Hatton Garden History: Growth of the Garden

In the first instalment of our Hatton Garden History series, we explained how Hatton Garden got the first half of its name. In this post, we explore the significance of the ‘Garden’

The area that we now call Hatton Garden was once home to the Bishop of Ely’s beautiful gardens and grounds, and lay just outside the official city boundary.

It was an open green space for hundreds of years, in contrast to the densely populated centre enclosed by London Wall not far to the East, across the River Fleet.

In Shakespeare's Richard III, Gloucester mentions the delicious strawberries in the Bishop's garden, and in Walter Thornberry’s Old and New London, published in the late 19th century, the significance of Saffron Hill is explained. This was once the most pleasant part of the Bishop’s gardens, and its name came from the crops of saffron which supposedly grew there. Saffron Hill ran from Field Lane into Vine Street, which recalls the vineyard of old Ely Place.

Sir Christopher Hatton’s London was undergoing momentous change during Elizabeth I’s rule. The Medieval city was bursting in size, with trade growing enormously. There was large-scale immigration from the rest of the country to support the burgeoning mercantile capital when John Stow wrote his famous Survey of London.

The legal area around Fleet Street, and further afield along the River Thames, was home to the landed elite, government servants and lawyers at the time. The West End heralded a new kind of suburban environment which, unlike the socially-mixed City, was built for and inhabited exclusively by political and professional groups. Many more squares and piazzas were built during this period, such as Lincoln’s Inn and Covent Garden.

Hatton was built up into a stylish and fashionable area during the middle of the seventeenth century and the gardens were slowly taken over. The celebrated physician, Dr George Bate, who attended Oliver Cromwell in his last illness, died in Hatton Garden in 1668. By 1720, the gardens of Hatton House had been entirely pulled down and built into houses along Hatton Street, Charles Street, Cross Street and Kirby Street.

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