Date Of Execution: 4 Mar 1824
Execution Place: unknown
An Account of the Trial, Sentence, and Execution
of DANIEL GRIMSHIRE, which took place at
Reading, in Berkshire, on Thursday, 4th March,
1824, for the Cruel and Inhuman Murder of his
own Child, by pouring Boiling Hot Water down its
Throat, and whose Body was given for Dissection.
THIS wretch in the shape of human nature, was arraiged at the
last Reading Assizes, on Tuesday March second, for the wilful
Murder of his own infant child, by pouring boiling hot water down
its throat. He pleaded Not Guilty, and said by his Maker he was
innocent; but the evidence was so strong and decisive against him,
that the Jury brought him in guilty of the Murder. The judge im-
mediately passed sentence of Death on him, and ordered him for
Execution on Thursday the 4th.
On returning to prison after his condemnation, he persisted inve-
hemently declaring his innocence, and said that the jury in bring-
ing him in guilty, had committed Murder. The Chaplain visited
him immediately after, but from the agitated state of his mind, he
could prod uce little effect upon him by his exhortation. The next
morning at an early hour, he visited him again, and after some se-
rious conversation, the prisoner made a full confession of his guilt,
with all the eorrid circumstances attending its perpetration; from
which it appears he had harboured the shocking thought of murder-
ing his own child for several weeks, in which period he had thrice
attempted to carry it into execution, but his resolution had as often
failed him. He said on the evening this horrid and appaling crime
was commited, he sent his wife for a sixpenny loaf of bread, pre-
tending he could not eat that which was in the house, saying he
would keep the child till she came back again. As soon as she was
goue he laid the child into the cradle upon its back, and took the
kettle from the fire, which was boiling, and holding its mouth open
with his finger and thumb coldly and deliberately poured the hot
water into the child's mouth, which killed it in the course of the
It appears this unfortunate being had formerly been a Shepherd,
of which life he was particularly fond. And it seems, the motive
for committing this diabolical act, was a desire of returning to the
employment of a Shephered. The child was an impediment, he
considered, in the way of getting a seperation from his wife, with
whom he had lately had many quarrels, on account of the irregular
life which he led. He seldom worked above three days in the
week, and drank the rest; leaving her to fend for the child and
herself as she could.
The night before his execution, he asked the person who was to
sleep with him that night, " What he thought of dying on a gal-
?ows?", Who told him " he thought it a shocking and disgraceful
death." To which Grimshire answered, " he could not tell; but
he thought, had he secaped at present, he would have returned to
the hills, his conscience might have troubled him, for murdering
his child, and in all probability, he would have hung himself upon
a tree, for his part he could not see much difference there
could be." He then fell asleep, and slept sound till 6 o'Clock in the
morning. About an hour after the chaplain came, and prayed with
him. He paid respectful attention to what was said, but the exhor-
tation seemed to make little impression on him.
At eleven o'clock his irons were knocked off, and his arms pin-
ioned, and while they were doing so, he asked very unconsernedly,
" what time of day it was." When he was led out he said, " it was
a very fine day for the time of the year." He ascended the scaffold
with a firm and resolute step, he then looked round and addressed
the people in a few words. He cautioned them to beware of Drunk-
enness, and the love of company, observing that it was those which
brought him into the situation they now saw him in; and above all
things to attend a place of worship, and as that would harmonize
their minds, and bring them to a true sense of domestic happiness.
The cap was drawn over his face; the drop fell; he struggled twice,
and his earthly career was ended for ever. Price One Penny.
This execution notice begins: 'An account of the Trial and Sentence, and Execution of DANIEL GRIMSHIRE, which took place at Reading, in Berkshire, on Thursday, 4th March 1824, for the Cruel and Inhuman Murder of his own child, by pouring Boiling Hot Water down its Throat'.
This rather grim report does not dwell on many of the most compelling aspects of the crime, but rather simply sets the scene and conveys the facts. The child's name, age or sex is never mentioned, perhaps reflecting nineteenth century attitudes towards children. It is unusual to find an incident of a man committing infanticide, although there are many reports held in the National Library of Scotland's collection, covering women and their stories. This report travelled from Berkshire, which suggests that it was shocking enough at the time to be recounted.
Reports recounting dark and salacious deeds were popular with the public, and, like today's sensationalist tabloids, sold in large numbers. Crimes could generate sequences of sheets covering descriptive accounts, court proceedings, last words, lamentations and executions as they occurred. As competition was fierce, immediacy was paramount, and these occasions provided an opportunity for printers and patterers to maximise sales.