John Meads 2014 and 2019
|'Parachute Joe' Ingram was a colourful character who lived in Burton Latimer at the turn of the 19th-20th century. He was born at Oakham in about 1847 and moved around to find employment until settling here in the last years of the 1890s, in Kettering Road. He gained his name by building some 40 feet high scaffolding in the Victoria Grounds, Wellingborough, and offering to give an exhibition of parachuting off of it, using a parachute made out of a huge sheet usally used to cover railway wagons. Happily for Joe, he was prevented from carrying this out by the Deputy Chief Constable.
By 1911 he had moved to Finedon where a he described himself on the census form as "Bricklayer and Inventor. Aerial Hydro and Caloric Inventor" and on another part of the form as "Employed by Bricklaying mainly repairing and Jobbing work and Steeplejack and Lightning Conductor Fixer on Chimney Stacks".
One of his first feats was to climb the steeple of Kettering church which was recalled in this report from the Northampton Mercury dated 11 November 1892: Joseph Ingram, variously known as "Parachute Joe," "Tietan, the Prince of the Air," &c., a man who distinguished himself a year or two ago by ascending the spire of Kettering Church and fetching the weathercock down on his back, was charged with stealing a wood fence, at Great Harrowden, on October 22nd. -- He pleaded guilty, but in defence read a lengthy and exraordinary statement, maintaining that, through injuries he had received in his calling, a little drink upset him, and that when he committed the offence he was drunk, and, therefore insane. -- The plea did not, however, avail him, for the Bench inflicted a fine of £1, or 14 days'.
The accident referred to may well have been this one, reported in the Northampton Mercury 3 August 1889:
UP THE STEEPLE AGAIN - Grantham Journal Saturday 14 January 1890 - On Saturday afternoon the individual known as "Parachute Joe"made a second ascent of the church steeple, this time for the purpose of removing the weather vane, which appeared to be in some need of some alteration. The task was safely carried out in the presence of a large concourse of spectators, who assembled on Market-hill, whilst others viewed the operation from their doorways or windows in different parts of the town. On Monday evening a third ascent was made for the purpose, so it was understood, of preparing the axis on which the vane moves.
Then, in 1893 he had achieved national notoriety when he scaled the spire of Rushden Parish Church without climbing aids. It was reported in the Sheffield Evening Telegraph thus:
Joe also claimed to be an inventor as this extract from the Grantham Journal in April 1905 explains:
The celebrated steeplejack, Mr Joseph Ingram of Burton Latimer, near Kettering, who, it will remembered, climbed the steeple of our Parish Church by way of the crockets and affixed a handkerchief to the weather-vane some few years ago, paid a call at The Journal office on Thursday morning to assure us that he was still alive! He has been "killed" by various newspapers quite a dozen times during the last ten years, the most recent occasion being about six weeks ago, in the columns of the Dail Mail. Judging from his appearance, he will be able to withstand the killing experience at least a dozen times, for he is hale and hearty, and as enthusiastic as ever in regard to his scheme for bringing out a reallly practical flying machine. So confident is he of the success of an aeroplane which he has just patented, and in which he asserts he has had a "big hand," that he promises to be flying over Grantham in less than four months' time! "Parachute Joe," as he is known in the profession, is certainly very much alive, and we hope that his confidence in his latest creation may be fully justified.
In 1899, the Northampton Mercury reported:
Joe made sure that he called in at the local newspaper offices en-route to keep them informed of his progress and it is from some these papers that we get our information, some of it tongue-in-cheek like the following:
Northampton Chronicle & Echo 20 November 1905: "PROFESSOR INGRAM", the Burton Latimer celebrity who wound up his walk of over 2,000 miles at Northampton on Saturday afternoon, claims to have beaten the record of E.P.Watson, against whom he was walking, by abour four days. Ingram set out from Kettering on September 25, and he says that he was delayed 72 hours "by unwarrantable police action, but" (he adds) "there were no convictions." This is satisfactory, because it would certainly be hard luck, when walking against time, to be detained 14 days for instance, within the gloomy portals of an establishment, normally spoken of in Northampton as "the Mounts."
Also in 1905, the Bedfordshire Times and Independent reported:
On 27 April 1906 the Bedfordshire Times and Independent reported: Joe Ingram, the well known steeplejack, of Burton Latimer, who this year, on Feb. 7th,at 2 p.m., left Hyde Park Park corner, London, to walk 3,550 miles by July 28th, 12 mid-day, called at this office on Thursday. Ingram is well able to accomplish this great walk. He has been delayed 17 days by his son's illness, and the wintry weather in Scotland. However, he arrived at John O'Groats on March 31st, at 7.30 pm., and left John O'Groats Hotel on April 1st at 10.30 a.m. travelling south by Inverness, Glasgow, etc. He crossed Scotland in under 300 hours. On arriving at our office to report, he had walked 1,886 miles. He is en-route to Land's End via London, Brighton etc. Ingram will visit Bedford again in less than a month's time. He has just 39 1/2 miles to walk daily for the next 95 days, or 280 miles per week. His age is 58 on June 1st 1906. He looks as fit as a fiddle, is as brown as a berry, and has a clear blue eye, which is worth all the characters in the world to him.
Sadly, Joe's inventions literally never got off the ground, his health, mental and physical, deteriorated over the years until he died in Northampton Poor Law Infirmary in January 1922 aged 72 years.