Postman's Park - A Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice
Found under the loggia in one of the largest parks in the City of London - the Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice, dedicated to ordinary people who died whilst saving the lives of others who might otherwise be forgotten.
The park is on the site of the former churchyard and burial ground of St Botolph’s Aldersgate (notice the rise in ground level here!), and gets its name from the General Post Office headquarters being nearby.
The Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice by George Frederic Watts opened in 1900, consisting of a wooden loggia with a tiled roof and memorial plaques dedicated to individuals who lost their lives whilst trying to save others. Only a handful of the tablets were in place in Watt’s lifetime, with his wife taking over the management of the project in 1904, continuing the installation of a further 35 memorial tablets.
Reading some of the tablets shows the details of the nature of the heroic acts and tragic tales with many involving children, unfortunate accidents and extreme acts of courage and bravery. The most recent installation is a plaque dedicated to Leigh Pitt, who died on the 7th of June 2007 rescuing nine year old Harley Bagnall-Taylor who fell into the canal at Thamesmead. A colleague of his suggested that a memorial to Pitt would be fitting in Postman's Park and it was installed in 2009 - the first new tablet since Herbert Maconoghu 78 years earlier.
Also in the park, notice the number of gravestones dotted around the edge of the park, grouped against the edges in rather an odd fashion - these are what remain from the former burial grounds, which moved in the 19th century due to overcrowding. As mentioned before in regards to the raised ground level here, the dead in London at this time greatly outnumbered the living, thus leading to a shortage of available space to bury them. Bodies were being laid on top of each other, separated with just a layer of soil which in turn raised the level of the ground quite significantly! With the passing of the 1851 Metropolitan Burials Act, no more people were buried in the City, instead using Kensal Green and Highgate cemeteries and the like.
You may even recognise the park from the film Closer, where “Alice Ayres” (Natalie Portman) gives Dan Woolf (Jude Law) a false name, which she in fact read off one of the memorial tablets!
This beautiful little park is a great little spot in the City, and people certainly get the most out of it during lunchtimes! I think it would be nice to start seeing more plaques being added to the park, and carry on the tradition of remembering those who died because of their bravery and courageous behaviour.