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 Above -  Photos from Stephen Cranfield, of Rowhedge,  who worked on the "Flier"

Postcard showing the white shed opposite Rowhedge where the flying machines were constructed

The amphibious biplane at Rowhedge ferry hard 1909

Mr. M.P. Sayer of Wivenhoe, author of at least two articles on the "Flier," wrote in 1965 that "In a room in my house there are the last remaining remnants of Humphrey's aeroplanes; a portion of a hull, some wing ribs, a propeller, a piece of fabric. Salvaged years ago from a shipyard loft in Rowhedge - these are treasured relics - not only as reminders of Humphreys, but as mute tributes to the craftsmanship of those long-forgotten shipwrights and fitters who produced the specialised type of structure which was later to be inseparably associated with the aeroplane." I wonder if these mementoes still survive?

The following photo can be seen at full size at Click button for link.

Please visit the site, it's full of excellent photos and as many people from Rowhedge worked in Wivenhoe there's always a chance of spotting an old relative.

ESSEX COUNTY STANDARD – Saturday 20 March 1909 - “AVIATION AT WYVENHOE – CONSTRUCTION OF A FLYING MACHINE AT MESSRS. FORRESTT AND CO.’S YARD – Early in October last Messrs. Forrestt and Co., of the Shipyard, Wyvenhoe, started the construction of a flying machine from designs from Mr. Jack Humphreys, of London, the work being carried on under great secrecy in a shed erected for the purpose on the marshland adjoining the works of Messrs. Forrestt and Co. The flying machine, which is built of British material throughout, is constructed so as to alight upon and rise from the water as well as land, and is designed upon entirely different lines from those already constructed, being, we believe, the first flier ever constructed to operate from both land and sea. For this reason this machine should be of immense value in warfare, as it can be used for both naval and military purposes. The machine is 36 feet across, and the length from the extreme front edge of the forward elevating plane to the extreme tip of the tail is about 30 feet. The total area is about twice that of Wright’s machine, whilst the weight comes out about 1,750lb. as against 1,100lb. in Wright’s machine, and 1550lb. in Farman’s.

Preliminary arrangements had been made for showing this machine at Olympia, but unfortunately all idea of this has had to be abandoned owing to the fact that the doors for admitting exhibits are far too small to allow this machine to enter complete, and it would have taken some weeks to completely dismantle at Wyvenhoe, and ship to London and then re-erect at Olympia.

It is proposed to carry out the preliminary trials of the machine first upon water, where Mr. Humphreys can thoroughly test all parts and gain valuable experience in turning and generally handling the machine without any risk. After everything has been found to work satisfactorily, trials will be made in rising from the water, and when these trials are finished, it will of course be a comparatively easy matter to rise from land. The propellers used are of an entirely new type, designed by Mr. Humphreys, and constructed by Messrs. Forrestt and Co., and great results are expected. Besides this, however, Mr. Humphreys has had made for him a pair of propellers by Messrs. Voisin, of Paris, on exactly the same lines as those used by Farman, with a view to comparing the results of the two types of propeller.

Mr. Jack Humphreys, who is a member of the Aero Club, has been nearly 10 years on his designs, and stated in an interview to our representative on Thursday that probably the machine would be ready to fly early next week, and he paid an appreciative tribute to the splendid workmanship of the builders, stating that in his opinion his machine was far more substantially built and far better finished than any of the French machines yet built.

On leaving Mr. Humphreys, our representative called at the offices of Messrs. Forrestt and Co., for the purpose of hearing their views, and was lucky enough to find both Mr. Bird, their managing director, and Mr. Boyes, their works manager in, who, whilst unable to give any further details than those already supplied by the designer himself, very courteously conveyed our representative round their works, specially showing him their finely equipped machine and other shops where the different parts of the machine have been manufactured.

Messrs. Forrestt and Co. deserve every congratulation for the enterprise which has prompted them to take up the construction of this novel craft, and we can only wish the designer and the builders every success in their new enterprise, which bids fair to open up a practically new industry in the district.”



