Search

Bloody Valentine: Clerkenwell guides’ alternative tour through history

09:44 14 February 2016

Simon Jones and Denise Gillard-Parrin at St Johns gate

Simon Jones and Denise Gillard-Parrin at St Johns gate

Archant

The course of true love never really did run smooth. Sophie Inge discovers Clerkenwell’s gruesome ‘romantic’ past with a tour guide

Smithfields marketSmithfields market

To most people, Valentine’s Day probably means a box of chocolates, a bunch of red roses or a special meal out with a partner.

But the origins of the day aren’t quite so romantic – in fact, it’s a memorial to the gruesome beheading of St Valentine. His crimes? Trying to convert the Roman Emperor to Christianity and performing marriages for young soldiers in secret.

So if you’re looking for an authentic Valentine’s experience, then skip the fancy restaurants and consider a trip to Clerkenwell.

Denise Gillard-Parrin of Islington and Clerkenwell Guides has organised a special Valentine’s Day walk through the area with fellow guide Simon Jones. Here, Simon gives three of the highlights of their bloody and dramatic tour.

The Bleeding Heart TavernThe Bleeding Heart Tavern

Smithfield’s Market

Just down the road from Farringdon station is historic Smithfield’s Market – where butchers have been flogging their meat for centuries.

Rewind to the 17th century, however, and it was a meat market in more than one sense – feminists, look away now.

Gravestone of the Steinberg family at St James churchGravestone of the Steinberg family at St James church

With divorce off the cards for all but the wealthiest couples, husbands would instead publicly auction their wives off at the market.

“Men would actually parade them with a halter around their necks so people could have a good look at the women – a bit like a slave auction,” says Mr Jones.

“Five shillings was the going rate for a sale, which was actually probably quite a lot back in the 1600s.”

Not only were the wives flogged off to the highest bidder: husbands also had the right to humiliate “disobedient” or “disorderly” wives. In practice, their misdemeanours could be anything from adultery to “nagging”.

And for that, they’d be tied to a so-called “ducking stool” before being unceremoniously dunked into a foul pond in Smithfield.

Bleeding Heart Yard

Walk on west to Greville Street, and you’d be forgiven for missing a tiny cobbled courtyard with a pub called “Bleeding Heart Yard”.

Today, few couples who meet for dates at the Bleeding Heart Tavern will have any idea about the gruesome story behind its name.

Legend has it that Lady Hatton – wife of Sir Charles Hatton, whose family owned the area around Hatton Garden – had made a pact withthe devil to get wealth, position and a new mansion.

When the mansion was completed, the couple threw a housewarming party. Among their guests was their benefactor – the devil himself, who tore out Lady Hatton’s heart. The following morning, her heart was found in this very yard. It was still beating.

The story is immortalised in a Thomas Ingoldsby poem: 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!

“That’s just a legend,” says Mr Jones. “But there is in fact another Hatton called Christopher who wanted some land from the Bishop of Ely. He was a favourite of Elizabeth I and they apparently danced around a cherry tree with her and she agreed to give half the land to him.”

This very tree is said to be that showcased at the nearby Ye Old Mitre pub in Ely Place.

St James’ Churchyard

Not scary enough for you? St James’ Churchyard in Clerkenwell Close is the resting place of the tragic Steinberg family.

Apparently, 45-year-old German whip-maker Johan Nicholas Steinberg murdered his wife and children in cold blood at their Islington home in 1834, before slitting his own throat.

An inquest was later held in the Three Kings pub nearby, and Steinberg’s wife and children were buried in St James’ Churchyard.

“Charles Steinberg was actually buried in a pauper’s grave in Ray Street across Harrington road upside down with a stake through his heart – as was customary for a murderer and suicide victim,” says Mr Jones.

And their house? When a new tenant moved in, he purchased some wax models to represent the family and dressed them in their real blood-stained clothes.

“He made a lot of money apparently and would charge members of the public a penny each to go in,” says Mr Jones.

“It was only when the neighbours kicked up a fuss that they had to close it down.”

For more information on the tour click here and to find out more and Clerkenwell and Islington Guides click here.

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Islington Gazette visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Islington Gazette staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Islington Gazette account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

Latest Islington News Stories

18:23

A Finsbury Park dad is going the distance to safeguard the future of an independently funded primary school science laboratory.

17:51

Police figures show the number of drivers who use mobile phones behind the wheel is on the rise.

14:26

A couple of weeks ago at Gazette Towers, a dusty framed photograph was discovered at the back of a storage cupboard. In it were dozens of immaculately dressed journalists and sales staff at a dinner in Cafe Royal, Regent Street. The date – September 28 1956.

12:44

A superb new exhibition tells the story of firefighting in Islington since 1381. There were plenty of surprises for James Morris, who attended the opening on Thursday.

08:39

Labour councillors arranged a meeting with IRA supporters in Islington Town Hall.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn this afternoon offered heartfelt thanks to constituents after his re-election as Labour leader.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn was this morning re-elected as leader of the Labour Party.

Friday, September 23, 2016

A convicted drug dealer who sent a death threat to the councillor who closed Farringdon superclub Fabric could face jail next month.

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now

Newsletter Sign Up

Most read news

Competitions

If you’re obsessed with Apple or just love a good gadget, this is a prize that will blow you away! An incredible £3,333 to spend on Apple goodies! How would you like to be the proud new owner of the Apple Watch?

As we grow older it becomes more and more important to have means to travel about safely and quickly. Our friendship groups and families grow and the need to have a car that is not only safe but also fast and big enough for all our needs is ever more important. There are many cars on the market for such needs but none deals with them as efficiently or as neatly as a VW Golf Estate. These cars are build strong, long lasting and spacious for a reason. They cater to the needs of many and are some of the most popular cars currently on the market.

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Islington Gazette
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now