Tour Locations | Charles Dickens from Furnival's Inn to Doughty Street
Bleeding Heart Yard
Stop for a moment. On your right is the entrance to Bleeding Heart Yard. We're going to turn around again to walk back in the direction we came from, but have a look down the alleyway to the left of the Bleeding Heart Bistro before we do. Please be aware that this is a popular turning point for lorries, so keep on the pavement to stay safe.
In Little Dorrit Dickens relates the legend of a young woman imprisoned by her father to stop her marrying her lover. She would look down onto the yard, singing of her heart bleeding for love, until she wasted away.
Be thankful that you are standing here in the 21st century – when Dickens knew this area, much of it ran with sewage waste, which caused regular outbreaks of disease. It wasn't until the 1860s that London's sewage problem began to be dealt with properly.
[2 SECOND PAUSE]
Now cross to the other side of the road and walk back the way you came, all the way to the end of the road.
[3 SECOND PAUSE]
This area was once home to London's Italian community. Just down the road used to be Hatton Garden Police Court, which Dickens describes in Oliver Twist as “a very notorious metropolitan police office”. When Oliver was accused of thieving, that's where he was brought before the magistrate, Mr Fang. The kindly Mr Brownlow, the victim of the robbery who refuses to believe in Oliver’s guilt, is very concerned about the way the child is treated by the police and especially the magistrate. Dickens was passionate about making his readers see how unequal British society was – and how huge the gap between the rich and the poor.
When Dickens was writing Oliver Twist, he wrote to the journalist Mr Haines, who specialised in writing about the police and magistrates. In his letter, Dickens said he wanted to make rumours he had heard about the behaviour of a magistrate at Hatton Garden Police Court public. He wrote: “In my next number of Oliver Twist I must have a magistrate; and casting about [for one] whose harshness and insolence would render him a fit subject to be shown up ... I have ... stumbled upon Mr Laing of Hatton Garden”. The identity of the ridiculed Mr Laing – who was later barred from working as a magistrate – is barely disguised in the name Mr Fang.
Keep walking until you get to Leather Lane at the end of the road. I’ll meet you there.