Bryant & May Location No.3
This is St George’s Gardens in Bloomsbury, the little neighbourhood spot in ‘Bryant & May and the Bleeding Heart’ where Romain Curtis sits with his girlfriend Shirone and tells her about the stars above them, before they witness the strange event that sets in motion the story’s murder plot. It has a surprisingly gruesome history, starting with the execution on July 30, 1745, of more than a dozen Jacobites. They were hanged, drawn and quartered on Kennington Common and their headless bodies were buried in the gardens.
Typically, though, it’s a place where local workers go to eat their sandwiches at lunchtime, without realising that beneath their feet are buried Richard Cromwell’s favourite daughter, Macaulay’s father, Jonathan Richardson, the painter, Robert Nelson, author, Nancy Dawson, hornpipe dancer at Old Drury and Eliza Fenning, a cook, who was hanged at Newgate in 1815 for attempting to poison the same family in Chancery Lane.
The little gardens also have a claim to notoriety – it was here that the first indictment for stealing a body for dissection arose and resulted in a sensational trial. And that was my start-point for the novel. Often a trawl through the backstreets of local areas provides me with enough to start on a whole new novel – and you have to bear in mind that I mostly use the histories in Bryant & May’s immediate neighbourhood – if I included the whole of London the books would run into thousands.
Later in the book I move onto Bleeding Heart Yard, an area that has been written about with much greater frequency (by Dickens and others), partly because of its ghost and its legend – but that’s another story you’ll find in the book.