The quiet hamlet of Standon Green End in Hertfordshire is the unlikely home to one of the most significant monuments to England’s ballooning history – the spot where the first hot air balloon flight descended in 1784.
The stone that marks the spot is encircled by low railings and is marked with a plaque that details the daring efforts of the pilot Vincenzo Lunardi and his landmark flight.
Lunardi – also known as the ‘Daredevil Aeronaut’ – departed on his epic feat on the 15th September, 1784 from the Artillery Ground in north London, and he flew for two and a quarter hours towards the north. Italian-born Lunardi came to England as a diplomat, but it was with his friend, the inventor George Biggin, that he made his mark as an aeronautical legend.
Lunardi ascended in his hydrogen-fuelled balloon in front of a thousand-strong crowd. He was accompanied by a cat, a dog and a caged pigeon on his journey. Lunardi’s first port of call was the Hertfordshire village of Welham Green, where he stopped to enable the four-legged creatures to disembark. The altitude proved too cold for them. The pigeon had long-since escaped by its own means of flight. This spot is now known as Balloon Corner and is also commemorated with a plaque.
Following his impressive feat, Lunardi’s balloon was exhibited in central London and did nothing the quell the fashion for hot air ballooning that was blossoming in England at the end of the 18th century.
The British passion for hot air ballooning has not abated. Find out what the fuss is about by taking hot air balloon flights over Bath, Bristol and other parts of the south west.