24th August 2017 Hot Air Balloon History
For a breath-taking view of the stunning architecture of Bath and the surrounding countryside, take a hot air balloon ride. There are many options available including champagne flights and private flights. If you get caught by the hot air balloon flying bug, you can even book lessons to learn how to fly a hot air balloon yourself.
Your Bath hot air balloon flight
Bailey Balloons’ flights take off from Victoria Park next to the magnificent architecture of Bath Crescent. A flight takes around an hour, but allow somewhere between three and four hours for the whole experience, which includes pre-flight preparation and the return back to Bath from the landing site.
Flights operate from March to October. The best time to fly is either at dawn or dusk which is when the air is likely to be at its stillest which is essential for hot air ballooning. The temperature high in the sky can be cool, so take warm clothes.
A dawn flight before the city is fully active is a peaceful and serene time to view the city.
Hot air ballooning over Bath is suitable for the whole family. Children under 16 are welcome as long as they are accompanied by an adult. A child must be able to stand unaided for up to an hour. Children under six can fly but it may not be practical to take them as they will not be tall enough to see above the sides of the basket.
There is no upper age limit. As long as a person can get into the basket and stand up during the flight, they are never too old.
Glass bottom balloon rides
There are many different types of hot air balloons, from small one-man balloons to larger ones capable of carrying up to 16 passengers. Many businesses use hot air balloons for advertising by using their logo printed on the balloon.
In 2010, a new prototype balloon was launched over Bath. This featured a glass bottom in the basket. Passengers could then see beautiful views below their feet, but many found the experience terrifying. Although there were plans to regularly fly the glass bottomed hot air balloon over Bath, this did not happen.
The inventor also wanted his glass bottom hot air balloon to fly over the Alps, but again his plans did not work out. Glass bottomed hot air balloon baskets remain largely forgotten except in the mind of a few frightened passengers who tried it.
Bath has a long history associated with hot air ballooning. In the eighteenth century, two inventors launched unmanned hot air balloons that demonstrated the principles of hot air ballooning. On January 10th, 1784, local doctor Caleb Hillier Parry launched a small hydrogen filled balloon from Crescent Park. He described the balloon, explaining:
“It consisted of two hollow cones, joined together at their bases: The circumference of the common base was upwards of 17ft; the height of the upper cone three feet and of the lower five and a half. The materials of which it was made were taffety and sarsnet, of which it took about 18 yards of yard wide; it was varnished with the common drying oil of the painters, which is nothing more than linseed oil boiled with litharge.”
Parry’s balloon flew for 19 miles and landed in Wells. Thomas Church found it and decided to profit from his find. He re-inflated the balloon using bellows before exhibiting it for Wells and Shepton Mallet residents prepared to pay the two pence entrance fee. There are no records of Caleb Hillier Parry further experimenting with hot air balloon flights. He concentrated his innovative mind on medical and scientific research.
By coincidence, another balloon was launched on the same day. James Dinwiddie launched his balloon from Mrs Scarsee’s riding school at 2pm. His balloon flew for ten miles. Ten days later, on January 20th 1784, he announced another flight. This balloon flew to Dorset where farmers, seeing it land, presumed it was a monster and attacked it in an attempt to kill the beast.
After these flights, hot air balloons were launched regularly in the Bath area, but many regarded them as a nuisance because of their habit of falling on random buildings. One caught fire as it landed and nearly destroyed a house in Bath.
The first hot air balloon flight carrying a pilot in the area was launched from Bristol in 1785. The 18-year-old pilot flew the balloon in windy conditions and covered 26 miles in 32 minutes. The balloon had a rough landing and was damaged but the pilot survived. He was escorted back to the town to be greeted by cheering crowds. Nowadays, hot air balloon flights do not fly in high winds, so your flight will be more leisurely than that experienced by the young pilot.
The balloon was repaired and put on show where its owner Joseph Deeker answered questions about the balloon and its maiden voyage. The flight of this balloon inspired other balloon pioneers. In Bath, James West Junior planned a 100ft circumference hot air balloon that could carry two men. His design included oars and a rudder that would steer the balloon. Long before crowdfunding became a normal way of raising finance, he appealed to the public for money, but not enough was raised to build his balloon. It is doubtful whether his oar and rudder steering mechanism would have worked.
In the late 18th century, there were a number of deaths in England from balloon flights that went wrong. For a few years, no balloon flights were made over Bath. By 1802 flights resumed in the region, and now on most fine weather days from March to October hot air balloons rise over Bath.
Since the 19th century, many people have experienced the exhilaration of a hot air balloon ride over Bath. If you would like to be one of them, get in touch with Bailey Balloons and book your flight today.
Book you Bath Balloon Flight here