Sadler, Windham William (DNB00)

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SADLER, WINDHAM WILLIAM (1796–1824), aëronaut, born near Dublin in 1796, was the son by a second wife of James Sadler, one of the earliest British aëronauts. The elder Sadler made his first ascent on 5 May 1785, in company with William Windham, the politician, who subsequently consented to stand godfather to his son. In October 1811 he made a rapid flight from Birmingham to Boston in Lincolnshire, in less than four hours. Less successful was his attempt to cross the Irish Sea on 1 Oct. 1812, when he ascended from the lawn of the Belvedere House, Dublin, receiving his flag from the Duchess of Richmond. In spite of a rent in the balloon (which he partially repaired with his neckcloth), he nearly succeeded in crossing the Channel; but when over Anglesey a strong southerly current carried him out to sea, and he had a most perilous escape, being rescued by a fishing craft, which ran its bowsprit through the balloon. He was not deterred from making other ascents, and his name was long familiar in connection with ballooning; George III took a special interest in his ascents.

The son, Windham, was brought up as an engineer, acquired a good practical knowledge of chemistry, and entered the service of the first Liverpool gas company. He gave up his employment there for professional aërostation, with which, upon his marriage in 1819, he combined the management of an extensive bathing establishment at Liverpool. His most notable feat was performed in 1817, when, with a view to carrying his father's adventure of 1812 to a successful issue, he ascended from the Portobello barracks at Dublin on 22 June. He rose to a great height, obtained the proper westerly current, and managed to keep the balloon in it across the St. George's Channel. In mid-channel he wrote, ‘I enjoyed at a glance the opposite shores of Ireland and Wales, and the entire circumference of Man.’ Having started at 1.20 p.m., he alighted a mile south of Holyhead at 6.45 p.m. On 29 Sept. 1824 Sadler made his thirty-first ascent at Bolton. He prepared to descend at dusk near Blackburn, but the wind dashed his car against a lofty chimney, and he was hurled to the ground, sustaining injuries of which he died at eight on the following morning (Gent. Mag. 1824, ii. 366). He was buried at Christchurch in Liverpool, where he was very popular. He well deserved the title of ‘intrepid’ bestowed on his father by Erasmus Darwin, but he did little to advance a scientific knowledge of aërostation by making systematic observations.

[Turnor's Astra Castra, pp. 126–8; Gent. Mag. 1815 ii. passim, 1824 ii. 475; Nicholson's Journal; Journal kept by H. B. H. B. during an aërial voyage with Mr. Sadler, 29 Aug. 1817; John Evans's Excursion to Windsor in 1810; Tissandier's Hist. des Ballons, pp. 22–9; Hamon's La Navigation Aérienne; Roffe's Maidstone Miscellany, 1860, p. 54; Picton's Memorials of Liverpool, i. 388; cf. art. Lunardi, Vincenzo.]

T. S.