Bleeding Heart Yard

After two more chapters of ‘Little Dorrit’ I scanned two more of Charles Keeping’s excellent illustrations.

In ‘He ate all that was put before him’, Keeping has accurately depicted the character Christopher Hibbert described as the ‘one truly evil character in the book’.

‘You got out of the Yard by a low gateway into a maze of shabby streets’. Keeping has accurately represented the yard that Dickens knew.

‘Bleeding Heart Yard is a cul-de-sac leading off Greville Street, near Hatton Garden. The yard’s name probably derives from an old inn sign, the Bleeding Heart of Our Lady, which depicted the heart of the Virgin Mary pierced through by swords. However, the sanguinary imagery has inspired several colourful legends, which Charles Dickens summarises in Little Dorrit (1855–7) – where he also suggests that the name actually relates to “the heraldic cognisance of the old family to whom the property had once belonged.”

One tale has it that a lovelorn young lady, imprisoned in her bedchamber by her cruel father, pined away at her window, murmuring ‘bleeding heart, bleeding heart, bleeding away’ as she expired. Dickens says that this story was “the invention of a tambour-worker, a spinster and romantic, still lodging in the Yard.”

The goriest fable suggests that sometime in the early 17th century the much-wooed Elizabeth Hatton was murdered here by the Spanish ambassador – whom she had jilted – and was found at dawn with her heart still pumping blood onto the cobblestones. Another angle on this story, this time featuring Sir Christopher and Lady Alice Hatton and the Devil, was set to verse by Richard Barham in his Ingoldsby Legends.

“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 …”

Richard Barham, ‘The House-Warming!!’ (1840)’ (

The Elizabeth Hatton story is thoroughly dismissed in

My own acquaintance with this historic street is detailed in

The lamp in my photograph is very similar to that in Mr Keeping’s drawing.

This afternoon, the winds of three day storm Christoph having desisted, Jackie drove us to Ferndene Farm Shop. So smooth was the shop that my wait in the car was just a four page one, after which we diverted on our journey home via Forest Road, giving me the opportunity to wander among the ponies in

the soggy woodland alongside.

The damp, muddy, matted shaggy haired animals bore the effects of days in the wind and rain,

one adding the battle scars of torn out tufts.

Jackie photographed a helicopter flying overhead as I approached the ditch I needed to cross to enter the woodland.

The minute I returned to the car heavy rain set in once more.

This evening we dined on roasted sturdy chicken thighs, extremely tasty parsnips, and crisp potatoes; Yorkshire pudding, sage and onion stuffing; firm carrots, cauliflower, and broccoli, and flavoursome gravy, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank vin de Bourgogne Macon 2019.