George Lempriére collection
George Philip Lempriére remains one of Handsworth's most colourful characters from the past. Born in 1855 in London he arrived in Handsworth as a young man to study his first love of Aeronautics. Lempriere's displays and exhibitions were a major crowd pleasing attraction wherever he went. He stood for MP in Birmingham unsuccessfully despite his unique campaign style - leafleting the public from his hot air balloons!
Lempriére was born on the 26 February 1854. At a very young age Lempriére watched birds and thought how pleasant it would be to fly, and, upon observing some pigeons in a neighbour's garden, made his first attempt at flight. With the aid of a friend and an Inverness cape, he leapt from the railings outside his father's house. This first attempt at aerial navigation resulted in a broken arm.
At the age of 20 Lempriére made his first real balloon ascent with a professional. He read all the literature available to him, and began building balloons of his own. Throughout his professional career as a balloonist and aeronaut, he performed and exhibited at a wide variety of events including public, private, and scientific engagements at fetes, galas, shows, and lectures.
As well as speeches and lectures regarding his ballooning and aeronautic advances and experiences, Lempriére made political speeches, and in 1897 made a bid to become the councillor for Soho ward. He was unsuccessful. Political material is also available to view in the collection.
In 1909, he in conjunction with Sir Francis Pepper and Mr Herbert Pepper founded the Midland Aero Club. 'The chief reason for the formation of the Midland Aero Club was to stimulate public interest in the problems of dynamic flight'.
Lempriére died on the 20 February 1949, aged 94 years, and was interred at the family grave in Handsworth New Cemetery.
An account of Lempriere's flight from Handsworth Victoria Park on the official opening of the extension to the park was published by Handsworth Magazine (April 1898). Download the flight report.
You can view the catalogue for this collection (MS 1575) on our online archives catalogue.
Image credit: Copy print photograph of a balloon ascent over crowds and Birmingham rooftops. Reference MS 1575/3/6/2/3.