ESSEX COUNTY STANDARD – Saturday 10 April 1909 - “WYVENHOE – THE FLIER – Early on Saturday morning the “Wyvenhoe Flier” was taken from the shed where she has for some months past been in course of construction and placed in a cradle for the purpose of being launched from the river bank. This took place about 12 o’clock, but the joy of the crowd when they saw her leave the slip was soon turned to dismay when it was seen the ship was reeling over sideways in the water. The inventor, Mr. Jack Humphreys, had a narrow escape, being precipitated into the water up to his arm pits, which was a most unfortunate occurrence, as he had only recently recovered from an attack of influenza. As the tide ebbed the “Flier” was left high and dry on the mud; but soon after the accident she was dismantled of various parts, comparatively little damage being done. Large numbers visited the spot during the day, and about midnight, when the tide returned, the “Flier” righted herself and floated, being conveyed to her old quarters, where it is understood she will undergo another overhaul.”



ESSEX COUNTY TELEGRAPH – Saturday 10 April 1909 - “WYVENHOE – THE AIRSHIP SUNK – On Saturday morning, noticing a stream of people composed of all sorts and sizes hastening towards the Rowhedge Ferry, a new arrival anxiously joined the throng, and eventually found himself gazing at a symmetrical looking object described by an ancient shellback as the “Wiv’ner Aerieplane”. At last the new arrival understood the presence of the crowd, which in point of numbers equalled the concourse at the annual regatta. As is well known, the aeroplane was brought over marsh land on a large trolley, and preparations were made for aquatic trial, the place chosen for launching at the Hard having a pretty steep declination.  After Mr. Jack Humphreys had thoroughly examined his 35h.p. engine and the various movable parts, he gave the signal for launching. This was done by wheeling the trolley with its airy burden over steel plates to the water’s edge. Mr. Humphreys then took his seat, and the ropes were cast off. Whether the ropes holding the aeroplane were let go too quickly, or the position chosen was unsuitable, is an open question. However, amidst a volley of cheers the machine was pushed off, but, to the dismay of the spectators, gravitated towards the middle of the river with the airship’s boat keel making an angle of 30 degrees with the surface of the water. Naturally, the water surged in the boat rapidly, and cries rang out, “She’s sinking!” One can but admire the British pluck of Mr. Humphreys, who stuck to his ship till the last. Hardly ten seconds had elapsed from the time of launching to the submersion, and the designer felt the chilly water creep up foot by foot before he left his idol; in fact, it was the ship that left him – he was just about to spring from the aeroplane when it rapidly sunk and left him in the water. Fortunately two men in a dinghy pulled him out; and he thereupon quickly walked to his headquarters, “The Falcon”, and procured fresh clothing. After this mishap most of the people cleared off, but the few who remained were pleased to see Mr. Humphreys re-appear, and watched him direct operations for the raising of the sunken treasure. At last it was decided to retrieve it in sections, and the bi-plane was safely lodged in the aerodock at 11.45 on Saturday night. It might perhaps interest our readers to know that the airship successfully floated before it was eventually docked. We are pleased to report that Mr. Humphreys appears little the worse for his involuntary bath, and, as he truly says, “Most all experiments have initial drawbacks, and probably I shall benefit by this one.” Locally confidence in the successful future of the invention is unabated.”



ESSEX COUNTY TELEGRAPH – Saturday 17 April 1909 - “WYVENHOE – THE ORACLE AND THE AEROPLANE – Chancing to hear the village Oracle mention that the “Wiv’ner Airyplane” had been undergoing another trial, the Winkler interrogated the Oracle (writes a correspondent), and found he had spoken truly. “Yer see, hit’s like this”, he said, “As I cums along to the Ferry, I sees them shipyard blokes a pulling hout that flying machine, and so this being my dog watch I keeps a good luk hout. Hin the fust place they shoved her inter the river same as larst time, stern fust without sinkin on her, and then it was as good as heating a pack of winkles to see how nice she swam the water, just like a duck. Shiver me timbers, if I don’t think she do make a pretty pictur. A’corse yer know what a nice arternoon it was on Thursday, not sich a lot of wind, and the sun shinin bootiful. To spit out my yarn I must say me and my mates thort we was a-going rite up in the sky, but suthin went rong. Mr. Humphreys was in his ship all right, and the injun was working away like a steam windlass. Startin’ from the Ferry Hard and workin down river agin the tide, she never went no more than about a dozen foot afore we seed suthin ‘ad gone amiss. Presently a man cums ashore, so I hups and axes im “What’s hup?”. ‘E says, “The gear wheel connected with the propeller ‘as smashed, so you hon’t see nothin’ more to-day.” Arter that news I ‘ooks off home.” The Winkler, after receiving this information, just managed to get a glimpse at the bi-plane before it was docked for the night, and noticed the absence of the feline species – this mascot having disappeared. It is proposed to have another trial this week-end.”



