Saturday, 25 October 2014

Bleeding heart yard

Tucked away off Greville Street in an area of London variously described as Hatton Garden, Clerkenwell or Farringdon, this evocative sign is linked to a legend.

The story goes that in 1626, society beauty Lady Elizabeth Hatton held a grand ball in Hatton House, and danced the night away with a mysterious man. The well-dressed gent, said to be the European Ambassador, took her by the hand and led her out through the doors to the garden. She was not seen alive again. The next morning, her body was found torn limb from limb in the cobbled stable yard behind the house, her heart still pumping blood.

Sorry to spoil it all, but it seems none of that’s true. Lady Elizabeth did exist, but didn’t come to that gory end. She died in 1646 and was buried in a church in Holborn. But the legend has endured (with other garnishes typical of this type of scary story – the gentleman was said to be swarthy and deformed and was therefore, of course, assumed to be the devil). It’s more likely that the name derives from a pub called The Bleeding Heart, which once stood nearby. The yard, which was featured by Dickens in Little Dorrit, still offers an atmospheric glimpse of old London. 

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Simon's bridge

In 1860, a 24 year old named Henry Simon emigrated from Germany to Manchester, to join the city’s German community. Simon became an engineer with a knack for inventing, and his ideas included steel rollers and sieving machines for the milling industry. His company later became the Simon Carves engineering company, which is still located in South Manchester.

Simon died in 1899 and left money for this bridge to be built over the Mersey in Didsbury, to improve access to Poor’s Field, which was owned by the church and rented out to provide funds to buy items for the poor, such as blankets and clothing. It’s rather a fine looking bridge, painted vibrant green, and it’s shame that present locals saw fit to scrawl all over it. If you’d like to visit and pay your respects to the entrepreneurial Mr Simon, the bridge is near Ford Lane. It’s an interesting area for history so to find out more visit the Mersey Valley website here.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Atmospheric orphanage

This crumbling sign for the Sir Ralph Pendlebury Orphanage can be seen on the busy Lancashire Hill in Stockport. The deserted steps and gothic gateway are easy to miss in the tumble of traffic on the way to the town centre.

Sir Ralph Pendlebury (1790–1861) was mayor of Stockport, and he created a charity with an endowment of £100,000. The orphanage named after him was opened in 1881. The charity gave relief, such as clothing, education or finding employment, to orphans of parents who had lived in the Stockport district for not less than two years. The building, on Dodge Hill, was designed by Scottish architect J. W. Beaumont, and it had room for about 250 boys and girls. It was later used by the Red Cross Society and became a hospital for wounded soldiers from 1914-1919. It still exists today: it is grade II listed and, fittingly, is now a care home.

This old entrance is no longer used, so it sits there doing duty as a memorial to the past. Crumbling, covered in overgrowing greenery, dark and dank, it’s pretty creepy. So it’s no surprise that rumours of ghosts abound: Pendlebury Hall claims a one-armed soldier, a white lady and singing children among its hauntings.