Escape to the City
This month I’m taking you to a lesser-known location. Tucked away in the City of London, a short walk away from St Paul’s Cathedral, Postman’s Park is one of London’s quieter spots.
This shady garden opened in 1880 on the site of a former churchyard and burial ground, with some of the gravestones still evident amongst the foliage. It’s a little sanctuary from the busy City streets, with a pathway weaving through the garden, a fish pond, seasonal flower display and many benches.
At a first glance, Postman’s Park may not look anything special. However, look closely and you will find a touching memorial stretched along a wall, in tribute to ordinary Londoners who have tragically lost their lives in heroic acts.
The memorial features plaques dedicated to London heroes who died saving the lives of others. For example, a servant called Alice Ayres, who died saving her employer’s children from a burning house – though she saved their lives, it was at the cost of her own. Or the youngest, Henry Bristow, only eight years old who died saving his sister from burning to death but caught fire himself in the process.
It wasn’t until 1900 that painter and sculptor George Frederic Watts’ proposed a project to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria by creating a Memorial to Heroic Self-Sacrifice to commemorate ordinary people who had died saving the lives of others, was finally unveiled.
Sadly, the project ceased in 1931 with only 53 of the planned 120 tiles in place – however, there is one new tablet in place for 2009, when the Diocese of London consented to further additions to the memorial.
The poignancy of Postman’s Park is as relevant today as it was intended to be, and gives visitors a place for reflection and appreciation.