Welcome to The James Sadler Oxford Balloon Experience, Interactive Science and Visitor’s Centre. A World class attraction to commemorate Oxford born James Sadler, a working-class hero who made history in 1784 by becoming the first Englishman to fly, as well as many other remarkable achievements.

His story will fascinate and inspire children of all ages. Their plan is to set up an interactive science and information centre where education is the key.

Interactive scientific concepts will be designed with children in mind.This amazing educational attraction will be available for everyone to visit and experience the joys of learning, culminating in a tethered balloon flight above the dreaming spires, soaring as Sadler did 120 meters above Oxford’s unique skyline.

The James Sadler Experience will not just be a fantastical flight above Oxford but also a preflight briefing including interactives, simulators, augmented/virtual reality and filmic treatments that bring James Sadler to life – in a truly “world class” attraction that Oxford has longed for.

This would be a perfect family attraction with something for everyone to enjoy and participate in whilst learning about James Sadler’s extraordinary achievements and Oxford itself.

We are currently searching for a suitable site for our project in Oxford City and would be pleased to hear from parties who are interested in becoming involved.

The Proposal

  • To restore the reputation of James Sadler, a local innovator who became an international celebrity and hero of science
  • To introduce a world class interactive educational centre
  • To enable locals and visitors to enjoy a unique view of the city’s beautiful architecture, Dreaming Spires and landscape
  • To bring a replica tethered balloon to the City of Oxford
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About James Sadler

Get to know the many facets of James Sadler’s life

James Sadler is this country’s true pioneer of flight. He became the first Englishman to fly; an accomplishment rendered even more remarkable by achieving this landmark feat in a balloon he designed, built and piloted himself. Furthermore he attained this historic first here in Oxford.


Always experimenting, within a month of the historic first ascent Sadler had jettisoned hot air balloons as redundant technology. His second launch from Magdalen College was in a self-built gas balloon, fuelled by primitive hydrogen he had created at a time when the element was so new that the term ‘hydrogen’ had yet to be coined.


Having made seven ascents between October 1784 and September 1785, culminating in a terrifying crash in his final flight, he temporarily retired from aeronautics. Next Sadler worked for the Royal Navy.


With the exception of monarchs, hardly anyone would have received mass recognition by their face in the late eighteenth century. Yet engravings of Sadler were big-selling, mass-produced items. Even rarer for a celebrity of the age were his humble origins.

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These are the results from a survey conducted in Oxford City Centre during July and August 2013.

Of the 500 responses, the sample was broken down as follows;

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1. A tethered balloon ride would be a good way to experience views of Oxford?

Stongly Agree
Strongly Disagree

The Birth of a World Class Visitor Attraction

Oxford is becoming increasing popular for destination visits with over 9 million visits a year. However, it does not have a world class visitor experience but it will soon have one!

Having worked in the Leisure industry around the world for the last 35 years it is disappointing to me that Oxford is so poorly served. The gap in visitor numbers between the free to visit museums and the paid to enter attractions proves that people don’t see the current attractions as worth visiting.

My experience in opening Madame Tussauds Attractions in Hong Kong, Melbourne, Las Vegas, Amsterdam, New York and London has demonstrated that people are willing to pay for quality experiences, even queuing for up to 1hr just to get in.
The James Sadler Experience will not just be a fantastical flight above Oxford but it will ultimate preflight briefing including interactives, simulators, augmented/virtual reality and filmic treatments that bring James Sadler to life – in truly “world class” attraction that Oxford has longed for.

As with Sadler’s inventions this visitor experience may be difficult for people to visualize but once the potential is grasped by guests they too will support this much needed project to Oxford.

Phil Pike
Producer and Manager with 30 years experience within the leisure industry working successfully on a diverse range of visitor attractions, shows, events and projects. Lead the team from creative process to delivery and opening of Madame Tussauds.

‘I would take on board the Victory as many guns as Mr Sadler could send alongside.’


‘Sadler is known from the humble cabbage seller to the mightiest of lords.’

The London Chronicle

Sir John Coxe Hippisley was moved to observe in 1812: ‘There is not a better chemist or mechanic in the universe, yet he can hardly speak a word of grammar.’

Sir John Coxe Hippisley

‘I am delighted to see this initiative, not only to provide a superb tourist attraction for Oxford, but also to promote awareness of James Sadler and his outstanding pioneer projects and balloon adventures.’

Group Captain David C Bernard MBE MBA PhD FRAeS FCILT FCMI, Chairman, Oxford Branch, Royal Aeronautical Society

‘This looks like an exciting venture and I take the opportunity to wish you every success in pulling together all of the necessary legal requirements and consents.
It is interesting to see this wearing my Experience Oxford Hat.’

John Hoy, Chief Executive, Blenheim Palace

‘James Sadler has been a hero of mine for some time and I have had a picture of his Oxford ascent on my wall since the mid 70’s. His amazing career from that of a pastry chef to an acclaimed scientist is nothing less than remarkable and it is high time that his achievements were remembered. To have a tethered aerostat dedicated to his name in Oxford would be the perfect recognition and something which he richly deserves.’

PER LINDSTRAND, Leading balloon specialist and world record holder

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