BLEEDING HEART YARD, FARRINGDON
“Did you ever dance with the Devil in the pale moonlight?” - a poetic question from Jack Nicholson’s Joker to Michael Keaton’s Bruce Wayne in the 1989 film, Batman. Wayne doesn’t answer the question, but one person that could have responded to the positive was Lady Elizabeth Hatton… and to horrific consequences.
Elizabeth was very beautiful and from a high society family, as such, she caught the eye of the older, yet handsome and wealthy Lord Hatton. They fell in love and were soon married.
As wealthy as they were, the now Lady Hatton longed for more. It is said that she whispered a deal with the Devil for more power, land and wealth and so it was that within a year, Lord Hatton had risen through the Court and was a firm favourite of the Virgin Queen, Elizabeth I. As men fell out of favour with the Queen, more land was passed to Lord Hatton, until their estate was significant and he held the title of Lord Chancellor.
Lord and Lady Hatton had a happy marriage, but as it was in those days, living to a ripe old age wasn’t a privilege that befell many – even the wealthy. At the age of 51, Lord Hatton’s health declined and he passed away. Being some years younger than her husband, Lady Hatton remained full of life and her beauty was still a sight to behold.
On the evening of 27 January 1626, a grand ball was hosted at Hatton Hall (now the home of Hatton Garden, heart of the UK's diamond trade) at which the Lady of the house, Elizabeth, stunned guests with her elegant dancing and unrivaled beauty. Mid way through the evening, a strange guest, smartly dressed all in black, appeared and took Lady Hatton in a hold. The pair proceeded to dance spectacular circuits around the ball room until the bell chimed midnight. At this point, Lady Hatton, led by the mysterious guest, created quite a stir as the doors to the terrace were flung open and the pair danced out into the pale moonlight.
The following dawn, as traders made their way to the markets, a scream rang out from a cobbled courtyard, less than 200 meters from Hatton Hall. Upon the blood-soaked cobles were the mutilated remains of Lady Hatton, her body torn asunder and her limbs flung to each corner of the courtyard. In the middle was her still beating heart, which witnesses said, continued to pump blood for the next 30 minutes.
The Devil had come to settle the deal and thus the yard was given its name.
There are many reports of strange happenings in the yard to this day. Many witnesses have reported feeling an ice cold blast, even in mid-summer, followed by an overwhelming beating of their heart – almost as if it would burst from their chest.
Charles Dickens captured the unnatural feeling of the yard when it featured in his 1857 novel, Little Dorrit. But the story of Lady Hatton, the Devil and Bleeding Heart Yard was penned 20 years before that. In 1837, the story featured in Richard Harris Barham’s (under the pseudonym Thomas Ingoldsby) The Ingoldsby Legends, which is a collection of short stories and poems. The poem in question is entitled ‘The House-Warming: A Legend of Bleeding Heart Yard’ and contains the following verse…
“Of poor Lady Hatton, it’s needless to say,
No traces have ever been found to this day,
Or the terrible dancer who whisk’d her away;
But out in the court-yard — and just in that part
Where the pump stands — lay bleeding a large human heart!”