Sadler's balloon ascent from Hackney, 12 August 1811.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Watercolour painting showing James Sadler's ascent from Hackney, East London on 12 August 1811. Sadler was an ingenious inventor and became the first English aeronaut after his balloon ascent from Oxford on 4 October 1784. He made several more ascents before retiring from ballooning in 1785 and devoting his energies to improving the steam engine. He patented a rotary engine and experimented with steam-powered road vehicles. He was only encouraged back to the skies 25 years later, making several new ascents including taking up the challenge of crosing the Irish sea by balloon. Sadler made this flight with Captain Paget of the Royal Navy. They ascended in their balloon from Hackney at 3pm and landed safely near Tilbury Fort in Essex just over an hour later.