Accrington Pals

Blackpool: mad solicitors, neo-Nazis and the Israeli Secret Service


Osborne Road does not look like the haunt of demented solicitors or the target of an anti-Nazi bombing.    A busy wide road linking Lytham Road with the Promenade it  is a road of hotels and boarding houses.  Towards the Promenade it is impressive.   It dates from a time when South Shore was a separate town from Blackpool and its impressive church and the fine buildings on Bond Street reflect a time when this was going to be the main street of a thriving town.  The name Osborne Road evokes Victorian Respectability.  Osborne House was the seaside retreat of Albert and Victoria.  A number of Blackpool roads and streets have a  creepy reference to the Royal Family or to the local aristocracy: Derby and Stanley, Talbot and Clifton.

But I digress…

Osborne Road has been  the scene of dramatic events.

osborne road                                                               Frank Hinchcliffe

It was at 3.30 pm  July 13, 1914 when Frank Hinchcliffe a solicitor’s clerk aged 20 delivered a writ to Mr James Hargreaves at 52, Osborne Road.  He delivered the writ and was going through the garden when James Hargreaves produced a revolver and shot Frank.  Then he kicked him.  Frank Hinchcliffe pretended to be dead.  James Hargreaves went back in the house.  James Hargreaves had clearly not taken to heart the injunction: “Don’t shoot the messenger.”

Shortly afterwards Frank was taken to hospital and James Hargreaves was charged.  When he was charged with shooting Frank at 3.45pm he replied : “It would be nearer to 3.30.”

James Hargreaves had been a solicitor until 1899 when aged 28 he stopped working.  He suffered from intermittent delusions and was a voluntary resident in an asylum in Formby on occasions.

In 1909 James had attacked his housekeeper who had been awarded £400.00.   James was a troubled man and quit his work as a solicitor.  He must have been wealthy, he did not work and £400.00 is hard to translate into modern terms but a lorry driver would earn £2.00 a week.   The award seems to have added to James Hargreaves’ delusions.  He was convinced that the award was excessive, unjust and a result of judicial corruption.    He wrote letters to his MP and to the Bishop of London amongst others.  The letters are confused but have the following themes:

1.  The judiciary is corrupt.

2. The government should provide everybody with work.

3. People should marry.

It is easy to imagine that James was a sad and lonely man bewildered by his isolation and sense of being a victim.  On one occasion he wrote to doctor asking if his daughter had thought of marrying.  The doctor replied that he ought to go into an asylum, so he did.

52 Osborne Road

52 Osborne Road

On November 29  1914 Frank Hinchcliffe died.  Until then it seemed possible that James Hargreaves would be able to settle the matter by paying the sum of £2000 to Frank Hinchcliffe’s mother.  James Hargreaves was unable to plead under the M’naghten Rules which have a curious link to Blackpool (The M’naghten who attempted to kill Robert Peel and killed his secretary was the half-brother of  Mayor of Blackpool Dr McNaughton).  A person is not  criminally responsible if they do not know that what they are doing is wrong because of insanity.   James Hargreaves was incarcerated in an asylum.  The Doctor who saw him in prison said that he was:”A high grade imbecile.”  I suppose  he could console himself that at least he wasn’t a low grade imbecile.

The Nazis, the Israeli Secret Service and Osborne Road.

Osborne Road was  the site of an odd incident which could involve Neo-Nazis and elements attached to the Israeli Secret Service.  on the 6 October 1978.  A parcel delivered to an office in Osborne Road  exploded.  The bomb was contained in a cigar box.  It was addressed to a St Annes businessman called Brian Greenhalgh.  Mr Greenhalgh’s secretary was slightly injured but was released from hospital after treatment.

Mr Greenhalgh’s daughter Karen gave a clue to the reasons when she said: “He’s only been interested in military regalia for five or six years. ”

My guess is that Mr Greenhalgh’s hobby had brought him into contact with Neo-Nazis or Nazis.  The Nazi regime produced  quantities of material such as badges and daggers and former Nazis might have access to supplies which they could sell to collectors especially in England and the United States. If Mr Greenhalgh was in contact with these sources it might have attracted the unfavourable attention of Jewish Groups.

Why  a connection with the Israeli Secret Service?  The quality of the intelligence work and the professionalism of the delivery suggest that this was a warning rather than a lethal attack.  If I had been Mr Greenhalgh I would have thought twice about dealing Nazi memorabilia.



The Sun Inn.

I walked from just South of Waterloo Road to Osborne Road and then along Bond Street and Wateloo Road.008                                                            Part of the wall around Holy Trinity Church.  006005002


A hotel being demolished near Waterloo Road at the Promenade. The building material is early nineteenth century. I think. A more modern hotel was built on the remains of an earlier building.

Being in South Shore I took a perambulation.  Bond Street is the main street and it it was once the main business street in a prosperous town.  Bond Street has a collection of Victorian Buildings, including former banks.  These buildings are magnificently run-down. The closing of the Post Office has badly affected the area and Waterloo Road has a high proportion of charity shops.  Trinity Church is a fine building on Bond Street and still has gravestones although I am told  many bodies were removed to Layton Cemetery.  An early 19th century wall still remains about the church.  There was a similiar wall around part of St John’s but it has recently been covered up.

