6 Law Lane, Southowram

On 25th September 1948, this terraced cottage in Southowram, also known as Craggan, was the scene of most brutal murder. The seventy year old occupant, Ernest Hargreaves Westwood, was discovered by his neighbour just before noon of that day, lying on his bed with severe head injuries. He was rushed to Halifax Infirmary but died later in the afternoon. The crime outraged the hilltop village. Westwood had been a well-respected member of the community, serving as organist and choir master at the nearby Methodist church and despite having retired from his main career, he continued to work collecting small debts in the district.

Police did not have to wait long to find their culprit, who turned himself in the following Monday pleading “I didn’t mean to kill him. I lost my temper.” The murderer was Arthur George Osborne, a twenty-eight year old originally from Bognor Regis, who’d been living locally for several years. He was recently unemployed, whilst his wife had been committed to Storthes Hall mental hospital in Kirklees. He claimed that the murder was the result of a burglary that had gone wrong and he had only killed Westwood accidentally during a confrontation, striking him on the head several times with the handle of the screwdriver he’d used to effect entry.

During the trial, it emerged that not only was Osborne a murderer, he was also a potential bigamist. A second marriage to a girl in Chichester had been due to take place on the day of the murder but it was cancelled when he failed to appear. Despite a recommendation by the defense that he be charged with the lesser crime of manslaughter, the jury returned a verdict of murder on December 1st. At this time, all such verdicts carried a mandatory capital sentence and whilst the judge appealed for clemency, the Home Secretary saw no reason to make an exception and Osborne was hanged at Armley Jail on December 30th 1948.

The house on Law Lane in which the murder had taken place remained empty for a couple of years after the act, during which time it acquired something of an evil reputation amongst local folk, scarcely surprising for a building with such a macabre history and air of abandonment. When Police Constable Vincent Egan moved into the cottage with his wife in 1950, they were fully aware of its past but remained undeterred. Nonetheless, prior to their subsequent departure from the village in January 1954, Mrs. Egan told the Brighouse Echo of a mysterious disturbance she’d experienced during her first week in the house.

It was a dark and stormy night, as is so often the case in such stories, not to mention in the hilltop village of Southowram. Her husband had gone out to walk his evening beat so Mrs. Egan was alone in the house, which still lacked a “warm, occupied atmosphere”. No sooner had she gone to bed than she her heard a rapping from above her head and from the corner of her eye saw the trapdoor into the underdrawing seemingly rise and fall of it own accord. As it continued to do so, she fled the building to search for her husband. He assured her that it must be a draught but given the reputation of the house, many at the time thought otherwise.

Published in: on September 10, 2010 at 19:25  Comments (12)  
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12 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Have you any reports of Law House, Southowram where Emily Bronte taught for a while?


    • No, I haven’t, sadly. It’s certainly got an interesting history though. The story of how it came to be built and its connection with the now demolished Walterclough Hall nearby is very entertaining, and must surely have been a significant inspiration for Wuthering Heights.

  2. Hi, I happened on this website whilst with my daughter, we live at Law Hill House, Southowram. Found the article on Boggart House interesting! We have lived here for 9 years now and throughout that time have had no real experiences to note. When we first moved in nighttime noises did disturb us for a while, but we did find a family of mice under the floorboards! The house has obviously got a lot of history, but is a lovely family home, any extra guests who are resident are obviously friendly and not here to upset!

    • Thanks for your comment Nicola. I’m glad you found the Boggart House article; it was the need to write something about it that inspired the whole site. It’s a shame you haven’t noticed anything uncanny at Law Hill House (although probably not for you!) I would’ve thought it would be ripe for a good haunting, especially by the unquiet spirit of that old blackguard, Jack Sharp.

  3. Hi, I lived two doors away from Osbourne in New Street Southowram at the time. Mr Osbourne was always good to the kids in New Street and showed no signs of agression.Officers from Scotland Yard spent several days watching the Osbourne house.My mother kept them in Tea and Cakes.
    Clifford Horrocks a youngster found the murder weapon in fields up West Lane where Marshalls are to-day.
    Mr. Westwood was a very nice and quiet man whom everybody in the villiage knew.
    In the Photo above of Law Lane, you cannot actually see the house where Mr. Westwood lived and died. It is set back at the end of the row on the left-hand side.
    Phil Griffin

    • Hi

      Do you know if Mr Westwood had any relatives living in the village. My Grandparents John and Jane Westwood lived in Townley Avenue years later but I don’t know if we were related to this Mr Westwood. Thanks Michelle Westwood

      • Thanks for your comment, Michelle. Regrettably though, I’m unable to help you. Sorry! I hope you found the post interesting nonetheless.

    • Hi Phil
      I remember living at 42 Cain Lane when Mr Westwood was murdered – a policeman called after my mother had reported that she had seen a light come on in Mr Osborne’s bedroom at about 2.00 am on the night of the murder. Then there was a clear view across the fields from Cain Lane to New Street and our houses were opposite. He asked if he could lay on my mother’s bed to see if in fact she could have seen the light from her bed – he removed his helmet and laid on the bed and satisfied himself that he could see Mr Osborne’s house. For a four year old, it was a strange occurrence. I also remember the heavy sombre mood that descended on the village on the day when Mr Osborne was hanged. He was an unlucky soul, since he was hanged on his birthday and his numbers came up in the draw at the British Legion Club but he was unable to claim the prize money.

      Steven Beasley

  4. Hi there, read your posts when searching for info on Law Hill House, my Uncle and Aunt lived at Law Hill House up until the 1980’s I remember many visits to the house especially with my family at Christmas. Benjamin Marshall and his wife Kathleen were my uncle and aunt and we still remember talking about “Charlotte’s ghost” in the 3rd storey rooms that we never entered!! Many happy times were spent there! Margaret

    • Thanks for your comment, Margaret. I knew somebody must have some ghost stories about Law Hill House! Do you remember any more details?

  5. hi just reading all the posts and finding them all interesting, i live at Twinge House my dad bought the house in 1994 and i now live here with my children and husband has any body got any stories? or memories? i have lived here for many years and have heard noises and seen shadows but nothing tha has scared me i love this house its so full of character

  6. Hi to who it may concern I am Ben marshall the grand son of the late benny marshall and Kathleen marshall I was brought up there with my familly we owned the cottages that Emily bronte teached in and I can guarantee you it is haunted but they arnt ghosts what you will hurt you I had a dog in there with pups on at that time it’s gone in to feed it and where my dog was and its pups there was a door it was shut there was no wind outside and the door opened on its own I was only young then so never stayed to see what it was and a nother occasion my eldest brother was tying is shoe lace at the top of law lane straight across from the cottages and he swears blind he saw some thing looking at him and he had seen something beacuse he couldent speak and he was pure white like you heard. Of my aunts Magritt the best room you couldent go in my grandad always said and my grandma you couldent go in there but like my aunts said we had some good times there thank you Ben marshall

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