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Home of Sir George Cayley
Brompton Hall, Brompton-by-Sawdon, near Scarborough, North Yorkshire, UK
associated engineer
Sir George Cayley
date  1792 - 15th December 1857
UK era  Georgian  |  category  Home of Engineer  |  reference  SE941822
Sir George Cayley, pioneer of lighter-than-air flight, and acclaimed as the 'Father of Aeronautics' lived at Brompton Hall throughout his adult life. It was here that he carried out his many experiments into the mechanics of flying. The building survives as a boys’ boarding school.
George Cayley was born on 27th December 1773 in Scarborough, on the east coast of North Yorkshire. He was the only son of Sir Thomas Cayley (1732-92) and Isabella Seton (d.1828), and had four sisters. He was schooled in York before being tutored by two non-conformist ministers — George Walker FRS (1734-1807) and George Cadogan Morgan (1754-98).
Cayley was not yet 19 when he inherited the baronetcy in 1792 on the death of his father. He also inherited the family estate at Brompton Hall, mid-way between Pickering and Scarborough. He was to live there for the rest of his life. Another branch of the Cayley family (cousins) owned Low Hall, less than a kilometre south west of Brompton.
Cayley’s interests were wide-ranging and included science and engineering but his particular passion was aeronautics. He was obsessed with the possibility of manned flight and in 1796 built his first airborne machine — a model helicopter. By 1799, he was thinking about fixed-wing aircraft and the mechanisms of lift and propulsion, with control. He carried out investigations of lift in the stairwell at Brompton Hall, as it provided a tall enclosed space unaffected by varying wind speeds.
Most of his experiments were carried out from the single-storey hexagonal workshop (SE943822) 30m east of the hall. In 1808, he was experimenting with a glider capable of lifting a person. By 1816, his experiments had moved to lighter-than-air flight and in 1820 Cayley flew a model airship for almost 130m — the event is scratched into the workshop’s door jamb as “YDS 141. CG 1820” with the drawing of an airship and gondola. His experimentation then returned to gliders, with successful attempts to transport a child (1849) and a man (1853).
Cayley was president of the York Mechanics' Institute (established 1827) and chairman of the Royal Polytechnic, Regent Street. He was a founder member of the Yorkshire and Scarborough philosophical societies and the British Association (1831). He also moved into politics, becoming president of the York Whig Club (1821-27) and Member of Parliament for Scarborough (1832-34).
Sir George Cayley died on 15th December 1857, aged almost 84, at Brompton Hall and is buried in the family vault at nearby All Saints Church. His aeronautical legacy was enhanced by the discoveries of his original notebooks at Brompton Hall in 1926 and 1961.
Brompton Hall was modified in the mid 18th century for the Cayley family, though its origins are earlier (and unknown). It is built of sandstone ashlar masonry and has three storeys. The hall and workshop are Grade II listed buildings.
Brompton Hall was extended in the 19th and 20th centuries and is now a residential special school for boys.
Research: ECPK
"Sir George Cayley: The Invention of the Aeroplane near Scarborough at the Time of Trafalgar" by J.A.D. Ackroyd, in Journal of Aeronautical History, London, 2011
"Sir George Cayley, the father of aeronautics. Part 1. The invention of the aeroplane" by J.A.D. Ackroyd, in Notes & Records of the Royal Society, Vol.56, pp.167-181, London, 2002
reference sources   DNB

Home of Sir George Cayley