Vincenzi Lunardi (secretary to the Italian ambassador in London) was Britain’s first aeronaut and made a balloon ascent on 4 December 1786 from the area of the White Cloth Hall and descended forty minutes later at Thorpe Arch. Lunardi’s first flight was from London to Standon in Hertfordshire on 12 September 1784, using a hydrogen filled ballooon.
Browsing through Amabel Yorke's diaries of the period I found these entries:
September 16th 1784
"A Mr Lunardi went up in an air-balloon from London on Wednesday; we just saw the Balloon as a speck from hence. We hear that he descended near Ware in about three hours. Mr Cambridge was also here, and he told us that his son George had follow'd Mr Lunardi's Air Balloon last Wednesday and came up just as he was descending in a field near Ware and disengaging his tackle. The accounts in the papers of the cold he felt are exaggerated; the Thermometer was three degrees below the Freezing Point & it is true that a few icicles hung to his sleeve. The dog he carried came down safe, & he descended almost to the ground near Enfield to give out his cat who was ill, then rose again by flinging out a sand-bag carried for Ballast."
September 25th 1784
"Air balloons are all the talk now and another is to go up with two gentleman from Ld Foley's Garden near Portland Place."
October 1st, 1784
"NB a Balloon intended to go up by Fire/ in Montgolfier's Manner/ from Ld Foley's garden under the care of Mr Sheldon a surgeon has been after some disappointment at last totally consumed in attempting to fill it."
October 8th 1784
"Blanchard said he used oars to guide his balloon. Lunardi had also Oars & Wings but they were of no use to him, or at most a very little descending."
An insight into the world before aircraft.
Hand stitched by Joan Holah in 30 hours.