Sunday, March 03, 2013

Rachel Lichtenstein talking about the Hidden World of Hatton Garden

On Thursday evening, being up in London, I went to see author Rachel Lichtenstein talking about the Hidden World of Hatton Garden.

Rachel Lichtenstein's father and grandfather worked in Hatton Garden, and so she has insights about the area that are unique.  She said you are "born into" Hatton Garden, which is a multi-layered hidden secret world full of characters.  A strange and exotic world of kosher cafes and myriad passage ways and traders dealing diamonds in the street, often in Hassidic garb.

Hatton Garden is more than just the street but occupies the whole block that was formerly the site of the palace of the Bishops of Ely.  Only St Etheldreda's chapel remains of this medieval building (I intend to see this chapel as soon as practicable - according to Google the chapel at the United States Military Academy West Point is a copy of this structure).  The area has for centuries been regarded as London's jewellery quarter with sixty shops, many of them Jewish-owned.

Behind the shops are workrooms that are often tiny, and unchanged since pre-war times.  Often the traders lived in poverty.  Secretive organisations such as the London Diamond Bourse and the London Diamond Club ("everyone was drinking lemon tea and playing chess").

The talk lasted about an hour, which was not long enough for this fascinating subject.

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