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Ancestor was one of the first to take to the skies

PUBLISHED: 11:53 08 October 2009 | UPDATED: 17:14 25 August 2010

ROOTS: Diana and David Snow.

ROOTS: Diana and David Snow.

A GENEALOGY enthusiast has discovered her great great-uncle was one of the first Englishmen to fly in England 100 years ago.

HOMEMADE MACHINE: The flight 100 years in Abbey Wood.

A GENEALOGY enthusiast has discovered her great great-uncle was one of the first Englishmen to fly in England 100 years ago.

George Barnes, of Algernon Road, Lewisham, built his own aircraft and flew it over the marshes in Abbey Wood on Monday, October 11, 1909 and was reported in your Times four days later.

This came just five months after John Theodore Cuthbert Moore-Brabazon, the 1st Baron Brabazon of Tara, became the first recognised Englishman to make a powered flight in England on May 2, 1909.

Diana Snow, 58, from Surrey, said her ancestor was a bit of a celebrity which has made it exciting and easy to research.

The mother-of-two said: "I don't think I can prove he was the second to fly but he certainly was one of the first.

"It was exciting to find out about George because when you start your family history you never know what you are going to find.

"He was being reported in a magazine called Flight just about every week in 1910 to 1911 so we have been able to look through each week and see what he was doing. It is something you can't do with everybody. He was a celebrity of his time.

"The Eltham Times article is a brilliant piece of writing, we found out so much about him that we didn't know."

Mrs Snow first found out about her eccentric relative after reading her great-grandmother's life story which she wrote a few years before she died in 1944.

Her great-grandmother - Ella Parker, who was George's sister, used to run the Castle Hotel in Eltham High Street, which was built in about 1900.

It was demolished in the 1960s and now a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant stands on the site.

Mrs Snow said: "I think my great-grandmother thought George was a bit strange because people who were trying to fly then were viewed with a bit of suspicion.

"George's father was a publican and owned several pubs across London. He died when George was 10-years-old and he was left quite a bit of money that the inherited when he was 21.

"He started to run his own business soon afterwards. We found him in the 1901 census helping his mother run the Crown and Anchor pub in Lewisham."

How the Times reported the flight

'Mr George H Barnes of Algernon road, Lewisham, in the early hours of Monday morning made a successful trial flight in his aeroplane.

Although the trip covering a distance of under just two miles ended with damage to the machine, he estimated that in two days will be ready for another flight over the marshes at Abbey Wood. Here, in the presence of about 40 spectators he rose with his machine to a distance of about 50 feet from the ground.

Mr Barnes brought his machine from the shed, started the engine, and rose in the air after running along the ground for about 120 yards. He crossed a wide ditch while in full flight. Then he began a left-handed turn.

This he performed in a wide sweep and at a high speed.

Heading for a starting point again, he passed some haystacks, coming rather nearly to the ground.

"He flew successfully over one of the ditches but just before he reached the second one, a gust of wind struck the machine. It tilted backwards, and, being quite near the ground, the running wheels fouled the ditch.

The chassi and the rear part of the body of the machine were greatly damaged, but the engine - a 20 h.p. "J.A.P" - was uninjured, and so were the main planes.

Mr Cramer, Mr Barnes' manager estimated that at least a mile-and-three-quarters were travelled during the course of the flight during which Mr Barnes nearly completed a circle.

The aeroplane was constructed at the Carlton Motor Works and Garage of which Mr Barnes is the proprietor. This establishment is in the Mews at the foot of Belmont-hill, Lewisham and almost a stones throw of the Clock Tower, High Street.

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