British Executions

Henry Grove

Age: 26

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 22 May 1900

Crime Location: 3 Notts Cottages, Parsonage Lane, Enfield

Execution Place: Newgate

Method: hanging

Executioner: James Billington


Henry Grove was convicted of the murder of Henry Smith 73 and sentenced to death.

He attacked him at 3 Notts Cottages, Parsonage Lane, Enfield, on Saturday 24 February 1900. Henry Smith later died on 20 March 1900.

Henry Grove and Henry Smith were neighbours and Henry Grove had previously rented a stable from Henry Smith but had been told to leave because he was behind with the rent and the stable was rented out to another person. On 24 February 1900 Henry Grove went to the stables with his pony and cart but Henry Smith turned him away. Henry Grove then punched Henry Smith to the ground and went home but came back five minutes later and attacked him with two scythes.

In his statement before his death, Henry Smith said, 'On Saturday the twenty fourth day of February 1900, I was in my own house between eleven o'clock and half past eleven in the night. The prisoner Henry Grove brought a pony and barrow and wanted to put in my stable the pony, and the barrow in my yard. The prisoner formerly rented the stable from me but he surrendered his tenancy about five weeks ago and I have since let the stable to another person.

I declined  to allow prisoner to put the pony and barrow into my premises. I was then standing in my own garden. The prisoner then came into my garden and came towards me, he seemed to be in liquor, he used very foul and offensive language towards myself and my wife who was standing by me.

I went into my house to escape him and my wife also came into the house. The prisoner followed me and my wife. He had two scythes in his hand. He struck me very violently with the scythe on my left hand and both legs and with another blow he broke my right arm, and he cut my head with the scythe and whilst thus assaulting me he was using continuous bad language. He said he would murder me and my wife.

I defended myself as well as I could but being an old man of 82 I could not do much but I called for help as hard as I could and blew a whistle. As far as I can remember he was assaulting me in this manner for a full five minutes. The prisoner struck me on the ground with the scythe and whilst I was on the ground the prisoner continued striking me.

Two men came in whose names I do not know and assisted me and gave me brandy. Two policemen came in, one I think was an inspector, they brought an ambulance and brought me to the Enfield Cottage hospital where I have since remained'.

In her statement Henry Smith's wife said, 'I am the widow of the deceased Henry Smith who died at the Enfield Cottage Hospital on March 20th 1900. For 32 years I lived with my husband at No 1 Notts Cottages, Parsonage Lane, Enfield where he kept a small 'sweat stuff' shop. My husband was in the habit of letting out a small stable which was attached to the premises.

For many years past my husband was in feeble health. He was 83 years of age and had lost one eye. He could scarcely see with the other eye. He was rather deaf.

Prisoner lived at No 3 Notts Cottages. He was a costermonger and rented the stable of my husband at 2/6 per week.

Prisoner gave up the stable some time ago, before the other man came, but continued to place his barrow in the yard for which he paid my husband sixpence a week.

On 24th of February last I think a shilling was due to my husband from prisoner for rent.

I and my husband were both at home on the night of February 24th. We were in the shop and a lamp stood on a table in the shop window. The window shutter was open. There was no blind to the window.

The man who then rented the stable came home about 11.20pm and drove his pony and barrow into the yard through the big gate out of Parsonage Lane. After the man had come in my husband went out of the house to shut the big gate. As my husband was closing the gate prisoner came to the gate with a pony and barrow. My husband closed the gate. Prisoner with his pony and barrow were outside the gate. Then I heard my husband say, 'You shan’t come in any more'.

I heard prisoner say, 'You B----. I mean killing you'.

I said to my husband, 'Come in and let him do as he likes'. I was then standing in the shop doorway. My husband then came into the shop. I lost sight of the prisoner for a few minutes.

I and my husband were both just inside the doorway of the shop and my husband was in the act of shutting the door. Up to that time as far as I knew my husband had not been struck.

As my husband was closing the door prisoner rushed in and knocked my husband down with a blow on his chest. I don't think prisoner had anything in his hand then. My husband fell on his back between the two counters, his feet towards the door.

I can't say whether he fell against the counter or not.

My husband was a tall man, much taller than I am. He was in front of me when he was knocked down.

Prisoner went back into the yard and I did not see him for a minute or two then he pushed in at the open door of the shop with two scythes in his hand. He held the scythes by the shaft, the back of the blades being towards us.

Prisoner said, 'I'll kill the old B----' and then began beating him with the blade part of the scythe.

My husband was lying on the ground, he had never risen since he was first knocked down.

He struck my husband 5 or 6 blows and I saw my husband was smothered with blood.

I said, pray don't beat him anymore.

Prisoner said, 'I'll serve you the same you B----',

I was standing at my husband’s head facing the door. Then prisoner knocked me down with a blow from the heel of the scythe. My wrist was slightly cut by the blow. I fell heavily on my back. I got up and screamed 'murder'.  My husband had no stick that I saw when he went out to shut the gate. I was very frightened and excited. I did not see anything of the man who rented the stable after the attack. Two constables came in a little while afterwards'

She afterwards added that three scythes that had belonged to Henry Grove had been standing against the wall in the yard for a long time, noting that he had leave to keep them there.

The 12-year-old son of the man that had taken over the stable from Henry Grove made a statement in which he said, 'I returned to the stable with my father on the night of February 24th. Afterwards I was left in the stable when my father went to fetch some water. At that time prisoner was outside the gate in the lane. There was a lamp in the stable and a light in the shop window. There was no blind or shutters on the shop window.

