Category Archives: People

1890 Shocking Murder At Mitcham

From the Illustrated Police News – Saturday 07 June 1890

MURDER AT MITCHAM.

[SUBJECT OF ILLUSTRATION.]

ON the 30th ult., at the Croydon County Bench, before Dr. Alfred Carpenter (in the chair) and other magistrates, George Bowling, fifty-one, a labourer, of Miles’s-cottagee, Mitcham, was charged, on remand, with the wilful murder of Elizabeth Nightingale, a widow, with whom he lived, by smashing in her skull with a hammer, at Mitcham, on the 17th. ult. Sophia Collins, sister of the deceased, had her previous evidence read over, and in reply to further questions said it was a four-roomed house. The prisoner and the deceased occupied the two front rooms, one up and one down. Witness and her brother occupied the other rooms. The deceased and Bowling had the exclusive use of the front door, of which they had the key, and they generally shut the door when they went out. Bowling and deceased lived together for ten or eleven years. Witness and her brother always used the back-door, which was bolted inside at night time. Of late the prisoner had been drinking very much, and quarrels between the pair were frequent. The deceased was of sober habits generally. Witness was on good terms with her. Had never seen her the worse for liquor. Witness usually saw her sister every day, if she did not the prisoner. The deceased worked at a marketgarden, and used to get there at eight o’clock. She would get up between five and six to do her housework. At this point Police-constable Butler, 488 W, produced a plan he had made of the premIses, the bedroom being drawn to scale. The witness Collins went on to say that she last saw her sister alive on the 16th ult The prisoner came in about eight o’clock. Witness did not see hlm, but she knew his step. She was surprised at his coming home so early. The deceased came in at half-past nine, and remarked to wltness as she was going upstairs, “Aint it cold? Dlrectly she got in her room witness heard deceased and Bowling quarrelling. She heard the prisoner threaten her a good deal. He said, “I will be the death of you.’ She did not hear any blows, nor did she hear any scuffling. Soon after that prisoner came downstairs and seemed to go in his front room, and remained in there about five minutes. Witness heard him go up again. There was more swearing, but she heard no blows. This lasted five or six minutes, and all was quiet after- wards. Witness then went into the washhouse to get water and chop some wood, being absent about a quarter of an hour. Witness heard nothing more during the night. Witness’s brother came in about eleven o’clock, and stayed up about half an hour, and then went to bed. No one else went in or out of the house that night. Next morning, between five and six o’clock, she heard the prisoner come downstairs. Between five and six the same evening she went Into her sister’s bedroom and found her lying on the bed dead, with her skull battered in. Witness had seen a coal hammer in Bowling’s coal- cellar, but not during the past six months. Witness had used It for nailing pictures up. The hammer (produced, stained with blood) was not the one in question, in fact, she had never seen it before. She had several times heard the prisoner threaten to settle her sister. Cross-examined by Mr. Dennis: The last sound she heard was at ten minutes past ten o’clock. She did not know that Bowling went out at ten o’clock, and was drinking at the Buck’s Head public-house shortly before eleven. Witness was not surprised to hear them quarrelling, as it so frequently occurred. Her sister was rather a warm-tempered woman. Dr. Henry Love repeated the evidence he gave before the coroner as to the death of the woman being caused by repeated and violent blows on the head by a heavy instrument such as the hammer produced. The fact of there having been no struggle showed that the woman was stunned by the first blow. Inspector Butters, who arrested the prisoner, stated that on the way to the station Bowvling said, “I suppose they fetched you ?” Witness replied in the affirmative. Police-constable Banfield, 277 W, deposed that the prisoner said to him, “It was in my temper I done it in.” Other evidence having been called, Mr. Dennis, in reply to the Bench, said he had nothing to say. In answer to the usual caution, the prisoner, speaking with some emotion, said, “Not guilty, and I reserve my defence,” The prisoner was fully committed for trial at the next assizes on the capital charge. He was removed to Holloway Gaol to await his trial, his departure being witnessed by a large crowd.

1910 Shooting over fair pitches

Music Hall and Theatre Review – Thursday 1st September 1910

Guns at Mitcham.

At Croydon Police Court on Friday Henry Harris was committed for trial at the next Guildford Assizes, having been charged with the attempted murder of Frederick Gray, aged fifty, of Wandsworth-road, and Henry Gray, aged twenty-six, of Kensal-rise, by shooting them with a revolver at Mitcham-green on August 12. The injured men attended the court. Mr. A. A. Strong said it was customary for the showmen to take up their positions on the Thursday before the fair, and the members of the Showmen’s Guild had their places allotted by the Guild, so that everything should be done in order. This year, on reaching Mitcham the showmen found that, owing to the notoriety the fair had gained through the action of the local conservators, the ground was occupied by gipsies. On the Wednesday before the fair the Grays found the site they usually occupied was in Harris’s possession. The prisoner, said counsel, was not a showman. Showmen did not carry revolvers, and were a most orderly and law-abiding folk.

Harris carried on small coal business at Battersea. Occasionally he had gone with shows, and the Grays had helped him. The elder Gray, knowing he had no legal claim to the site, offered Harris £5. On the first day of the fair they had not yet come to an agreement. Frederick Gray was under the impression on Thursday night that Harris had agreed to accept £6 and a use of a portion of the ground. Accordingly instructions were given for the roundabouts to be erected on Friday, but he found Harris was still in possession. About mid-day prisoner asked witness what he was going to do, and witness said, ” I’ve finished,” and Harris then said, ” I haven’t finished with you.” Between 1.30 and 2 o’clock as witness and his son were walking round the fair ground, Harris ran in front of them, and without a word pointed a revolver at them from a distance of eight or nine paces, and fired several shots.

After being treated by a local doctor witness and his son were taken to Guy’s Hospital, remaining until Wednesday last. A bullet was extracted from his chest, and a doctor told him that if it had been half an inch further to the left, the wound would have been fatal.

Harry Gray, the son, denied that he struck prisoner, or that his father threatened him.

The incident was reported in the Croydon’s Weekly Standard – Saturday 20th August 1910

TWO SHOT AT A FAIR

A shooting affray marked the opening of Mitcham Fair on Friday. Two showmen, Frederick Gray and Harry Gray, his son, were shot and Henry Harris, the proprietor of a “Hoop-la” booth was arrested. The incident occurred about two o’clock in the afternoon, when the fair was crowded with people. It is said that the Grays and Harris quarrelled over a pitch. A heated dispute ensued, during which, it is alleged, Harris pulled out a revolver – and fired at the two Grays. The crowd promptly scattered in all directions, and took shelter behind the nearest caravans. Harris, it is said, ran after the Grays with a revolver in his hand, but a young woman named Maria Herrick, in the employment of the elder Gray, ran up to him, and pluckily wrenched the revolver from him. Immediately after the police came up and arrested Harris. Altogether, four shots were fired. In view of the crowded state of the ground, it is remarkable that no more people were hit. Frederick Gray was wounded in the back, and his son Harry in the chest. Both are doing well.

As regards the fair itself, the action of the Mitcham Common Conservators during recent years in attempting to stop it has apparently only resulted in making it more popular. The number of shows is greater this year than ever before. The Conservators took out against twenty-two showmen for taking up places forty-eight hours before the time allowed, which was Thursday noon.