History of Hatton Garden

Hatton Garden London

Hatton Garden dates back to the 15th Century when Ely Palace in Holborn was the London residence of the bishops of Ely. Sir Christopher Hatton (1540-1591, pictured below), an English courtier, was a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I, from whom he received offices, honours, and land. Knighted in 1578, he acted as Elizabeth’s spokesman in the House of Commons.

In 1583 Hatton built Holdenby Palace, the largest house in Elizabethan England, with 123 huge glass windows specifically to honour his beloved Elizabeth. After the reformation, Elizabeth forced the bishops of Ely to rent some of their land to Sir Christopher Hatton. The palace grounds and thoroughfare (Ely place) were duly granted to Sir Christopher. The annual rent for the gatehouse was a red rose and ten stacks of hay plus £10 for the grounds including an orchard. The name of the garden there was changed to Hatton Garden, and is now London’s centre of jewellery trade.

Between 1620 and 1624 the palace was occupied by the Spanish Embassy and in 1643 Ely Place was made a prison by the Long Parliament. Ely Place is now owned by the Crown and not subject to London’s Mayor, and indeed is not part of the city of London that surrounds it (somewhat like the Vatican). The police can only enter if invited by the commissionaire.

Today, between numbers 8 and 9 Hatton Garden, there is a narrow passageway that leads to Ely Place. In this passageway is a public house called the Mitre Tavern, originally built in 1547 for the servants of Ely Palace and marked by an old crooked street lamp and a small sign in the shape of a bishop’s mitre.

Ye Olde Mitre Tavern

Both palace and pub were demolished in 1772. However the pub was soon re-built. A stone mitre from the palace gatehouse is built into a wall, just visible under the tumbling ivy. The preserved trunk of a cherry tree, which marked the boundary of the diocese, is in the corner of the front bar, and it is said Elizabeth I danced the maypole around it. The tavern, like Ely place, is technically still part of Cambridgeshire.

At No 57 Hatton Garden, Maxim invented the machine gun in 1881. Further up, on the corner of Cross Street is the facade of an old charitable bluecoat school, designed by Wren in 1696, with statues of pupils on the frontage – sadly due to bomb damage the interior is now offices. The London diamond centre is at No 100, where diamonds are ‘fingerprinted’, and De Beers’ diamond merchants are round the corner on Holborn Viaduct. Since the 1870’s the Hatton Garden area of London has established it’s international reputation as London’s Jewellery Quarter. During the nineteenth century John Matthey developed their gold and platinum business and the trade in diamonds expanded dramatically following the Kimberley Diamond Rush.

Nearly 300 of the local businesses are in the jewellery industry and represents the largest jewellery retail cluster in the UK