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Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Postman's Park.

Postman's Park is unique. There is nowhere else quite like it. It's one of London's little gems and worth seeking out. It's located in Little Britain, which is a short walk from St Paul's cathedral.
It's called Postman's Park because it was a favourite place for the postmen to have their breaks from their work at the nearby sorting office. It is not very large, only about 40 feet wide and about 200 feet in length.
The park is alongside St Botolph's Aldersgate church. It is a former burial ground and has been used as such since about 1050. There are so many bodies buried here that the ground is elevated a couple of feet above the surrounding street levels.
The reason that Postman's Park is so unique is because of a simple but moving small memorial wall built at its western end. This is not a memorial to the great and good, or the famous or kings and queens or military heroes. It is a memorial to the most ordinary of people of all ages who did the most selfless of acts. They died while attempting to save the lives of others. Every memorial tablet is to an ordinary person and describes their act of heroism.


The park is also know as the "Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice" and the memorial was the idea of the artist George Frederic Watts. The first memorial tablet was placed on the wall in the late 19th century in retrospective case of 1863. This photo shows Sarah Smith's demise.






She was a pantomime artiste who "died of terrible injuries" while trying to save her companion who was on fire and she attempted to douse the flames with her dress which then caught fire.
The lower plaque shows the story of Arthur Regelous. When I posted this to flickr a descendent of Mr Regelous got in touch with me!





This photo is a general shot of all the plaques in the shelter.


The tiles were first made by De Morgan and then later ones were made by Doulton's in Lambeth.
The following photo mentions Frederick Croft (lower tile) who "saved a lunatic woman from suicide...but himself was run over by the train" in 1878 at Woolwich.
There is in the centre of the wall a small carving as a tribute to GF Watts. Watts was born in 1817 and died in 1904. Interestingly if you look at Watt's page on Wikipaedia there is no mention of Postman's Park.

 Recently (2009) a small plaque to Watts has been restored and erected near the wall and gives an overview of his beliefs about human behaviour.



The first new plaque for 80 years was added in 2009 in memory of Leigh Pitt aged 30 who saved a boy from drowning in 2007. The Times newspaper reported the story.

The park continues to be enjoyed and used, as it has been since 1900. Here's an old photo from1933 that I came across. If you visited the park today you would no doubt see the same view.

There's a very good book about the park written by John Price - Postman's Park: G.F. Watt's Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice. Published in 2008 and available at wattsgallery.org.uk