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Alaska.
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Wolverhampton World Records.


Driving out of Wolverhampton today, towards Stafford, you wouldn't give the site of the old Gas Works, a second glance would you. The 5th September next year, will be the 150th anniversary of an historic event. Chosen for it's distance from the coast, and obviously for the ability to supply the Gas, it was from this site, that Henry Tracy Coxwell, and James Glaisher set off on an epic Balloon Adventure. Coxwell was an experienced Aeronaut, having made over 400 flights prior to 1862. Glaisher was a noted Meteorolgist and Aeronaut, and the flight was a scientific experiment, one that almost ended in disaster. They had made two previous flights from the site, one ending at the small village of Langham, near to Oakham, in Rutland. The other one got as far as Solihull, but niether of these flights were designed to achieve a great height. There had gathered an enormous crowd on the day, as 93,000 cubic feet of coal gas was pumped into the ballon. Over 55 feet in diameter, and when full, over 80 feet high, it must have looked to the local population, a truly awe inspiring sight. The ballon was cast off, full of instruments, to investigate the upper atmosphere, about 9.30am, and rose rapidly in the still air. It may have gone higher than intended, because Glaisher passed out at about  27,000 feet, and was unable to carry out the measurements. Coxwell, frozen and a bit confused, realised that descent was urgent, but could not release the valve to expel air. By this time, the ballon was at 37,000 feet, and Coxwell resorted to desperate measures. Climbing out of the basket, and gripping the release cord in his teeth, ( his hands were almost frozen ) he managed to loosen the valve. The drop was rapid, and after 19,000 feet, he managed to revive Glasiher with a spot or two of brandy. They eventually landed at a place called Cold Weston, which I believe is in Shropshire. Disputed by some as a record, it's never the less a remarkable achievement, by two very brave, and intriped men. They never again reached such a height, they had no real need, the instruments had recorded it all. As I said before, Wolverhampton Gas Works, not a place you would like to linger long, but if it could talk, what a tale it could tell.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

July 15, 2011 at 11:53 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

Not only in the air either, was Wolverhampton destined to go into more record books. Back on terra-firma, the call of the open road beckoned. In 1899, Sunbeam, more famous for two wheeled transport, built their first Car. Not just any old Car mind, but a 16 horse power monster. To prove just how good it was, they planned and executed a publicity stunt, a trip from John-O-Groats, to Lands End. The entire journey was completed without stopping the engine. As there would have been, at the time, a distinct shortage of Garages on the route, they must have sent a whole fleet of cars out, all carrying large tins of Petrol. The stunt worked well, and the Cars became very popular with those rich enough to be able to afford them. In 1906, the Company repeated the stunt, this time, both ways, and again, without stopping the engine. A round trip of 1,756 miles, in 96 hours, at an average speed of just over 18 m.p.h. I bet the bloke carrying the red flag was a bit  knackered when they finished. With such a reputation now for engineering excellence, they began to build Aero engines, and competed in many motor race's as well. The last was in Paris, in 1914, just before the War started. Taking due note of the early success of the Zepplins, the government started experiments in this field before the War ended. Sunbeam were approached with a view to supplying the engines, which they did, and on 6th July 1919, R.34, became the first Airship to cross the Atlantic, East  to West. Back down on earth though, the public were being enthralled with the race for more speed. With their vast knowledge of racing, and engineering expertise, Sunbeam decided to enter this race. Planning went on throughout the 1920s, and in 1927, the company unveiled their secret weapon, the mighty 1,000hp Car.  At Daytona Beach, in America, in 1927, this Car became the first Motor Vehicle to exceed 200 m.p.h. Sunbeam, and the Town of Wolverhampton, went back into the record books. So fast though, was the pace of progress, that the record didn't last long, changing hands many times. Just ten years later, the speed record was back in the Black Country, but not in Wolverhampton, This time it was the turn of a little place just down the road, Tipton, but that's another story.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

August 3, 2011 at 3:57 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Both of the Sunbeam cars, the 350hp, and the more famous 1,000hp, can be seen at the National Motor Museum, Bealieu. The fate of a third car, The Bullet, is uncertain.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

