Date of Birth:
Henry Smith was killed
because of a debt of one shilling.
Sweetshop owner Henry also had a yard and stable at the
back of his shop, where he would let people keep their
horses and carts, for the princely sum of six pence per
week. One of those who took advantage of this hospitality
was Smith's next door neighbour, a hawker named Henry
By 24th February 1900, however, Grove had not paid his
rent for two weeks and Smith had told him that he would
not be allowed to keep his horse and cart in the yard
again, at least until he had paid the shilling he owed.
Late that night though, Grove, returning home rather the
worse for drink, ignored the order and attempted to use
the yard anyway.
Smith came out of his shop and tried to prevent Grove
entering the yard, whereupon an argument started. At one
stage Grove said he would kill Smith and Mrs Smith, who
had witnessed this argument, told her husband to let Grove
do as he wished, in order to avoid further trouble. Henry
Smith did as his wife asked and returned to his shop.
Grove though was not prepared to let the matter rest. He
followed Smith into the shop and struck him twice with his
For a time it seemed as if that would be the end of the
matter but Grove now went back into the yard, picked up a
couple of rusty scythes that were lying about, and took
them back to his own garden. A few minutes later he
returned to Smith's yard with one of the scythes. Finding
Henry there, Grove proceeded to batter him to the ground
with the handle and the flat of the blade. When Mrs Smith
tried to intervene, she too was hit, but her cries caused
neighbours to call in the police and Groves was arrested
on a charge of assault.
Henry Smith was very badly injured. His right arm and leg
were both fractured. His left leg was broken, as was one
of his ribs, and he had received two severe blows to the
back of his head. So poor was his condition that a
magistrate called at the hospital to take a statement from
him, in the presence of the man who had assaulted him;
Smith managed to hang on to life for another few weeks but
finally died from his injuries on 20thMarch 1900. The
assault charge was now changed to one of murder.
At his trial, Groves' defence was that Smith had struck
the first blow and that he had merely defended himself. He
also stated that he had not used the scythe, or indeed any
other weapon, and that all the blows had been with his
bare fists. This was refuted by the statement Smith had
made before he died and from the evidence of Mrs Smith and
The jury were out for an hour before returning a guilty
verdict, though they also gave a strong recommendation to
mercy, which the judge said he would pass on to the proper
quarters. It did nothing to save Groves who became the
first man hanged in the 20th century.
Henry was Hanged at Newgate, 22nd May 1900.