Two hundred years ago James Sadler was a name on every Englishman’s lips. The pastry chef from Oxford with a gift for science became the first ever Englishman to fly. So why is his name virtually unknown today?

Tens of thousands of expectant faces had lined Hyde Park in London for a glimpse of the “grand balloon”.

The year was 1814, the date 15 July, and London was resplendent in its lavish celebrations of a grand jubilee, marking 100 years since the Hanoverians acceded to the throne.

Throughout the month-long festivities there were acrobats, military bands, fireworks and a spectacular re-enactment of the Battle of the Nile – depicting Nelson’s naval defeat of Napoleon’s forces.

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