August 28, 2011 at 10:47 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

The Town, in the 1880s, was more renowned for it's two wheeled transport than the four wheeled variety. On offshoot of Cycle making, was, with the addition of a small engine, the start of some world famous motor cycles. One company, A.J.S, managed to get into the record books. From it's Graiseley Hill factory, it turned out machines that performed well, in all the Isle of Man T.T races for a great many years. Success on the track, gave the company publicity, and of course, improved sales. Speed and endurence tests were always being carried out, and in 1926, on a circuit just outside Paris, at Montlhery, two machines, an A.J.S, and a Norton, broke no less than 32 World records, in 12 hours. Charles Hough, a Wolverhampton born young man was the A.J.S rider, and Albert Denley, was on the Norton. Between them, they became the first pair to cover 1,000 miles in just 12 hours. A test of endurence for men and machines, neither of which suffered any breakdowns. The company was taken over in 1931, by what would later become Rootes Group, and moved to Coventry. The record was soon broken, as is the way of things, given the pace of technological progress. The motor cycles live on though, there are many in various museums, and even more in private hands, as can be seen at the rally's around the country.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

September 2, 2011 at 11:51 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Now I don't know if this counts as a World Record, but way back in 1910, Wolverhampton Racecourse was the talk of the nation. On June 22nd of that year, and until 2nd July,  Dunstall Park Racecourse was the scene of the very first All British Air Show. It was staged by the Midland Aero Club, whose base was in Birmingham, and not having a suitable flat and level piece of ground, selected Wolverhampton. Mind you the Chairman was the Earl of Dartmouth, and he did have more than a passing interest in Horse Racing. Conditions for flying the wood and canvas stringbags were atrocious, and arguments over Hotel accomodation for the flyers took up most of the first two day. Eventually, one Captain Dawes, a member of the Blackcountry Coal family, and on loan from the Army, finally got off the ground. What a thrilling sight he must have made, as his stringbag  passed the five furlong post, only to settle down, not to gently in the next field, a*** over t**s. Flight duration, just 77 seconds. The huge crowd were then treated to a succession of prangs and crahes that would have given many " elf and safety " experts, a massive heart attack. Thankfully, there were no serious injuries. The winner, on the last day, of the flight endurence record, was Mr, C.S. Rolls, the famous partner of Mr Royce, who managed to stay airborne for 15 minutes and 38 seconds. Just two weeks later, trying to out do this feat, he fell to earth with a mighty bump when his aircraft fell apart. He did not survive the prang, and I can't help but think he should have stuck to driving his own cars. Never mind, the good folk of Wolverhampton had been given a view of the future, although frankly, seeing all the crashes, I wonder if they went away thinking the world had gone mad. The Towm would hit the headlines again, a few months later, but this time, for a totally different reason.  ( see, Living and Working Conditions, and the topic, Wolverhampton, a nasty smell )

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

March 22, 2012 at 3:47 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Some of the " Flying Machines ", minus Mr Royce of course, appeared the next year at an air show in Birmingham, 1911. The place chosen, was the recreation ground of Cadbury's Chocolate, at Bournville. Take-offs were over the houses on what became the outer ring road, and landings, rather a dodgey business at the best of times, were carried out from the factory end. If you have ever looked at the recreation ground, you will see there is not a lot of room for error. The machine in the picture, belonged to a Mr. Graham Waite, and as you can see, it is a rather flimsy construction. The propeller by the way is at the back, for this type of aircraft was known as a " pusher ".



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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

February 13, 2013 at 2:28 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

Meanwhile, back in Wolverhampton, the citizens were getting an eyeful of the other latest thing in other air transport, the Dirigible, or as it was more popularly known, the Airship. It was pulled from its hanger at Dunstall Park, on the morning of Saturday 2nd April,1911, its owner, Ernest Willows, fussing over the operation. He had a right too I suppose, this was his third Airship, and he had built it himself. " The City of Cardiff ", named thus by Willows, for he was a patriotic Welshman, made an imposing site as she was checked over before her afternoon flight. 120 feet long, 40 feet in diameter, and containing 32,000 cubic feet of gas, she was powered by a V8, 30 HP Jap engine. This, together with two swivelling propellers, would give her a maximun speed of almost 50 miles per hour. After a false start, about 2pm, she finally rose into the air, and headed off to Birmingham for her round trip. There were only two on board, Willows and his mechanic, as she disappeared over the roof tops gaining height till she reached 600 feet. Now although progress had been made to almost all flying machines, there wasn't much thought given to navigating the things. What looks familar on the ground, certainly doesn't look the same at 600 feet. On this occassion, Gilbert Dennison, who was the secretary of the newly formed Midland Aero Club, obliged the entrepide pair by travelling the route in a motor car, with a White Painted Roof.  The airship was forced down at Perry Barr, due to a loose engine feed pipe, but a quick twist with a spanner, and they were soon back on course. The route from Wolverhampton, took them over Bilston, Wednesbury, West Bromwich, and Handsworth, untill it finally arrived over the Coiuncil House in Birmingham, at 3pm.The crowds were delighted, as the yellow painted monster circled overhead, Willows taking it as low as a 100 feet. He was only able to achieve such a degree of control, because he had fitted his third airship with a Rudder, the first of its kind. He arrived back safely at Dunstall Park, at 4.30pm, exactly as he had predicted he would. A rare case of any transport in this Country, actually arriving on time. Three cheers for Ernest Willows.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

