AN EXPLOSION at the Coteholme Works in Church, where TNT was manufacturer, claimed the life of a policeman in April 1917.
Following the death of PC James Hardacre in what became known as the Canary Islands Explosion because of the yellow sulphur used in the process, the officer was awarded the King's Police Medal. After one magazine ignited, PC Hardacre crawled on his hands and knees to close the other 11 magazines.
The force of the blast caused considerable damage to homes in nearby Canal Street and Bradley Street and Church Kirk was closed until the following August. Local people were evacuated to surrounding districts until the danger was over.
The blast also caused damage to four boats which were pulled by a tug along the nearby Leeds-Liverpool Canal. Cases of machinery belonging to Howard and Bullough's were also set on fire. In addition, the explosion was reported to have shattered the window of the Co-operative drapery store in Abbey Street, Accrington.
The courage of the members of the Church Fire Brigade, who were called to deal with the incident, was also recognised when Superintendent Ware and firemen were awarded the OBE. The award was "for conspicuous courage and devotion to duty on the occasion of a fire at a chemical works". PC Herbert Bradbury, who was injured in the explosion, also received the King's Police Medal.
St John Ambulance, based in Rishton, produced a card with a poem written in tribute to PC Hardacre entitled 'The Noble Deed'. Written by Kate Leeming, the proceeds of its sale went to PC Hardacre's family.
Coteholme was a subsidiary of William Blythe's and employed around 100 people in the manufacture of explosives. Little information about the information was given to the local press at the time because of wartime restrictions.