Hatton Garden Jewellers: A Brief History
London’s famous jewellery quarter has a long and colourful history. From the garden of a royal advisor to a modern creative business hub, it’s had its fair share of scandal and incident. To this day, it continues to provide a vibrant home for a diverse mix of traders and customers, and remains the heart of the UK’s diamond trade.
Royal Roots: Hatton Garden’s Priceless Connections
Located in Holborn in the London borough of Camden, Hatton Garden takes its name from Sir Christopher Hatton. In 1581, Hatton was given a property by Elizabeth I. That property was Ely Place, originally the residence of the Bishop of Ely when he was in London. As such, the garden of the property became known as ‘Hatton Garden’. Hatton himself was a politician and close advisor to the Queen, who knighted him and eventually named him Lord Chancellor. With much power and influence in the court, Hatton made himself a wealthy man, and eventually built a huge country house for himself that was as big as Hampton Court Palace. He died in 1591, presumably a contented soul.
From Medieval Traders to Modern-day Markets
Clerkenwell and Hatton Garden’s neighbouring areas had long been a centre for jewellery trade and craftsmen, stretching back into the Middle Ages when specific trades clustered around distinct addresses and neighbourhoods. So, as the Hatton family sold off parts of its Ely estate, wealthy merchants, and eventually businesses, moved in. Originally serving the City of London, the jewellers of Hatton Garden became known citywide as trusted experts, offering quality pieces.
Today, there are over 55 jewellery shops and close to 300 jewellery businesses in the locality, making it the largest jewellery quarter in the country. The area is still a burgeoning district, serving the needs of countless daily visitors and offering an endless array of quality goods to suit every taste. From traditional design to modern innovation, and from small keepsakes to once-in-a-lifetime engagement rings and wedding bands, Hatton Garden has long been established as the trusted source of expertly crafted precious jewels and jewellery.
The area is not only filled with jewellers, however. Over the years, media and publishing companies have moved in amongst the workshops and sales rooms. This adds to the lively atmosphere, and keeps London institutions such as the Leather Lane Market alive. This street market has been operating for over 100 years, and is now home to bargain stalls and the lunchtime traders who keep our craftsmen fed and watered!
Scandal in Hatton Garden
As with most historic parts of London, Hatton Garden has seen the birth of many a shocking tale. In fact, Bleeding Heart Yard, which stands just opposite Hearts of London off Greville Street, was the setting for one of the infamous Ingoldsby’s Legends. The story goes that on a fateful night in 1926, Lady Elizabeth Hatton disappeared after a night out dancing with an unidentified man. The next morning, her dismembered body was found on the cold cobbles of the yard, her heart still beating in her chest. It’s rumoured that her ghost walks the street to this day.
Nowadays, the incidents that haunt Hatton Garden are a little more mercenary. Being home to hoards of valuable materials and jewellery, the area has unsurprisingly been victim to some heinous robbery attempts. In 1993, Graff’s workshop was looted and £7 million worth of gems were made off with – making it the biggest London jewel robbery in modern times when it happened.
More recently, in April 2015, a group of criminals drilled into the vault of the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit. After breaking through the concrete wall, they were able to empty deposit boxes of jewels, money and valuables while the rest of London were relaxing over the Easter weekend. However, four of the gang were caught and pleaded guilty, with a final two being arrested some months later.
Luckily, these incidents are few and far between. If you wander around the area now you will be more likely to enjoy some fantastic window-shopping before stopping for a relaxed coffee or something to eat. However, even if today Sir Cristopher Hatton’s garden is home to a private housing development, and Bleeding Heart Yard hosts a respected French restaurant, be sure to keep in mind the remarkable story of this historic area when you are picking out a diamond that will play a part in your own history.