February 13, 2013 at 3:14 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Back now to four wheels, and the famous makers of Engines, Sunbeam. The company produced mainly aero engines and one in particular, the 300 horse powered V12 Manitou. It was only ever fitted to one aircraft, the Short 184, which wasn't a success, and then the Engine was used for trials in two speed boats built by S.E. Saunders, and trialed off the Isle of Wight.



Returned to the factory, in 1922, Sunbeam used it in their new 350hp racing car, and took it to the speed trials at Saltburn. It reached speeds of over 120mph, and impressed one of the spectators, Malcolm Campbell. He bought the car, and the next year at the trials, he attained a speed of 137.72 over a flying kilometre course. After discussions with the reps from another Wolverhampton Company, Boulton and Paul, the car was sent to their Norwick factory where it was streamlined, and a longer tail put on. Campbell took it to Pendine Sands in Wales in 1924, and after some test runs, on the 24th September, achieved a new land speed record of 146.16mph. Sunbeam were delighted, and assisted the next year, when in July, again at Pendine, on 21st July, the car, with an estatic Campbell at the wheel, broke the record again with a mighty 150.76mph. Sunbeam engineering had again proved to be of the highest quality. The car is preserved at the Beaulieu Motor Museum, where the engine has undergone, what turned out to be a difficult re-fit, as no plans for the almost one off engine exist. This week, with fingers crossed it was fired up and works perfectly, although the gearbox, being in a rather delicate condition, meant that car can't move. This item is also now under restoration, and it is hoped, at a future date, the car will again run as was originally intended. There is a similar engine, preserved, at the Black Country Living Museum. Malcolm Campbell would be chuffed, as would the rather clever engineers who made the engine in Upper Villiers Street, Wolverhampton.



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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

January 30, 2014 at 2:59 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

There must have been something in either the air or water in Wolverhampton,  for it has attracted quite a few " oddballs " in it's long history. Particulary of the kind who like to imitate the Birds. Lionel Manders, a prominant local man, had, together with his intrepide partners, Captain Borton, and the rather grandly named  A.de Mawbray Bellairs, spent some time in the Town getting ready for a record breaking flight. In a Balloon of course, for this is 1913, and so the story goes, Wolverhampton had a cheap supply of Gas. So, on bright and seemingly clear July morning. the trio set off, to the cheers of thousands who had gathered in and around the gasworks.  In a light southerly breeze, then soon rose to over 9,000 feet, and the crowds melted away as the giant balloon was lost to sight. All went well, and with in what seemed to be ideal conditions, the height was increased to 17,400 feet. As with all the best laid plans, there were flaws. There was not, in those days, a reliable way of forecasting the weather, ( some would say, there still isn't ) and from out of the blue. it began to rain quite heavily. The Sky began to turn an ominous shade of grey, and then almost black, as a severe Thunderstorm broke around their flimsey contraption. That light breeze now broke into a veritable gale, flinging the three men violently around the wicker basket, while huge bolts of lightening and crashes of thunder assailed their eyes and ears. Great blue flashes played around the Ballon and raced each other up and down the ropes, as our by now terrified aeronaughts, clung on for dear life, expecting any minute a call from the Angel of Death. Just when all seemed lost, the Balloon gave a sickening lurch, and began to drop at an alarming rate. It fell, in seconds, over 12,000 feet, and the danger now was smacking into the ground at high speed. Deperately, the men throw out the ballast, and everything else in the basket, to steady the craft. The only item they kept hold of, was an anchor, and which they were forced to drop in an attempt to secure the Balloon, for it was now so light, that should it go up again, they would surely perish. They succeeded, and were soon surrounded by a large crowd who had witnessed the descent with some horror. On the ground, they then discovered that were just outside Bath, Somerset, a distance travelled then, of over 130 miles. I should point out at this stage, that the distance may have been greater, for the journey had, by no means, been in straight line. As I said before, there must have been something in the air.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

March 13, 2014 at 4:47 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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