ESSEX COUNTY STANDARD – Saturday 17 April 1909 - “WYVENHOE - THE “FLIER” – On Thursday afternoon the “Wyvenhoe Flier” came out for another trial, but unfortunately after a successful launch the “gear wheel” snapped, and she had to be once again placed upon the slip and conveyed back to her old quarters, the incident being witnessed by a large crowd from both sides of the river bank.”

Note; This edition of the newspaper included a photo of Jack Humphreys.

THE TIMES - 21 April 1909 - “Further particulars of the aeroplane invented by Mr. J. Humpheys of Wivenhoe and referred to in The Times of March 24, are now available. The main planes, which are covered with aluminium, each measure 21ft. by 18ft. and are superposed (sic), one being 10ft. above the other. Movable deflecting wings are attached to the upper plane. The lifting surface also includes a triangular forward plane and two side planes, the total area being about 1,100 square feet. The forward plane is used for elevation, whilst steering is effected by the tail rudder. A boat body supports the aeroplane on the water, stability being provided by floating air boxes at the extremities of the lower plane. The side and forward planes, as well as the deflecting wings, are covered with a mixture of cotton, silk, and indiarubber, a double thickness being used, and this material may subsequently replace the aluminium on the main planes if a reduction in weight is found to be necessary. Including the aviator and petrol enough for a flight of several hours, the aeroplane weighs nearly 1,800lb., which should easily be lifted if the inventor’s anticipation of 4lb. to 7lb. reaction per foot of surface is realized. Unlike most of the existing machines, the framing between the planes is entirely of steel and the engine is situated above the driver’s head, twin screws being used for propulsion. Wheels are fitted in addition to the boat body, so that the machine can alight on land or water. At the first trial the machine capsized owing to insufficient support on the water at the extremities of the planes. The second test was more successful, but before any lifting speed was attained a breakdown occurred to the gear between the engine and the propellers, and the trial had to be abandoned.”



ESSEX COUNTY STANDARD – Saturday 24 April 1909 - “WYVENHOE – THIRD TRIAL OF THE WYVENHOE FLIER – On Sunday morning, April 18, it was decided to give Mr. Jack Humphreys’ aero-hydroplane another trial, spectators again turning out in large numbers in order to catch a glimpse of this novel craft, and in the hope that it would prove successful. However, it was not to be successful on this occasion. The “Flier” was launched at the usual spot, the Rowhedge Ferry Hard, where she behaved herself with much grace. From thence she was towed down the Colne behind Mr. James Heath’s steam tug “Dreadnought”, amongst the company on board the latter being Mr. and Mrs. A.K. Barlow, Mr. A. Boyes, Mr. James Heath, Captain L.C. Cockerell, etc. Mr. Jack Humphreys occupied his usual place in the “Flier”, and it was decided to take her down the river as far as the point where the Alresford and Fingringhoe shores are situate opposite. The engines of the “aero” started with a loud scream, and she began to move independently of the tug, but the engines inopportunely slackened speed, and stopped, the craft drifting towards the Alresford shore. The necessity for a rudder, in addition to the rear controlling “fin” by which the inventor had hoped to steer her, soon became apparent. After great exertions the engines were restarted, and the flier moved beautifully on the tide, presenting a really good spectacle, but steering was her weakest point, and again she fouled the bank. Three out of five of the Flier’s cylinders in the engine persistently refused to fire. The downward and rearward curve of the air boxes also caused them to act in the water as brakes, thus stopping the aero from attaining the speed which on all sides is believed she is capable of. However, Mr. Jack Humphreys lives to fight another day, and is not a bit daunted at the result of his third trial, and fully believes in the ultimate success of his novel invention.”



