Aerial photographer Cecil Shadbolt (left) with Captain William Dale, the Crystal Palace aeronaut for six years, who also died in the accident at the Crystal Palace. Photo courtesy Historic England Archive
AMAZING BALLOONING IMAGES BOUGHT BY HISTORIC ENGLAND – Photographer was victim of Crystal Palace tragedy
Around 70 ballooning images – including one taken of the Crystal Palace from the air by Cecil Shadbolt – have been acquired by Historic England.
Cecil Shadbolt died in Norwood Cottage hospital, Hermitage Road on the afternoon of July 9th 1892 following a ballooning accident at the Crystal Palace on Wednesday June 29th 1892.
The balloon had reached a height of 1,500 feet when it burst. It began to sink slowly at first but gathered speed as it fell and before it reached the earth had attained a “fearful velocity” said one newspaper report.
Crystal Palace aeronaut Captain William Dale died almost immediately following the accident. Dale’s 17 year old son and an assistant, Mr McIntosh (or Mackintosh) survived despite both sustaining serious injuries. Among the witnesses were Mrs Dale and daughter Amy, whose birthday it was – and many children.
The balloon was torn to shreds. (Whether as a result of the accident or by souvenir hunters is unclear).
An inquest held two days after the accident at the Waterman’s Arms, Penge returned an immediate verdict of accidental death on Captain Dale.
The Bromley Record for August 1st 1882 says Cecil Shadbolt “has produced what may be described as the first decent balloon photograph.
“It was taken at an elevation of 2,000 feet above the Stamford Hill district and railways, vehicles and even people can be easily detected in it…..
“If the balloon is ever to be of use to mankind, it will be for observing purposes in time of war and the power of photographing a strange country from its car will be of immense service.” This article gives his address as Beechcroft, Chislehurst; the Bromley Record report of his death gives his address as Beachcroft, Ravensbourne Road, Bromley.
In his obituary the Bromley Record describes Cecil Shadbolt as a well-known public lecturer on subjects as diverse as ‘Balloons and Ballooning’. ‘The Holy Land’ – where he had travelled and his photographs of which were much sought after by publishers – and ‘Divers and Diving’.
He was buried at West Norwood cemetery on Wednesday July 18th. His grave can no longer be seen, destroyed by Lambeth council in the infamous clearances. (Historic cemetery ravaged by council: Thousands of Victorian stone monuments cleared from burial ground, writes Simon Midgley Wednesday 3 November 1993 – Independent online)
Copies of Walks in Palestine by H.A. Harper published by Religious Tract Society, London (1894)
which includes 15 photgravures by Cecil Shadbolt are currently on one second-hand book website at prices ranging from just under £60 to more than £380.
Historic England’s website describes the photographs as “the earliest surviving aerial images of England – discovered last year at a car boot sale.
“They were taken between 1882 and 1892 from a balloon by photographer and balloonist Cecil Shadbolt who was trying to map the rapidly changing London from the air.
“This important collection of 76 Victorian glass lantern slides has now been conserved, digitised, catalogued and researched and is available to view online.
“Cecil Victor Shadbolt was born in 1859, the son of George Shadbolt (1819-1901) and his wife Elizabeth. George Shadbolt was a photographer, and editor of the British Journal of Photography, and it is likely that Cecil learned his photography skills from his father.
“For a long time ballooning was a dramatic spectacle associated with fairground attractions but from the mid 1840s balloons were beginning to be used by very early photographers trying to capture the view from above.
“It was incredibly difficult to get a clear image because the balloon was constantly moving, but advances in camera and plate technology during the previous decade, coupled with Shadbolt’s invention of a hinged plate, which firmly attached the camera to the basket, allowed him to take the striking aerial images in this collection.
“Almost all of Shadbolt’s early balloon launches were from sites in London where often excited crowds gathered in anticipation, including Alexandra Palace, Crystal Palace and Lillie Bridge Park.” (Lillie Bridge Grounds was a sports ground on the Fulham side of West Brompton, London which closed in 1888 – Wikipedia.)
“The Shadbolt Collection contains the earliest surviving aerial images of England, including the photograph of Stamford Hill in north London, taken during a balloon flight on 29th May 1882.
“Shadbolt wrote an account of this flight, describing how ‘people walking on the pathways, although too small to be recognised, are nevertheless to be distinguished’. “He also described a ‘curious cracking sensation in the ears’ – his first experience of his ears popping during flight.
“The glass slides in the collection were used by Shadbolt in his ‘magic lantern lectures’. “Called ‘Balloons and Ballooning: Upward and Onward’ in these lectures Shadbolt detailed the history of attempts at flight and ballooning using his aerial images and beautiful hand painted slides.
This view of the Crystal Palace and the Italianate Garden was taken from a tethered balloon flight and is the earliest known shot of the Palace from the air. (Photo courtesy Historic England Archive)