It is strange to think that the deluded  homicidal solicitor and the collector of Nazi memorabilia walked these streets.  And Frank Hinchcliffe who died aged 20 in 1914 as so many young men would die in the following years.  If Frank Hinchcliffe had not been shot and had survived the war he would probably have become a solicitor.  Instead he lies forever aged twenty in Layton Cemetery.

Curious interactions Hiram Maxim, Blackpool Pleasure Beach and Lord Derby

Let us start with a quiz.  What do the following have in common?220px-Hiram_Maxim_Captive_Flying_Machines 220px-Maxim_machine_gun_Megapixie 220px-Maxim_portraitThe answer lies in the curious career of Hiram Maxim.  Hiram Maxim was a genius.

Who was responsible for the first heavier than air flight?  Who invented the lightbulb?  The answer is Hiram Maxim.  Whose invention shaped the First World War.  You’ve guessed it.

Hiram Maxim was born in the United States but came to Europe.  He was a prolific inventor and among his inventions were mousetraps, curling irons and the first automatic firesprinkler.  However he exprience a moment of enlightenment-if that is the right word- when in a hotel in Vienna a fellow American said:

“If you want to make money invent something that will enable these Europeans to cut each others throats with greater facility.”

So he did.

The Maxim Machine Gun was the first fully automatic portable machine gun.  It was produced in cooperation with Vickers, the same firm that later went on to make aircraft at Squires Gate Blackpool.  Because of its extraordinary firepower the Maxim Machine Gun was bought by all the major European Powers.  It also helped bring civilization to Africa where in the lines of Hilaire Belloc:

In the end we have got

The Maxim Gun and they have not.

So Hiram Maxim was a very rich man.  He was a friend of Edward V11.  His passion was developing heavier than air flight and he produced a magnificently steampunk aircraft which weighed 3.5 tons and was powered by steampower.  The prototype ran on rails and when it began to take off the experiment had to be aborted.  In order to finance his interest  in flight he produced the “captive flying machine.”  The one at Blackpool Pleasure Beach dates to 1904 and is the oldest operating ride in Europe.

In the First World War the Maxim Machine Gun and its successors changed the face of warfare.  In the past wars had been settled by a big battle such as Waterloo.  The combatants fought it out and everybody went home happy… except the dead.

However at the beginning of the First World War the British were confident that a single battle would settle the affair.  Their tactic was to shell the German lines and than attack.  But the cunning Hun were quick to work out that an artillery attack was a prelude to an infantry attack.  At an artillery attack they would withdraw or retreat to deep bunkers.  Then they would return to their lines and man their machine guns whilst the British Infantry approached across open space made more difficult by the earlier artillery attack.  Several thousand lives later the British and their allies realised this.  The machine gun had made attacking a great deal more expensive than defending and the opposing armies dug trenches and killed one another in the hope that the other side would run out of people.  The British High Command still talked chirpily about “one big push.”  Eventually the Germans and their allies did actually run out of people but it took a very long time and a great many lives.

The Derby family is one of the great English families.  They first came to prominence at the Battle of Bosworth where they played their cards cannily supporting the future Henry V11 at the last moment.  Supposedly a member of the family handed the future Henry V11 Richard 111’s circlet after the Battle of Bosworth.  If you know what a circlet is I suggest you get out more. A circlet is a kind of informal crown worn on more informal occasions such as when being killed at the Battle of Bosworth.  The Derby family continued to play cannily.  They briefly got unstuck during the Civil War when James was executed by the Parliamentarians following  war crimes at the Battle of Bolton.  He was executed at the scene of his crimes.

However the family soon recovered.  The Earl of Derby appears in Shakespeare’s Richard 111.  In fact some people believe  that the Earl of Derby wrote Shakespeare’s works.

Be that as it may the Derby family were enormously influential in Lancashire.  They were called the Kings of Lancashire and the fourteenth Earl was Prime Minister three times in the Nineteenth Century.  The family were the most prominent Conservative Family.  The family name was Stanley and Stanley Park, Derby Baths are all named in their honour.  Throughout Lancashire there are innumerable Stanley Arms and Derby Arms, testament to the  creepy obsequiousness of our ancestors.

In the First World War the problem was manpower.  Unlike the other belligerents Britain did not have conscription.

Lord Derby was the British War Minister from 1916 to 1918.  He had the idea that people from the same area might like to be pointlessly slaughtered amongst their friends so in a speech at Liverpool he proposed the idea of the Pals Regiments.  People flocked to enlist.

On the First of July 1916 700 of the Accrington Pals advanced on the village of Sere.  235 were killed and 350 wounded in twenty minutes in large part because of the invention of Hiram Maxim.  Subsequently the idea  of Pals Regiments was abandoned.  Lord Derby went on to play a part in the Versailles Peace talks.