ESSEX COUNTY STANDARD – Saturday 22 May 1909 - “WYVENHOE – THE WYVENHOE “FLIER” – After a lapse of several weeks Mr. Jack Humphreys’ “Wyvenhoe Flier” again made its appearance for a trial trip on Friday evening, May 14, when a large crowd of both pedestrians and cyclists assembled on the river bank, in the hope that the novel craft would this time prove successful. The Flier was launched from the old accustomed spot at the Rowhedge Ferry about 7pm., and was immediately put in tow of Mr. James Heath’s tug “The Dreadnought”, being towed down the river on the flood tide as far as where the opening extends to Alresford Creek; Messrs. Forrestt and Co.’s steam launch in the charge of Mr. A. Boyes (works manager of the Company) also being in attendance. As soon as the Flier floated it was quickly noticeable that the slight alterations in her structure which have recently been made had rendered her far more manageable on the water than on previous occasions. The air boxes alongside the lower plane had been replaced by 2 small canoes, each carrying a light strong rudder, the same being controlled from the driver’s seat. Mr. Jack Humphreys was to be seen occupying his usual seat on the craft, as on previous occasions being full of expectancy. The 8-cylinder engine was again heard to start with its now familiar shriek, but suddenly it went off with a loud report, causing considerable consternation amongst the crowd on the banks of the Colne, who thought some accident had occurred, and at this juncture it was seen that the long bladed propellers were whirling furiously round. Mr. Humphreys then detached the craft from the tug-rope and the machine moved steadily forward, but the engine did not develop sufficient lifting speed, and as darkness was quickly coming on, the inventor decided to defer further experiments until his second set of propellers, which are of French construction and far more powerful than the others, were fitted to his machine.”



ESSEX COUNTY STANDARD – Saturday 29 May 1909 - “WYVENHOE – APPEAL BY MR. JACK HUMPHREYS – In the first number of the Aero, published this week, Mr. Jack Humphreys makes a whole page appeal for help to perfect his inventions, concluding with the announcement – “£5,000 wanted.”



It is not generally remembered that there were two types of aeroplane constructed for Jack Humphreys, the second being a monoplane. The images below are of the monoplane entered for the Daily Mail prize of £1,000 for the first British-built aeroplane steered by a British pilot to fly a circular mile.

ESSEX COUNTY STANDARD – Saturday 9 October 1909 - “WYVENHOE – THE WYVENHOE AEROPLANE – The Daily Mail on Thursday received the following telegram from Mr. Jack Humphreys in regard to that journal’s offer of £1,000 prize for the first circular mile flight in the United Kingdom by an all-British aeroplane driven by a British pilot:- “Please accept forty-eight hours’ notice for circular mile at Wyvenhoe”.”

ESSEX COUNTY STANDARD – Saturday 16 October 1909 - “WYVENHOE – MR. JACK HUMPHREYS AGAIN ATTEMPTS TO “FLY”. ANOTHER FAILURE – On Saturday, Oct. 9, on the marshland in close proximity to the Rowhedge Ferry, Mr. Jack Humphreys, a member of the Aero Club, attempted to win the “Daily Mail” £1,000 prize for a circular mile flight by a British-built aeroplane steered by a British pilot. Mr. Humphreys’ machine was a monoplane, built very lightly on graceful lines, driven by a 35h.p. “Jap” engine, which operated a 7ft tractor propeller. It had about 220 square feet of sustaining surface, its cost being estimated at about £500. By about 5pm. the wall leading to the ferry was literally packed with sightseers, among the onlookers being Sir Alfred and Lady Newton, Mr. H.K. Newton and Mr. J.B. Hawkins, Mr. Harry Perrin (Secretary of the Aero Club) and several Londoners interested in aviation also came down to watch the proceedings.

Mr. Humphreys decided to start off from the south end of the Ferry Marsh, near the Railway Station, and expected to fly N.N.W., crossing the river and circling Rowhedge back to the starting point. Twelve sailors wearing Union Jack armlets patrolled the marshes to prevent the public from running into danger. The entire machine is the work of Wyvenhoe men under the direction of the aviator and his works manager, Mr. Herbert Clark. The weather was very favourable, scarcely any wind being perceptible, and loud cheers were raised as Mr. Humphreys walked quietly to his machine ready for the start, which took place about 5.30pm., when the five men in charge of the aeroplane at a given signal loosened their grasp and the airship moved swiftly forward, gathering speed as it went. After proceeding a distance of about 100 yards the machine, which in the opinion of a large number of spectators did not leave the ground, came into contact with a ditch, over which Mr. Humphreys had hoped to skim, which was situate in the centre of the spot chosen, smashing the propeller (which Mr. Humphreys had brought safely through London traffic in a taxi cab) and the running gear, thus rendering it hors de combat.

Fortunately, Mr. Humphreys escaped uninjured, and expressed great hopes as to the future of his new machine, which is altogether on different lines from the one recently built at Wyvenhoe for Mr. Humphreys, but which proved a failure. Mr. Humphreys is blamed by several for not having, previous to competing for the £1,000 prize, had a trial with the machine, and also upon the choice of trial ground, which was without a doubt bad. He hopes to be ready for Blackpool by October 18, but does not intend trying again on the Wyvenhoe marshes.

