Police Constable Grantham Killed On Duty

The Metropolitan Police Force came into being on the 29th September, 1830, thanks to the efforts and perseverance of the then Home Secretary, Sir Robert Peel.

Within a year of its formation, however, this new force suffered the type of tragedy which was to become all too common throughout the 19th century, and which, sadly, remains all too common today – the death of a police constable in the execution of his duty.

The name of the first police officer to be killed on duty, was Joseph Grantham of the force’s S division, who was killed in Somers Town on the night of Monday, 28th June, 1830.

He was 31-years-old, and, according to some of the contemporary newspaper reports, his wife had just given birth to twins on the day of his death, making his loss an even more poignant tragedy.


The Globe, in its edition of Tuesday 29th June, 1830, reported on the known facts of the case:-

“The neighbourhood of Somers town was last evening thrown into an extraordinary state of agitation, by an occurrence in which a police-constable named Grantham, No. 169, of the letter S. division, was killed.


The unfortunate man, while on duty in Skinner-street, was called upon to quell a slight disturbance in Smith’s-place, occasioned by a quarrel between two drunken Irishmen, one of whom had been beating his wife.

The police officer, in his attempt to preserve the peace, was himself assailed and knocked down, and received a kick on the right temple, which, in a few minutes, put an end to his existence.

He was immediately carried to the shop of Mr. Edmondson, a surgeon, in Judd-street, who, however, found that life was extinct, and the body was conveyed to the Boot public-house, in Cromer Street, to await the coroner’s inquest.


Michael Duggan, who is alleged to have inflicted the fatal blow, was immediately secured by the police, and conveyed to the station-house in Phoenix Street, and in the course of the evening was removed to the principal station of the S. division, in Albany Street, Regent’s Park.

He is a tall and rather good-looking young man, who has just completed his apprenticeship to a bricklayer in Somers-town.


The deceased is highly spoken of in his division, and his civility and moderation in the discharge of his duty had gained for him the esteem of many of the inhabitants who knew him.


The distressing situation in which his family are placed by his untimely death excited the deepest commiseration, for it was generally known in the town that his wife was put to bed only yesterday, and it is said has given birth to twins.

It was feared that any communication that might by accident reach the poor woman respecting her bereavement might have a fatal effect upon her.”


On the 2nd of July 1830, Freeman’s Journal provided a few more details on the tragedy, albeit this article referred to the attacker as Duffey, rather than Duggan, and stated that the fatal kick had been delivered to the stomach, as oposed to the temple, which most other newspapers reported:-

“Monday night – Somers-town and its vicinity were thrown into extreme excitement in consequence of its having been industriously rumoured that a new police constable had met with his death from kicks inflicted upon his stomach in his attempt to prevent two Irish labourers from having a pugilistic combat.


On inquiry, we ascertained that police constable Grantham, No 169, division S, was called upon to prevent a breach of the peace in Thornley-place, Skinner-street, Somers-town.

Upon interfering, with a view of preserving the peace, one of the men, named Michael Duffey, in the employ of Mr. Thornley, builder, put the constable at defiance, and acted in the most outrageous manner.


The deceased was, in consequence, compelled to threaten the man – Duffey –  with the handcuff’s, which increased his fury, and he swore the police constable should not handcuff him.

The policeman was at length compelled to attempt to put his threat into execution, whereupon Duffey kicked and plunged most outrageously.


The police constable received one of these severe kicks in the pit of the stomach, which felled him to the ground, and rendered him insensible.

Police-constable Bennett, No., 87, division S, came up and took the fellow to the police station.

The policeman was conveyed to a surgeon’s, where he died. The deceased was between 24 and 25 years of age.”


The Morning Post had reported on the inquest into Police Constable Joseph Grantham’s death in its edition of Thursday 1st July, 1830:-


“A Coroner’s inquest was yesterday held on the body, when; the facts we have already slated were proved in evidence.

In conformity, however, with the opinion of two professional gentlemen, who were examined, the Jury returned a verdict:-

“That the deceased died front extravasation of blood on the brain, caused by over-excitement in the execution of his duty.””


On 5th July, 1830, The Salisbury and Winchester Journal published the following brief article on the case:-

“On Tuesday Michael Duggin was remanded at Marylebone Office, on the charge of having killed Joseph Grantham, a police constable, No 169. Division S.

The deceased entered the police on Feb. 10. and was of a very good character.

The accused is a bricklayer, and his apprenticeship expired on the day of the melancholy catastrophe.

In celebrating it, he got intoxicated and killed.the deceased.

He appears extremely affected.”


On the same day, Monday 5th July, 1830, The London Courier and Evening Gazette reported that Michael Duggan, whose real name, it had transpired, was, in fact, Michael Galvin, had appeared before magistrate Mr, Griffith at the Marylebone Police Office:-

Michael Duggan, but whose real name is Galvin, was brought from the New Prison, Clerkenwell, to be finally examined before Mr. Griffith, respecting the death of Joseph Grantham, the policeman.

An inquest was held upon the body on Wednesday night, at the Boot public-house, in Cromer-street, Somers Town, and a verdict returned, “That the death of the policeman was by an extravasation of blood upon the brain, produced by exertion in the discharge of his duly.”

Mr. Griffith was not satisfied with this decision, and, after taking more evidence that the deceased received violence at the hands of the prisoner, he committed him for trial.”


Griffith had, in fact, committed Galvin for trial on a charge of having murdered Police Constable Grantham.

However, in the week between the committal and the trial, it was decided, instead, to proceed with a lesser charge of assault.


Michael Galvin appeared at the Middlesex Sessions, on Saturday, 10th July, 1830, charged with assaulting two police officers, Constables Grantham and Bennett.

The Morning Advertiser provided the following account of the proceedings in its edition of Monday, 12th July, 1830:-

“Michael Galvin was charged with assaulting Joseph Grantham and Wm. Bennett, two of the new police.

The unfortunate man, Grantham, died on the spot, and as it was supposed that his death was the result of the injuries he received from the prisoner.

The latter was finally committed by Mr. Ginffiths of the Marylebone Police office, for wilful murder; but the superintendent surgeon of the police being decidedly of the opinion, after a post-mortem examination, that the deceased died of apoplexy brought on by the exertion and excitement of the moment, all idea of proceeding for murder was abandoned, and the present prosecution substituted instead.

The jury found the prisoner Guilty upon both Indictments.

The Chairman, after an impressive address, in the course of which he told the prisoner he had had a very near chance of taking his trial for murder, sentenced him to 6 months’ imprisonment for the assault on Grantham, and six weeks’ additional imprisonment for the assault on Bennett.”