Henry Smith was 84 when he died in hospital on MARCH 20th, 1900, not from old age but from injuries he had received a month earlier. Henry Grove, a 26-year-old hawker, was already in custody for the assault, and he was now charged with murder.

At Grove’s trial the court was told that Mr. Smith had a yard and stable behind his sweetshop in Enfield, Middlesex. Grove, who lived next door, kept his horse and cart in the yard, paying Mr. Smith sixpence a week.

On February 24th, however, Mr. Smith ended this arrangement because Grove had not paid him for two weeks. He told Grove not to use the yard again until he had settled his debt of a shilling.

Returning home drunk that night, Grove tried to enter the yard but found his way blocked by Mr. Smith. In the argument that followed he threatened to kill the elderly shopkeeper. Mrs. Smith urged her husband to let Grove have his way to save further trouble, and Mr. Smith went back into his shop…followed by Grove, who punched him twice, and then removed two old scythes from the yard, taking them to his own garden.

Shortly afterwards he was back in the yard again with one of the scythes, and on seeing Mr. Smith he attacked him with the scythe’s handle and the flat of its blade, knocking him to the ground. Mrs. Smith was also struck when she went to help her husband.

Hearing her cries, neighbours called the police. Grove was arrested, and Mr. Smith was taken to hospital, his legs and an arm broken, together with one of his ribs.

In the witness-box Grove claimed he had only defended himself, Mr. Smith having struck the first blow. He also denied wielding the scythe, saying he had used only his fists. But this was rebutted by a statement Mr. Smith had made in hospital, and by the evidence of other witnesses.

Convicted and sentenced to death, Henry Grove was executed at Newgate Prison on May 22nd, 1900, becoming the first man hanged in Britain in the 20th century.