What did I seek in Greater Manchester’s Hyde? The surgery of the serial-killer Harold Shipman.
Unsurprisingly there’s no blue plaque to mark the site, but we’ll hear more of my ghoulish voyage of discovery later. Although I can tell you that Hyde has a long history of serial killers, Ian Brady and Myra Hindley lived there too. And Robert Louis Stevenson’s Mister Hyde was named after the town, possibly.
It must be something in the water.
Anyway, the residents of Hyde can easily disown all of their notorious sons and daughters as it is very difficult to tell where the town/parish/region of Hyde actually begins and where it ends.
To make it easier for them, Harold Shipman was actually born in Nottingham and The Brady Bunch lived on the edge of town in an area called Hattersley. This is in the ancient Cheshire district of Tintwistle. So no doubt, since the sixties, the older residents of Hyde have distanced themselves by cocking their snooks at ‘them murderin’ Tintwistlers’.
I’ve visited the area on several occasions and I’ve always been confused about its civic boundaries as it is part of something called ‘Tameside’. This is named after the River Tame that possibly provides the dodgy serial-killer water they’ve all been drinking.
Tameside is also part of Greater Manchester. So it’s really just the easterly edge of a big conurbation featuring lots of little towns, villages and parishes all huddled together under a permanently cloudy sky. Tameside also includes such grimly evocative northern names as Audenshaw, Droylsden, Dukinfield, Mossley, Stalybridge and Mogbaggle.
I made the last one up, by the way, although any casual visitor to the area wouldn’t have noticed. If you are planning to be a casual visitor to the area make sure you visit the Mogbaggle Dildo Museum. If you can’t find it, just ask any well-built drunk on a Saturday night in Hyde. They’ll point you in the right direction.
Which brings us neatly back to Hyde’s own grisly tourist attractions. They’ve demolished the Brady/Hindley house, as nobody would live in it, but Shipman’s surgery is still there. It takes some finding though, and I’m still not sure I actually found it. Although ‘uncertainty’ is something that surrounds Shipman generally. He was convicted of fifteen murders which, at that number, makes him Britain’s most prolific serial-killer. In reality he probably dispatched well over two hundred elderly patients.
Life imprisonment was scant consolation for those hundreds, or thousands, of relatives that didn’t see him officially guilty of murdering their parents and grandparents. He hanged himself in Wakefield prison aged 57, thus serving a relatively short life sentence and denying them any further confessions.
The site of Shipman’s surgery is in an ornate parade of shops with a block flats on top of it, which probably explains why it hasn’t been demolished. It would be like trying to play a giant game of Jenga.
It has been refitted with several different retail ventures since he was arrested in 1998, starting out with a domestic appliances shop. It’s currently an Asian vegan and vegetarian restaurant, but who knows what it will be next year. Fair play to them though, for giving it a go.
I’m guessing it was going cheap.