I saw prisoner pass the stable and go to the wall where the scythes stood. He took up the two scythes and went away with them to his own garden at No 3 Notts Cottages and placed the scythes against the front wall of his house. Then, after about five minutes he took up the scythes again and came into the front garden of No 2.

At that time smith was standing up against the fence separating his premises from the front garden of No 2. His back was towards the fence and he was blowing a whistle. The prisoner struck Smith on the shoulder with the handle of the scythe across the fence. Prisoner stood near the footpath in No 2 garden. Prisoner said when he struck Smith, 'I'll kill you, you B----'.

Smith turned round towards prisoner and lifted his stick as if to strike prisoner. When prisoner came round quickly into Smiths yard, Smith turned back and went into his house. Prisoner came up as Smith was closing the door and knocked him down with the heel of the scythe. Smith fell back in his house. Prisoner only brought one scythe into the yard. He dropped the other on the footpath outside the gate.

When Smith was knocked down I moved from the stable towards the gate and could see what took place in the house. Prisoner struck Smith with the heel of the scythe twice while he was on the ground. Prisoner then next went out of the yard and threw down the scythe he had been using by the other scythe on the footpath. Then I lost sight of prisoner'.

It was said that during the altercation that blows were attempted on both sides between Henry Grove and Henry Smith. However, one witness said that he thought that the row was over at one point and went away to fetch water for his donkey.

However, it was said that after the first altercation that it was thought that Henry Grove had then gone off to the scythes that were leaning against a wall. However, the judge noted at the trial that that might only have been for the purpose of removing his property to his own house, and not with the intention of using them to assault Henry Smith.

Henry Grove said that as he was carrying the scythes through the yard that Henry Smith knocked him down and that he then hit Henry Smith and knocked him down. It was noted that if the jury at the trial had accepted that view of the facts that they would probably have found Henry Grove guilty of manslaughter and it was an option that the judge told the jury they had.

However, the judge said that he didn't credit Henry Grove's version of events, but that of the boy that saw the assault, which the police report stated they thought should be accepted as the substantially true version.

The boy said that he saw Henry Grove take the scythes to his own house and didn't see Henry Smith strike Henry Grove and that there was then an interval of about five minutes after which he saw Henry Grove come back from his own house with the two scythes. The boy said that during that time that Henry Smith had been blowing his whistle and Henry Grove was using bad language. It was said that both Henry Smith and his wife were frightened and wanted help and it was noted that in fact some of the neighbours did come out and looked on, but that they did nothing.

The boy said that Henry Grove then went into the garden of No 2 and struck Henry Smith with the scythe on the face as he was blowing his whistle. When he was struck Henry Smith lifted his stick and Henry Grove then went into the garden of No 1 and attacked Henry Smith inside the doorway of his house with the scythe, inflicting the fatal injuries.

As such, the police report stated that the inference from the known events was that Henry Grove had not taken the scythes at first for the purpose of attacking Henry Smith, but that in getting into a violent passion and being under the influence of drink, he used the first weapon that came to his hand for the attack on Henry Smith. The report added that there was probably no fixed intention to kill and that Henry Grove was probably simply giving way to his passion and was utterly careless whether he killed Henry Smith or not.

As such, the police report stated that the question was whether, under those circumstances, there was sufficient reason to interfere with the course of law.

The report stated that the facts showed that the case could not properly be regarded otherwise than as one of murder and that accepting the finding of the jury that there was no sort of provocation that could reduce it to manslaughter.

As such, the report submitted that the question therefore was whether a murder done under the influence of a violent passion, aggravated to some extent by drink, but without premeditation or preparation, should be punished with death. The report stated that it may perhaps be thought that as the law provided capital punishment for the crime, some special circumstances would be required in addition to the basic facts to justify interference with the course of law.

The report stated that the case was very near the line. The report cited the cases of Francis Rogers who was convicted of murder in 1896 and sentenced to death but reprieved as well as that of John Boyd who was similarly convicted and repaired in 1987 and compared them to those of Charles Smith and William Wilkes who were executed in 1898. 

The police report stated that it was usually the case when there had been a respite that there had been some mitigating circumstances in addition to mere violence of passion and excitement of drink, for instance, the presence of real or supposed provocation, or the extent of the influence of drink, which had in certain cases been taken into consideration. The report added that weight was also allowed to the recommendation of the jury, especially if it were supported by the judge. However, the report noted that in Henry Grove's case that there was no sufficient evidence of real or supposed provocation and that the influence of drink did not appear to have been very marked, noting that although Henry Smith had lived for a month after receiving his injuries and the fact that he would probably not have succumbed if he had been younger, the nature of the blows were such as were likely to have caused death, especially in the case of a man so old.

As such, the police report stated that on the whole that they could not help feeling great doubt as to whether there was enough to justify interference.

Henry Grove was executed at Newgate by James Billington on 22 May 1900.

The stable had been in the grounds of Notts Cottages which were opposite the Old Sergeant public house at 29 Parsonage Lane. Notts Cottages have since been demolished and replaced. The Old Sergeant public house was demolished in February 2013.

see National Archives - CRIM 1/61/4, HO 144/280/A61814

see Northants Evening Telegraph - Monday 02 April 1900

see Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Saturday 26 May 1900

see Pub Wiki