After the mishap the aeroplane was soon rescued from her awkward predicament and safely placed back again in her old quarters in the garage. Mr. Humphreys considers that the unsuitability of the ground rather than any defect in the machine caused the accident. Nothing daunted, the plucky aviator, who is a partner in the British Aeroplane Syndicate, Limited, which we understand shortly intends opening an office at Wyvenhoe, addressed a large gathering in the Falcon yard during the evening on the political situation.”


Unidentified local newspaper from March 1954 – Extract from article.


“After repairs and modifications and further failures to fly their machines, the Wivenhoe flying firm decided to enter in October, 1909, their latest product for the “Daily Mail” £1,000 prize for the first plane to fly a circular mile. The date was set, and down came Royal Aero Club observers. Mr. Clarence Barr [of Wivenhoe] walked out over the marshes for half a mile and held up a flag to indicate the turning point for the flying circuit. The new model had never flown before and it was a pious hope that its maiden flight would win the prize. The engine started up, the plane shook, and then gracefully buried its nose in a ditch. With spirits undampened the party popped into the Falcon, Wivenhoe, and passed the time pleasantly. Then into the bar staggered Mr. Barr cold and weary. No one had remembered to tell this lone figure on the marsh that the flight was off.

 Mr. Humphreys then designed a monoplane with an 80 h.p. engine which flew at Brooklands in 1911 with three people aboard. The pilot was the famous Gordon Bell. This monoplane was tried out with a small lift at Abbey Fields in 1910 [noted in the local newspapers].

 Among the incidents of plane manufacture in the area was the accident to Mr. Arthur Pullen. He was hit by a propeller, broke nearly every bone in his body, and lived. The compensation that Jack Humphreys had to pay was the last financial straw and the end to an expenditure totalling nearly £10,000 devoted to the conquest of flight.”



ESSEX COUNTY STANDARD – Saturday 23 October 1909 - “WYVENHOE – GOODBYE TO THE AEROPLANE – Mr. Jack Humphreys’ new aeroplane left Wyvenhoe en route for Blackpool on Monday, October 18, a start being made about 5.30pm., at which time a large crowd had assembled in the High Street to witness its departure, cheering lustily as the start was made. The wings of the monoplane were taken off and the airship attached to a “Motor House” hailing from “Euston Road, London”, the journey being undertaken by road with six or seven in attendance. Workmen were busily engaged all day Sunday hastening the repairs, and a start was to have been made early on Monday morning, but a mishap occurred to the wheels. The aviator, looking very cheerful, was seated on the front seat of the motor house beside the driver and acknowledged the cheers that were given on his departure. On Wyvenhoe Cross a breakdown occurred to the conveyance, which again caused a further delay of about a couple of hours. The aeroplane arrived safely at Blackpool on Wednesday, the whole journey being accomplished by road.”



Blackpool Aviation Week

Friday 22 October 1909 – “NEW AEROPLANES. From Our Aeronautical Correspondent. Blackpool, Thursday Night. [Fourth day of the Blackpool event]. When the promoters of the Blackpool Aviation Week sent their programme to the Press there were fifteen names and machines figured there to fly. To-day there are fifteen sea-planes ready and waiting for a calm in order to make their effort to ascend. Not that these aeroplanes entirely correspond with those on the official document, as Mr. Charter, Mr. Gratse, and Mr. Mortimer have not yet put in an appearance, either in person or by sending their machines. Instead of these gentlemen, Mr. Lamb, Mr. Saunderson, and Mr. J. Humphreys replace them, as all three have brought their aeroplanes…. Mr. Humphreys’s machine has a very wide wheel-track for its chassis, but the wheels appear rather small for the present axle, as it is far too close on the ground to run safely over the rough and uneven surface of the course. Unless he alters this, it is almost a certainty that his machine will get damaged, either in leaving or descending on the ground at its first flight. Its motive power is the British-made “Green” engine, which is the same type as that used by the War Department miniature airship. Its supporting main front planes are highly curved behind the propeller. The machine has its elevating planes carried behind, also with a considerable curve, so that the appearance of this monoplane closely resembles a swallow with its forked tail. The vertical rudder is fitted between the swallowed surfaces, and has the Union Jack stretched across it on each side. By accident this has been fixed upside down, like a ship in distress.

