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