Residents clean pioneer’s grave

Henry Coxwell's grave in Seaford Cemetery
Henry Coxwell's grave in Seaford Cemetery

THE GRAVE of a Victorian adventurer, who set the record for the highest-ever balloon flight, has been cleaned by Seaford residents to mark the record-breaking event 150 years on.

Henry Tracey Coxwell, who retired to the town, made history on September 5, 1862.

Along with Dr James Glaisher, a meteorological scientist, he travelled seven miles up in a gas- filled balloon without breathing apparatus or pressure suits.

Now the Seaford community is rallying around to honour him, and local history enthusiasts have been cleaning up his grave at Seaford Cemetery to mark the special occasion.

Seaford resident Peter Fellows has a keen interest in Henry Coxwell, and was among those who cleaned the grave and planted a rose, aptly named Happy Anniversary.

The Seaford Museum and Heritage Society member has a lifetime’s history interest in aviation, and held a private pilot’s licence for 25 years.

He was made aware of Henry Coxwell’s link to Seaford through historian Kevin Gordon.

He said, “He (Kevin Gordon) showed me his grave and I looked at it and realised that on September 5 this year it would be his 150th anniversary of his record-breaking attempt, which has never been beaten and probably won’t.”

Talking of cleaning the man’s grave, Mr Fellows added: “I was quite proud; a local man made good.”

The story of Mr Coxwell, who was born in Kent, has fascinated many locals.

One hundred and fifty years ago tomorrow, he and Dr Glashier took off from the Wolverhampton Gasworks, but the record- breaking venture did not go completely smoothly.

Glaisher eventually lost consciousness, and Coxwell, who was unable to use his frostbitten hands, had to open the gas-release valve with his teeth.

The descent, which initially was very rapid, was completed safely about 25 miles from their starting point at Cold Weston near Ludlow.

Coxwell made his last ascent in 1885, aged 66.

He moved to Seaford in around 1875 and had a balloon factory in Richmond Road.

He and his wife, Lydia, first lived at Cinque Ports Road (now Blatchington Road), then at Sandford House, Connaught Road, East Blatchington.

He died here on January 5, 1900 and is buried at Seaford Cemetery, with a memorial at St Peter’s Church.