Can this be the reason why Mr. Humphreys failed at his last attempted flight? It is to be hoped he will have his ensign hoisted right at his next effort. Mr. Humphreys’s chassis is V-shaped in its section, an equilateral triangle, which is good for speed lines. Even his radiator conforms to this design, its prow forming the cutwater of this aerial ship.”

“FLYING MEN IDLE. Breezy Blackpool to-day justified its reputation, much to the discomfiture of the flying men. The wind blew with such terrific and sustained energy as to effectively put a stop to aviation, and after hoping against hope for nearly six hours, the officials decided at half-past three that no attempt to fly could be made…. In addition to the foreigners. Mr. Pickersgill and Mr. Fitzjohn, with their monoplanes, had arrived overnight, and they, together with Mr. Humphreys, of Wivenhoe, were hoping to put forth strenuous efforts on behalf of the homeland.”

Friday 22 October 1909 – “A BIRD-LIKE MACHINE. Another monoplane which has now arrived, and which was undergoing preparation this morning, is likely to do something for the credit of Britain at the meeting. It is that of Mr. Humphreys. The machine is of quite distinctive design. The owner – who in an interview with our representative this morning stated that he had studied aeronautics for the last eleven years – has followed the model of a bird in his design. The wings curve exactly like the extended wings of a seagull. There is also a large bird-like tailpiece to complete the resemblance. This is used for rising or descending. The wings, which have adjustable side pieces at their extremities to assist in turning, measure 55 feet from tip to tip, and the lifting surface measures 220 square feet. The engine if of 56-60 horse-power, water cooled, and is the only aeroplane engine with a clutch. The object of the clutch is to enable the aviator to glide at will – another feature also in resemblance to the seagull, as gliding is one of the characteristics of a bird in flight. Usually there is more gliding than actual flying. The aviator on the Humphreys machine can take out the clutch when with his experience of air currents he thinks it desirable to glide without the driving action of the engine, and can again call in the assistance of the propeller when he desires.

NOVEL SKID ARRANGEMENT. Another feature is the broad base of the chassis, which is constructed of bamboo poles. The machine is sustained when on the ground by four wheels at the four extremities of the chassis. Skids are placed in front of the rear wheels to take the weight off them in a sudden descent. The skids also act as brakes, and have this advantage over a similar arrangement on one of the French machines that they act at the rear instead of the front of the machine, and so obviate the danger of its toppling over. A good feature is the simplicity and natural action of the steering arrangement. Mr. Humphreys has unshaken confidence in the curved pattern of the wings. He has had considerable practice with machines of the type, and in this one has recently made a flight. When going along close to the ground he found a stone wall in front of him, and deflected his tail piece too soon, with the result that the machine, after an upward motion which would have cleared the wall had it been made later, came down on it, smashing the chassis. The total weight is 800lb.”


Saturday 23 October 1909 – “Mr. J. Humphreys, who is one of the English aviators taking part in the Blackpool contests, has long been experimenting, and devoting the past ten years to the problems of flight. He is a dental surgeon, practising in London, but all his spare time is absorbed in the fascination of the air. He first experimented with gliders, throwing himself from high cliffs in Cornwall and gliding towards the sea. He always kept a boat waiting for him, which picked him up. Some time ago he started an aeroplane factory at Wyvenhoe (Essex). The first machine he built was a triplane, designed to float upon the river Colne, and rise from the surface of the water. Then he built a monoplane, with which he has made unsuccessful flights.”


Saturday 23 October 1909 - "The competition for the “Daily Sketch” speed prize closed to-day. The quickest three consecutive laps counted, and the following are the awards : -

£400 : Farman, 36.38 miles per hour.

£100 : Paulhan, 32.81 miles per hour.

The three prizes offered to British aviators are evidently still quite safe in the hands of their donors, as far as Blackpool is concerned. Both Humphreys and Saunderson are ready to make their attempts, but it looks doubtful whether anything more than a series of interesting experiments in testing the engines on the ground will take place. Perhaps, however, they may have better luck than Parkinson or Roe. We hope they will.”

Sunday 24 October 1909 - “At Blackpool the most interesting novelty is Mr. Humphreys’ monoplane, in which the lifting planes are curved like the wings of a bird.”

Blackpool and Doncaster held aviation contests in the same week; an unfortunate coincidence which deprived audiences of a truly huge aviation spectacle. The prizes at Blackpool (Mr. Farman won £2,000) were much bigger than those offered at Doncaster, but at the latter the aviators received large fees for the demonstrations. Flying speeds topped 50 miles an hour.

