News from 1896 & 1911

Liz Jack, member of the Local History Group, has unearthed this account of gruesome late Victorian crime, as part of her research into the building expansion of Muswell Hill


In 1896 Henry Smith, a 79-year–old wealthy widower living alone in Muswell Lodge, Tetherdown (where Burlington Road now is), was blind-folded, gagged and battered to death. This was despite his security precautions including a trip-wire which could fire a gun in his garden backing onto Coldfall Wood. His gardener found him on the 14th February, a few hours after his murder. The victim’s home had been ransacked and considerable booty stolen. The perpetrators of this crime were traced through a lantern which they left behind. Within months they were brought to trial, convicted and hanged. The murder was immediately reported in the Hornsey Journal of 15th February, drawing much attention to Muswell Hill. The next edition of February 22nd reported that the morbid curiosity of this dreadful deed had prompted the public to descend upon Muswell Hill the previous Sunday. Crowds sought their way to the Lodge. It was estimated that 1,500-2,000 visited the neighbourhood that day. The Lodge would have been a mile from the Muswell Hill railway station (now demolished).

Hazel House has been investigating census returns for a project about the population of Hornsey in the late 19th and early 20th Century. Searching the census can be dull and repetitive. However, occasionally, an entertaining gem emerges by chance …

A young Highgate man embellishes his family’s entry in the 1911 census with some extra information. He is, perhaps, expressing a mild objection to the statutory requirement to complete the census return; the 1911 census was the first one which householders completed themselves.
In addition to family members he enters “Bully” who is The Dog male aged 3 1⁄2 years. Regarding Particulars as to Marriage, the informant states about Bully; don’t know can gather nothing. Bully’s Personal Occupation is given as follows; Guards his master’s house and effects against tramps and other officials of all denominations and his Profession or Occupation as Eating and Sleeping. Bully works at home and was born in England. As to nationality, he is a Thorough Britisher. Being a Bulldog. Other animals are mentioned; Several Birds and Guinea pig particulars of which may be obtained upon application. The section headed Infirmity reads; ‘Tis rumoured that the persons mentioned on this return are all perfectly sane. The family occupies 9 rooms in their home and there are, apparently, the Usual offices Dog kennel, Several birdcages etc. Mr WG J. has signed the form on behalf of Mr GA J., his father, who is listed as head of the family. Mr WG J. states his own profession as Musician (not organ grinder.) Inevitably, the additions have been crossed out by the census enumerator. However, they remain perfectly readable, all in elegant copperplate handwriting.

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