WHAT a sight this must have been - a gigantic inflated balloon wafting over East Lancashire.

As you may have guessed correctly, this was to mark Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee back in June 1897.

Hundreds of people gathered in Blackburn's market square to celebrate the occasion. The massive sky ship could be seen from many nearby towns and villages as the giant letters spelling out 'Victoria' floated over towards West Bradford where it landed.

It took one-and-a-half hours for the balloon to be inflated with gas from a supply pipe, which was weighted down with sand bags at the bottom of the picture.

The balloon belonged to Messrs Charles Spencer, of Green and Sons, London, and it was Mr Spencer himself who made the flight.

It rose to 3,000 feet, almost twice the height of Pendle Hill, before coming down safely 55 minutes later.

In the background of this image we can see the Crown Hotel in Victoria Street which had been extensively rebuilt after being ripped apart in a gas explosion in 1891.

The pub was demolished in 1965.

A huge crowd had waited all day for the balloon lift off, which took place at 7.30pm.

Queen Victoria reigned from June 1837 to her death in January 1901.