If John Talbot Clifton’s ghost is still around Lytham Hall, he will have had a field day earlier this month as we hosted a double stage of the North West Legend Fires Rally. The stage was part of a larger rally taking in Fleetwood Docks, Blackpool and Weeton Barracks. The high performance rally cars came through Home Farm, passed the dovecote and Georgian Hall and out through the historic park gates. Straw bales were put in place to protect the Hall from any over-enthusiastic drivers.
John Talbot Clifton was a keen car racer himself. This photograph shows him in his Panhard-Levassor, a car that had finished second in the Paris to Vienna race in 1902, taken at the North Entrance of Lytham Hall. They are all keeping perfectly still, apart from the little dog at Talbot’s feet, who is blurry through moving during the taking of this photograph.
Even if Talbot wasn’t participating in an official race, he liked to speed around these parts. There are many stories to this effect. The Russian concert pianist Mark Hambourg, a friend of Talbot’s, remembered “I shall never forget the time I met him. He came to fetch me in Blackpool in a fast racing-motor, and then drove at ninety miles an hour down the public road and in through his extremely narrow lodge gate without slowing up for an instant. I was terrified, though I must say that he was a magnificent driver.”
And Lord Kinnaird remembered “We were staying at the Hall once, and after dinner he said to another chap ‘Come on, let’s go and see Lonsdale, I’ll race you to Lowther Castle! Well, he gave this chap ten minutes start and we hadn’t gone more than fifteen miles when we came to his car upside down in the ditch, with the fella underneath and smoke pouring out. Talbot said, ‘By God, the silly fella’s ditched himself, we shall win!’ He never stopped. Damned funny fella.”