from Somerset, Devon and Dorset
© Andrew Templer 2023
Captain J. L. B Templer and Walter Powell M.P
Born in 1842 into a wealth industrial family, Walter Powell was educated at Rugby School. He moved to North Wiltshire in 1867, renting Dauntsey House. In 1868 he was selected as the Conservative Party candidate for Malmesbury and was duly elected later that year.
As well as taking an interest in matters of national importance raised in the House of Commons, he ensured his involvement in Bills that affected his constituents. These included supporting funds for turnpike roads being drawn from the Treasury rather than town councils and applying for a military pay station to be opened in Malmesbury. His popularity was evident in his greatly increased majority in the 1880 general election.
A large degree of this popularity resulted from his generosity to the people of Malmesbury. In 1870 he provided a reading room with a library in the town. In 1873 he established the Ragged School. In addition he and his wife frequently aided Sunday School outings and children's teas. a keen collector of magic lantern slide shows, he laid on magic lantern evenings for wide ranging audiences from children to working men, on a range of educational and entertaining topics.
Walter Powell is also remembered as a balloonist. He had first discovered this activity through Henry Coxwell, a highly regarded ballonist of the time. Walter Powell received formal training in flying balloons and in June 1881 made a successful flight from Cross Hayes to Spirt Hill in 'Eclipse', the balloon of Thomas Wright. By the autumn of that year Walter Powell had his own balloon and was making regular flights over the Wiltshire and Gloucestershire countryside.
In December 1881, Powell and Captain James Templer, an experienced balloonist and Mr A Agg-
This adventure proved fatal and occurred on the 10th December 1881, when Captain Templer, Mr. W. Powell M.P., and Mr. Agg-
After sailing over Glastonbury, "Crewkerne was presently sighted, then Beaminster. The roar of the sea gave the next indication of the locality to which the balloon had drifted and the first hint of the possible perils of the voyage. A descent was now effected to within a few hundred feet of earth, and an endeavour was made to ascertain the exact position they had reached. The course taken by the balloon between Beaminster and the sea is not stated in Captain Templer's letter. The wind, as far as we can gather, must have shifted, or different currents of air must have been found at the different altitudes. What Captain Templer says is that they coasted along to Symonsbury, passing, it would seem, in an easterly direction and keeping still very near to the earth. Soon after they had left Symonsbury, Captain Templer shouted to a man below to tell them how far they were from Bridport, and he received for answer that Bridport was about a mile off. The pace at which the balloon was moving had now increased to thirty-
Mr. Powell now remained as the sole occupant of the car. Captain Templer, who had still hold of the rope, shouted to Mr. Powell to come down the line. This he attempted to do, but in a few seconds, and before he could commence his perilous descent, the line was torn out of Captain Templer's hands. All communication with the earth was cut off, and the balloon rose rapidly, taking Mr. Powell with it in a south-
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