- A Grand Balloon Ascent -
In June of 1852 Belle Vue arranged a number of attractions to entice Whitsuntide visitors to the gardens. One of those attractions was described in a newspaper article of the day, generously supplied by the Belle Vue Archive at Chetham's Library.
However, what was expected to be an entertainment for visitors went horribly wrong. The Times reported the outcome of the balloon ascent as follows: “On Wednesday evening last Mr. James Goulston, of the Cremorne Gardens, made a balloon ascent from the Bellevue-gardens, Manchester. He had assumed the name of Signor Giuseppe Lunardini for the occasion, and an immense crowd assembled to see the ascent. The balloon was a new one, manufactured by himself, at his oilcloth establishment in the Old Kent Road. The machine was 40 feet high, and 33 feet in diameter, holding 23,000 cubic feet of gas, and was ready for ascent at 7 o’clock in the evening. It was raining at the time, and the balloon was lost to view in about two minutes having gone into a dense black cloud.”
The plan had been for Goulson’s son to accompany him on the ascent but he was unable to join his father. Goulson had made 50 balloon flights prior to this ill fated venture but this was the first time that he attempted a solo ascent. His 51st flight only lasted a matter of minutes but it ended in disaster.
“A strong wind was blowing from the south-west and the aerial voyager took a direction towards Saddleworth, in Yorkshire.”.......
“At about a quarter before 8 o-clock on Wednesday night Mr. Goulston attempted to descend near the town of Lees which he had passed over.”. ....... “The grapnels were out and it was thought they would lay hold by the coping stones of one of the buildings, but this expectation was disappointed...........the grapnels, when suddenly striking the last wall, giving check to the balloon, ... the unfortunate gentleman fell, head downwards, from the car and became entangled in a network of ropes underneath, for it is clear his head struck with great force against the next wall.”
At the summit of the hill “the balloon passed over the quarry and against a house near it occupied by a man named Edward Kershaw, and a strong gust of wind again dashed the machine forwards with such force that Mr. Goulston struck the wall heavily, about 10 feet from the ground....Here some villagers came up, and some of them holding fast by the ropes, while others got hold of the balloon, a knife was run through the side, the gas allowed to escape, and its progress finally checked.”
“The people who first came to Mr. Goulston’s assistance say they found him head downwards, completely entangled in the netting, that they had to cut to liberate his body. Their assistance, however, was too late....His remains were subsequently removed to the Three Crowns Inn, at Austerlands.”
Robert Nicholls in his book, The Belle Vue Story, says that during the investigations of the disaster it was alleged that John Jennison had insisted on Goulston ascending despite the poor weather. The Times though reported that Mr. Jennison had actually tried to dissuade Goulston from going, “Owing to the stormy state of the weather,” but Goulston refused because he thought, “the people would be greatly disappointed.”
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