The Great Ornithopter Race of 1889.
(From memorial plate mounted on Cowford Green)
On this location in 1889, the Cowford aeronautical flight exploitative society sponsored a race for Ornithopters (early flying machines) with a prize of $10,000 gold or US money. By rule the Race was to be a measured mile course in the for of a figure of eight. Due to limitations in engine development, contestants were allowed to use mechanical assistance to gain an airborne state, with the one whom came closest to completing the course the winner. In the event that more than one contestant completed the course, the fastest to complete the course would be declared the winner. None of the contestants completed the course.
After the last of the contestants had made their attempt, the judges were forced to redefine the awards. No one was awarded the grand prize, however several awards were made for various achievements. the most notable awards were to Sir Montague Blaunk, who was awarded the prize for greatest speed achieved, as his steam powered catapult caused the cockpit and engine of his craft to achieve a velocity in excess of 140 mile per hour, with the majority of th craft getting beyond the 80 mile per hour mark. Willard Gasman was awarded the altitude award for his trebuchet launched tri-wing design. He reached 45 feet of altitude, and may have made it much higher had the release not failed, leaving his craft attached to the launcher through its entire cycle.
It should be noted that all awards were made posthumously. The 1890 race was canceled due to lack of entrants.