Sir George Cayley (27th December 1773 to 15th December 1857)


Driving to Scarborough for a long weekend I took a quiet country road off the road near Malton. I threaded through farms and fields and pastures and post boxes and arrived at a small town called Brompton. The Sat-Nav took me to the back of the town and put me by pretty church looking onto a river. It looked a bit sorry for itself like a discarded television, not needed anymore. As I alighted from the car a horse looked up as though visitors were few.


Here lie the remains of Sir George Cayley, a versatile engineer and vital cog in the history of aeronautics. He was probably the first person to understand the mix of four properties that act on an object in such a way that it lifts into the air and remains there (thrust, lift, drag, gravity.)


He designed and built the first piloted glider. When people think of flight they think of the Wright Brothers but fifty years before their success George made the first major breakthrough relating to defying physics - making heavy metal fly. He could have done nothing and lavished his massive inherited fortune on booze and good-time gals. He inherited Brompton Hall (in which the stairwells were used do experiment on various wings), Wydale Hall and other estates on the death of his father, the 5th baronet. He had imagination and spirit though and not only did he engage in flying machines but self-righting lifeboats, tension-spoke wheels, the "Universal Railway" (his term for caterpillar tractors), automatic signals for railway crossings, seat belts and small scale helicopters.


Some flying experiments were done on the fields by Wydale Hall and his footman, servants or butler were probably one of the first aviators. What a pity he didn’t invent the cine camera so we could witness these early flights. Did anyone die?


I had a quick look around the cemetery but no dirt paths to a certain grave, no ornate headstone on George’s head, nothing. When I got into the church I found George was so important he was buried in there having conked out at 83 years (a good age for the epoch.)


I had the church to myself and found the poet Williams Wordsworth married here. A copy of the marriage certification sat on the side for any thief to take. The place was silent save for my footsteps. I went and stood Wordsworth and his fiancé Mary Hutchinson stood to be married on 4th October 1802.


I was going to pull the ropes, get some huge bells clinging and wake up the church a bit but I’m a coward and just sat in the car with a coffee and listened to some Van Morrison.




Where Sir George is buried…


Preaching, “If you use the last bit of toilet roll – replace it!”



Spooky eyes…


Did William Wordswoth and Mary Hutchinson stand here as they were married?