition to the managing aeronaut, could be taken in the car. This was due
to the fact that only a three inch main in Boythorpe Lane could be tapped and with a pipe of that
diameter, which was much overcrowded, it can easily be understood that to fill this 66,000 cubic
foot of space inside the silk was a tremendous business. As a matter of fact it was in preparation
early on Tuesday morning until the time of the ascent, roughly 37 hours.

Much interest was taken in the ascent not only in the Park but in the streets of the town and
district, where crowds collected and with the object of entertaining as nearly as possible the
actual sensations of one’s first journey in the air, a representative of The Derbyshire Times had a
chat with Mr Eustace Short and his passenger, Mr T. Wardle, jun, after their return to Chesterfield.

It might be mentioned that Messrs Short are not quite unknown in Chesterfield. They are cousins
of Mr. T. Wardle, jun, and the eldest Mr. Eustace Short was formerly in the office of the
Chesterfield Borough Surveyor in the time of the late Mr. Walter Sta…. But even in these early
days his thoughts ran on balloons and balloonists and the result of that early inclination had been
the establishment of the firm of Short Bros. well known makers of war balloons to the British

“Feel seasick?” said Mr Wardle, repeating our representative’s query. “No, it seemed just as if you
were quite stationary, and the earth were slipping away from you.”

The ascent, Mr. Eustace Short informed us, was very successful indeed. The balloon, the largest
in Great Britain, could not unfortunately be filled in time, for if that had been possible six people
might have gone in the car instead of two. Mr. A. J. Hopkins would have made a third passenger
and indeed was in the car before it was found impossible to take him.

One of the most interesting proceedings was the adjustment of the ballast at the start and just
before the balloon rose. Mr. Short said he emptied out a few handfuls. Indeed, when the balloon
was balanced, one handful might make all the difference. A little more was dropped before they
cleared the Park, and still more, making altogether about half a bagful, was drooped over the Gas

“Rising slowly and very steadily,” said Mr Wardle, “I thought at first that the balloon woulds strike
the Gas Works chimney, but the eye deceived me. When we passed we were far above it, and
when Bert – Mr. Eustace Short – climbed upon the side of the car we were over Highfields.”

Many in the Park observed that movement and could plainly see the astronaut wave his cap, for it
only appeared at that time as if the balloon was above the Central School.

“I got up that time,” said Mr. Short, “to loosen the neck line by which was centred the value. She
would have risen ever so fast, but I had to check her. You see the gas expands and if there are no
valves it would soon burst the balloon.”

Mr. Wardle, at the time his companion was balanced on the side of the car, was, he told me,
amusing himself dropping some cards out and watching the youngsters running for them. “They
looked for all the world like flies.”

“You wouldn’t believe,” he went on, “how deceptive it is to try to tell where a balloon is. You
wouldn’t believe that when we were clear of Chesterfield we went right away over the reservoir at
Linacre. Then we came away across over Sheepbridge and Whittington, and it was very funny up
there to look down at a tramcar. It looks for all the world like a toy tram and the wire a bit of string
tied to it. After that we went over Whittington Hall and Staverley Works to Eckington and all the
time up there we could see the Park at Chesterfield.”

“Not exactly the Park,” he added, “but from Eckington we could see the cycle track just like a little
white circle. We had lost the people before then.”

“What was the highest altitude you reached?” we asked, to which Mr Short replied that it was
18.500ft or about 3 1/2 miles, and with the exception of one ascent at Ch….., that was the highest
he had gone.

“Until we got to Woodhouse,” put in Mr. Wardle, “we kept sight of the earth and it was just like a
carpet with patches of all colours. When we got there, however, we were up in the clouds, above
them in fact, and it was lovely. The sun was shining above, and it seemed just like being on the
sea, with the waves all round and a dead calm.”

It was a peculiar fact, Mr. Eustace Short interpolated here, that no matter what gale there may be
blowing the man in a balloon never feels anything but a dead calm.

“Was the feeling very strange?” we asked, trying to picture the scene above the clouds, but Mr.
Wardle’s reply was, “No, only cold. We put our overcoats on there, and then when we started to
come down it was just like coming out of the cold into a veritable hot-house. As it was getting late
and Bert wanted to get the balloon packed up and back, so we began to go down and when we
were about half a mile off the ground he pointed to a field and said we were going to land there.
We were about half a mile from the ground then and the field was about that distance ahead. I
said, “You’ll never do it” but he did and we landed just outside Rotherham in the Boston Park.”

The landing, said Mr. Short was splendid and Mr. Wardle’s account of how he had to jump out and
clear the people away was amusing. There was no jolting and the balloon settled down as gently
as possible. As a matter of fact so slowly did she come to earth that Mr. Wardle was able to jump
out before the car actually touched the ground. “In a few minutes,” he said, “there were more
people there than there had been to see us go up.”

“Yes” added Mr. Short, “ and they had the usual idea that for the first man who touched the
balloon when it got down there was a £5 present. It’s the same all over the country. And when we
got the balloon packed up and on the stray there were tremendous crowds of people. They
followed us up, and all along the streets were lined. We were glad to get out of it.”

Following the talk on Wednesday’s ascent, a chat on balloons and ballooning in general revealed
some very interesting facts. It was Mr. Short who made the ascent from the Crystal Palace at the
“Daily Mirror” Fete, when 175,000 people saw the balloon – the same one as was seen in
Chesterfield – go up. He had five London Pro….men with him on that occasion. A few of the facts
our representative gleaned are as follows.

The Chesterfield ascent makes Mr. Eustace Short’s 257th

The silk used in the making of the balloon measures no less than 800 yards

There are 7 1/2 miles of cordage in the net covering the silk

The finest cord used which is about three-sixteenths of an inch in diameter, has to carry 200 lbs
for every 100 feet length. Each cord is separately tested before an ascent.

At 2s 6d per 1000 cubic feet the cost of the gas to fill the balloon would be £8 2s 6d.

Although owing to the small gas main the the balloon could not be completely filled in 37 hours,
that work had been previously accomplished in 2 1/4 hours. A good deal, said Mr. Short, depends
on the specific gravity of the gas. That at Chesterfield is about medium.

In a gale Mr Short prefers to select a plantation to break the fall of the car. After the tops of the
trees have broken the fall, and the velocity is reduced by the car being pulled along them, it is
possible to get out grappling irons when getting near the edge of the wood, and alight in the
adjoining field.

The astronaut was on one occasion dragged for three miles over hedges and ditches in Kent,
through the force of a gale when the grappling iron would not hold. He escaped on that occasion
with a shaking.

While the talk was in progress, Mr. Oswald Short joined the company, and remarked on the fact
that when one is up in a balloon the horizon always appears to be level with the car and the earth
appears to slip underneath and rise again to the horizon. It is really like a large saucer.

The varnishing of the silk fabric is one of the most important items in the making of the balloons.

Messrs Short have experimented for years with various varnishes and now use one of which they
hold the secret. The silk for their balloons is especially woven at Macclesfield.

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