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. 

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