Ghostly Clerkenwell!

21 Apr

Woooah!

Clerkenwell is a ghostly place all right. At least it would be, were it ever quiet enough to be so. The nearest I ever got to it being quiet and spooky was at weekends when I used to go walking around town getting myself lost or when I used to scramble out of  the Talc Room at The Jazz Bistro’s Happiness Stan’s, Smithfields Market, at 4am on a Sunday morning not knowing which way to turn to get back home. However, there’s certainly no shortage of history in the area.

Flicking through some early digital pictures the other day, I came across this window with a much quoted paragraph stencilled onto it.

Bleedin' Hell

This is the window of the Bleeding Heart Tavern, which dates back to the 1740s as a public house. The era, I think, was the time of the gin explosion in London. You’re probably aware of William Hogarth‘s portrayal of Gin Lane and the misery and destitution therein. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on the era you refer back to, this is now a French restaurant.

Hogarth Gin Lane

It is behind said restaurant where the spooky goings-on were purported to have taken place. Bleeding Heart Yard once belonged to the Bishop of Ely before Queen Elizabeth I gave the land to one of her ‘favourites’, Sir Christopher Hatton. She may or may not have been a few sheets to the wind at the time, we all know how she enjoyed a few tankards, but give it she did. Both of those men are now immortalised in local street names, Hatton Gardens being famous for diamonds nowadays and Ely Place is famous for a) being officially part of Cambridge and b) having a really good pub on it.

As one might expect with the Queen carrying on with her husband, Hatton’s trouble and strife, Lady Hatton, got the right pip. So while Betty and Chris were getting down to the Volt, Lady Hatton decided to have her own little dance with a tall, dark stranger – the devil – and in the process just so happened to sell him her soul.

Anyway, after a while, relations with the Hattons began to improve. However, one night, when they were holding a bit of a shindig in their ballroom, who should pop along uninvited but a tall robed figure, all in black. He walked through the heaving dancefloor until he found Lady Hatton, who herself was a little too merry on meade for her own good. It was the devil himself. He took her by the hand and led her outside. All through the room the atmosphere changed in an instant, then there was a flash of lightning followed by roaring thunder as the rain started to tip down. The guests covered their ears as a spine-chilling scream shot through the room from outside.

Afterwards, all the guests ran out to the yard to see what had happened but all that they saw was a large bleeding human heart……..

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!
And sundry large stains
Of blood and of brains,
Which had not been wash’d off notwithstanding the rains,
Appear’d on the wood, and the handle, and chains,
As if somebody’s head with a very hard thump,
Had been recently knock’d on the top of the pump.
That pump is no more!– that of which you’ve just read,–
But they’ve put a new iron one up in its stead,
And still, it is said,
At that ‘small hour’ so dread,
When all sober people are cosey in bed,
There may sometimes be seen on a moonshiny night,
Standing close by the new pump, a Lady in White,
Who keeps pumping away with, ‘twould seem, all her might,
Though never a drop comes her pains to requite!
And hence many passengers now are debarr’d
From proceeding at nightfall through Bleeding Heart Yard!

And that, as my dear old mother would say, is as true as your trousers!

Check out the original poem here.

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