“Mr. Farman’s splendid 93-minute flight is, of course, a record for Great Britain, whose previous best was Mr. Cody’s 63-minute flight across country last month.”


Oct. 20…. Farman………. 47 Miles 1,184 Yards  …  Min. 93  Sec. 16 4.5

Oct. 18…. Farman………. 13 miles 1,592 Yards….   Min. 22  Sec. 57 1.5

Oct. 18…. Paulhan……… 13 Miles 1,582 Yards….   Min. 25  Sec. 53 4.5

Oct. 18…. Rougier……… 17 Miles 1,544 Yards….   Min. 32 Sec.  27 4.5

Friday 29 October 1909 – [The French aviators had left Blackpool]. “There are four English aviators remaining at Blackpool, viz., Saunderson, Roe, Singer, and Humphreys, and upon them and two continentals rested the responsibility of filling the programme on Monday and Tuesday. The weather conditions last week were unfavourable to any but the lost experienced aviators. On Saturday evening the aviators and their friends were entertained to dinner by the mayor and Corporation of Blackpool.”

Despite all the hype there doesn't seem to be any mention of Jack Humphreys ever warming up the engine of his plane, let alone attempting a flight.

© Science Museum/Science & Society Picture Library

ESSEX COUNTY STANDARD – Saturday 30 October 1909 - “WYVENHOE – THE WYVENHOE “FLIER” – Mr. Jack Humphreys’ aeroplane arrived back at Wyvenhoe from Blackpool on Thursday morning, the journey having been taken by rail. The airship which with others has been on exhibit, has, we understand, been greatly admired, and it was most unfortunate that such bad weather prevailed, preventing a trial. The aeroplane is now back in its old quarters on the marsh.”

EAST ANGLIAN DAILY TIMES – Friday 5 November 1909 – “AEROPLANE TRIAL AT COLCHESTER – “TRACTOR” FLIES INTO THE CROWD. Mr. Jack Humphreys, whose plucky attempt at Wivenhoe to fly for the circular mile £1,000 prize, brought out his monoplane at noon on Thursday, for exercise on the big cavalry field near Reed Hall, Colchester. The machine was housed in a barn at Beehive Farm, Berechurch Road, and by special permission of the military authorities, the field was placed at his disposal for three days.

A crowd of soldiers and civilians had assembled at the starting point, and local motorists seemed especially interested in the trial. The numerous military officers on the ground included Colonel King, R.E., Major Prentice, Colonel Borton (C.B.), late commanding Norfolk Regiment. Mrs. Snow, Miss Borton, Mr. and Mrs. A.G. Mumford, were also present, as was the charming wife of the aviator, and a number of other ladies. General Snow attended later.

The aeroplane itself is the same machine that charged a dyke at Wyvenhoe, but the engine is an entirely new one, and very powerful. It is a “Green,” with Bosch ignition, developing 50-60 h.p., and it is water cooled; the radiators being placed directly behind the tractor, and thus gaining the advantage of a tremendous draught of cold air. These radiators are of copper, and are so light that they can be seen to pulsate with the suction of the pump. The engine is more powerful than Latham’s [the successful aviator], and as Mr. Humphreys’ monoplane weighs only 700lbs., it is likely to prove a regular “clipper.” The torpedo-shaped petrol tank holds two gallons. There are two steadying fins near the rudder, which is painted to resemble the Union Jack, and Mr. Humphreys – who is of Colonial birth – drily remarked that the makers had painted their country’s flag upside down. The body of the aeroplane resembles the framework of a shallow boat, with the keel broadened at the centre into a little platform, just above which are pedals controlling the rudder. The fore and aft movement of a bamboo spar, which lies horizontally across the aviator’s knees, operates the tail of the aeroplane. The broad curved wings resemble those of a seagull.

Like most other petrol engines, the “Green” seemed reluctant to start, but at last, with a sudden whirr, the broad-bladed “tractor” in shape like the screw of a steamer – started its swift revolutions, creating a tornado of wind. Every blade of grass under the machine seemed to be waltzing round. The aeroplane, however, was anchored to a tree by means of a long rope, and though its graceful wings quivered as it strained on the leash, it remained “at rest, but ready.” After ascertaining that his engine was in order, Mr. Humphreys went off at 1.30 p.m. to lunch, and it was mentioned that the actual trial would take place about 2.30 p.m., when general D’Oyley Snow was expected to be present.

