Above: Bleeding Heart Tavern standing on the south side of Greville Street. The yard can be seen on the left of the picture.
Bleeding Heart Yard is a large T-shaped courtyard which runs south off Greville Street, a turning off Hatton Garden, in the London Borough of Camden. The eastern part of today’s Greville Street was previously known as Charles Street. On the corner where Bleeding Heart Yard joins onto Greville Street stands the impressive Bleeding Heart Tavern.
The name is listed by Lillywhite as ‘Bleeding Heart, Charles Street, Hatton Garden’ [n3521 p57] who describes it as being a tavern before 1746 and continuing until the 1860s. Lillywhite does not mention that it was ever an inn. The map of 1682 entitled ‘London Actually Surveyed by William Morgan’ shows only a blank space for the later site of Bleeding Heart Yard. It would therefore seem likely that the tavern was not in existence then – confirming that it came into existence at a later date. Rocque’s large scale map of 1746 shows ‘Bleeding Heart Yard’ laid out in a very similar way to that of today.
The Wiki entry suggests that ‘The courtyard was probably named after a 16th-century inn sign dating back to the Reformation that was displayed on a pub called the Bleeding Heart in nearby Charles Street.’ Unfortunately, that statement is not supported by the facts. Firstly, Bleeding Heart Yard in the 16th century would have been immediately north of the buildings and outhouses of Ely House – an unlikely site for an inn. Secondly, we know from maps of the time that the land north of Ely House was part of its large private estate – being covered with orchards and gardens. There were no streets and no other residences nearby because it was all private land. Thirdly, Morgan’s map of 1682 has a blank space where Bleeding Heart Yard is now sited.
A dubious legend claims that the site was named after the murder of Lady Elizabeth Hatton, the second wife of Sir William Hatton, whose family formerly owned the area around the street now called Hatton Garden. It is said that her body was found there on 27 January 1646 ‘torn limb from limb but with her heart still pumping blood’ – a likely tale to embellish the name of the tavern!
The fact that there was a tavern with the word ‘heart’ in its name it does mean it has always had the same spelling. There are plenty of pub names like ‘White Hart’ and ‘Golden Hart’ – referring to a red deer, particularly a stag. It could be a simple matter of the name being misspelt, leaving some other writer to come up with a grizzly tale to add a bit of ‘colour’ to the name to impress the visitors.