A 1780s pop song written to celebrate the first ever balloon flight from Manchester is among the artefacts being displayed at Manchester Central Library.

The ‘broadside’, written to celebrate the exploits of James Sadler, is one of many special items from the archives of the Henry Watson Music Library which are currently on show in the Wolfson Reading Room.

Sadler’s famous balloon ascent took place on a recreation ground attached to a house in Long Millgate, drawing a crowd of 5,000 people. An alley close to the site of the attempt later became known as Balloon Street.

The flight lasted for an hour and ended with Sadler landing near Radcliffe.

The song written in Sadler’s honour reflects the public’s sense of wonder about his achievement in taking flight – but also raises fears that the French army could harness the new technology to launch a balloon invasion of England.

Sadler later attempted a second balloon flight from Manchester, but this ended in disaster, as he was badly injured while attempting to land in Pontefract – and after the intrepid Sadler was thrown clear, his balloon took off again and floated away.

Other unusual artefacts from the Henry Watson Music Library’s archives on display include Items from Manchester’s extensive Handel collection, including a copy of ‘Messiah’ from the 1760s and an autographed copy of ‘Theodora’ and Vivaldi, The Manchester Sonatas.

These are considered the high point of Vivaldi’s chamber music, some of these sonatas were unknown before they were unearthed in Central Library’s collection by Professor Michael Talbot in 1973.

Also on display is Manchester Town Hall Waltz 1878, The incredibly detailed accompanying illustration of the Town Hall accurately depicts one of the finest examples of neo-gothic architecture in the UK.


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