Bleeding Heart Yard is a small dead-end road leading off Greville Street, near Hatton Gardens in the Holborn area of London. In Victorian times, Bleeding Heart Yard was located in the notorious slum area of Saffron Hill, home to Fagin‘s den of thieves in Oliver Twist.
The name ‘Bleeding Heart Yard’ recalls a bloody incident of the 17th century involving society beauty Lady Elizabeth Hatton, widowed daughter-in-law of Sir Christopher Hatton. Sir Christopher, after whom the nearby diamond and jewellery quarter of Hatton Garden is named, had been a courtier to Elizabeth I. She greatly admired him and he rose through her ranks, eventually being granted a house on land that was formerly owned by the Bishop of Ely.
During a society ball at Hatton House, Lady Elizabeth was abducted by a lover, said by some to be the Spanish Ambassador and by others that it was the Devil. The following morning her body was discovered in the Yard, torn apart and with her heart supposedly still bleeding on cobblestones behind the stable block of Hatton House, where Bleeding Heart Yard now stands.
Before Dickens, the courtyard was best known for its appearance in R.H. Barham’s The Ingoldsby Legends, a collection of poems and stories first published in Bentley’s Miscellany beginning in 1837. In one of the stories, The House-Warming: A Legend Of Bleeding-Heart Yard, Lady Hatton, wife of Sir Christopher Hatton, makes a pact with the devil to secure wealth, position, and a mansion in Holborn. During the housewarming of the mansion, the devil dances with her, then tears out her heart, which is found, still beating, in the courtyard the next morning. It is from this legend, together with a case of mistaken identity, that the myth of Lady Elizabeth Hatton’s murder — wife, not of Christopher, but of William Hatton — was born.
Charles Dickens and Bleeding Heart Yard.
A place much changed in feature and in fortune, yet with some relish of ancient greatness about it. Two or three mighty stacks of chimneys, and a few large dark rooms which had escaped being walled and subdivided out of the recognition of their old proportions, gave the Yard a character. It was inhabited by poor people, who set up their rest among its faded glories, as Arabs of the desert pitch their tents among the fallen stones of the Pyramids; but there was a family sentimental feeling prevalent in the Yard, that it had a character.
Bleeding Heart Yard is located off Greville Street, near Hatton Gardens in the Holborn area of London.