This is an area best visited on weekdays, from late morning onwards, when things start to liven up in and around the famous Leather Lane market (10am to 3pm Monday to Friday). For beverages of the caffeinated variety, the Department of Coffee and Social Affairs (14 – 16 Leather Lane) is a funky collective of coffee professionals, designers and artists. For lunch, take your pick from high quality, numerous and constantly changing street food stall selections, or rely on the famous “Daddy Donkey” burrito (50b Leather Lane) which was started in a truck near the current shop a few years ago. Continuing, you are simply spoilt for choice in this neighbourhood. Highly recommended is Ye Olde Mitre tavern (1 Ely Court, Ely Place), a wonderfully historic place set just off Hatton Garden down an alley (blink and you’ll miss it). It has a great range of English ales and bar snacks (try the “Scotch Eggs”) and a welcoming, homey atmosphere. Heading further upmarket, The Bleeding Heart (Bleeding Heart Yard, off Greville Street, Hatton Garden, London EC1N 8SJ) gives a range of eating and drinking options, with attendant pricing, all of which come highly, highly recommended.
Hiram Stevens Maxim (1840-1916) was an American inventor extraordinaire who relocated to Britain in middle-age. Maxim invented a phenomenal range of products from coffee substitutes to flying machines. Born in Maine, he first travelled to Britain in 1881 and gradually cut his ties with the US, becoming a British citizen in 1900. He received a knighthood the following year. Although Maxim was the creator of many products, even laying claim to the electric light bulb, he is perhaps best known for the Maxim gun, the world’s first portable and fully automatic machine gun. Versions of the Maxim gun were to be used by both sides in World War I. The years of work on the gun brought him fame and fortune, but it also robbed him of his hearing. One of his sons, Hiram Percy Maxim, invented a Maxim silencer, to dampen the noises of the gun, but it was too late for his father. Hiram Percy also published a biography of his father, which paints a humorous picture of his father’s brilliance and unconventional parenting style. Maxim’s family relationships were not always so fond. He became estranged from his inventor brother Hudson Maxim, ostensibly over a disagreement about a patent but also because Hiram was jealous of his brother’s success in the United States. He was also allegedly a bigamist twice over, abandoned his family when he moved to Britain and failed to acknowledge one of his children. He died in 1916 in the middle of World War I.