Sir Hiram Maxim’s ‘Captive Flying Machine’ at Pleasure Beach, Blackpool 1904

Maxims Flying Machine at the Pleasure Beach in 1906, Albert Eden Collection

Sir Hiram Steven Maxim was born in Sangerville, Maine, USA on February 5th 1840. He became a naturalised British subject and was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1901. Described as a chronic inventor, patenting 271 creations during his lifetime including a hair curling iron, a steam propelled flying machine and a mouse trap, he made his name as an armaments expert creating the MAXIM (later Vickers-Maxim) machine gun.

In 1894 his flying machines held the Altitude Record (8 seconds) until it was broken in 1903 by aviator Orivlle Wright.

In 1904 he designed a Captive Flying Machine which he hoped would stimulate public interest in powered flight and provide finance for his experiment with aviation.

On November 24th 1916, at Streatham, Sir Hiram Maxim died, sadly without fully realising his ambitions. Flying Machines were built on fun parks at Earls Court, Crystal Palace, South port and Blackpool.

The Blackpool machine opened on August 1st 1904 with 20 passengers in each of its 10 carriages paying 3d (three old pennies) for the thrill of travelling at speeds of up to 40mph. It lured thousands of visitors to the sands beyond the Victoria (South) Pier.

In 1921 the Flying Machine was purchased by the Pleasure Beach Company for £750 and remains today the only survivor of the originals built by Maxim. It is truly a venerable antique, being the oldest ride amongst the present day Pleasure Beach attractions.

Barry Shaw

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