On the re-start – as a footballer might term it – there was difficulty with the engine. A “short,” due to the rainfall, was at first suspected. The usual tests were applied, and carburettor and sparking plugs were examined, yet still the engine was obdurate. The eager, yet patient crowd, after waiting long in silence, began to indulge in “badinage,” and when, after much ineffectual “shoving round” of the tractor, the engine gave a sudden snort, there was a prompt outburst of applause, and a soldier exclaimed to a comrade, “Leave off looking at it Bill – you can’t expect the thing to go with that face in front of it! It wants encouragement – not terrorism!”

Meanwhile Mr. Humphreys, in a leather jacket and with cloth cap worn peak backwards, sat calmly in his light basket chair, giving at intervals instructions to his assistants. Then the rope was cast loose, and the aeroplane glided off swiftly on quarter-throttle, skimming the ground with an alert and graceful movement, but not actually rising. It had travelled, perhaps, a hundred yards, when it turned sharp to the left, and then made a volte face, as if about to charge the crowd. Our representative, not wishing to become “subject matter for his own report,” executed a swift flank movement, in company with the majority of the spectators, but Mr. Humphreys quickly stopped his engine, and then the crowd surged round it. It appeared that one of the wheels, dragging in some inequality of the ground, had caused the aero to slew round. It was quickly turned, with its head towards the open field, but just as the engine re-started the tractor suddenly broke, and its two blades, flying high on either side, hovered for an instant above the spectators, and then fluttered swiftly down. Fortunately at the spot where the blades fell the people were in “open order,” and dodged the fragments easily. Mr. Humphreys, quite unperturbed, remarked that he had another tractor ready, and should try to ascend on Friday afternoon. It was now getting dusk, and with three cheers for Mr. Jack Humphreys soldiers and civilians dispersed.

It may be added that Mr. Humphreys desires to express his warm appreciation of the kindness of General Snow, Col. King, Major Prentice, and the District Officer R.E., in affording him facilities for the trial.”



EAST ANGLIAN DAILY TIMES – Monday 8 November 1909. “AEROPLANE TRIAL AT COLCHESTER. MECHANICAL “PASSIVE RESISTER.” At the cavalry exercise ground, Colchester, on Saturday, Mr. Jack Humphreys brought out his 60-h.p. monoplane for another trial. It proved a trial of patience, in which quality neither Mr. Humphreys nor the huge crowd of spectators were found wanting. The machine was wheeled to the starting-point by 11 a.m., and for about four hours the engine resisted all efforts to set it in motion. The famous military tattoo motto, “J’j suis; j’y reste,” might well have been emblazoned on that engine, for every expedient of the motor expert was applied to it in vain. Its exceptional immobility was the theme of much argument among local motorists, and one gentleman who was talking learnedly about ignition seemed offended when told that it was all Bosch. At about 3.30 p.m. the engine suddenly started – and so did a retired naval officer’s pony, which was so disturbed at the phenomenon that it galloped off as fast as its shaggy little legs could carry it, and was restrained with difficulty from dragging its “trap” across country. Amidst cheers from the crowd, the engine continued running, but after it was well warmed it was stopped, in order that the people might be cleared from the front of it.

The starting difficulty then re-asserted itself, and the engine did not get under way again until half-past four. Mr. Humphreys then promptly started the aeroplane, amidst loud cheers from the crowd, but – owing apparently to some trouble with the trailing wheels of the land carriage – the machine persisted in going round like a circus horse, until Mr. Humphreys stopped its revolutions, and the spectators dispersed. The crowd had been a record one. It constantly fluctuated in numbers – those who had had enough retiring, whilst reinforcements constantly streamed up – and it is estimated that at one time there could not have been much less than 3,000 people on the field. All were interested and good-humoured, and all admired Mr. Humphreys pluck and perseverance, and whilst recognising the difficulties he had to contend with in the first experiments with a new machine, they seemed to have every confidence in his eventual success. There seemed, however, a general opinion that an engine with such powers of passive resistance ought to have an “auxiliary” to start it.”


ESSEX COUNTY STANDARD – Saturday 13 November 1909

Page 7. A photo of the “Flier”.

ESSEX COUNTY STANDARD – Saturday 25 December 1909

Supplement. 2 photos of the “Flier”, from previous editions in 1909.

In 2009 Chris Thompson published a book about Jack Humphreys and his attempts at powered flight entitled "The Man Who Would Have Flown" - it is probable that Colchester Library has a copy if one cannot be found online.

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