London’s Secret, Postman’s Park Reveals Memorials of Heroic Self Sacrifice.
Watts Memorial - Postman's Park London
It’s probable your London hotel concierge won’t know where Postman’s Park is.
I’ve asked several times in various hotels only to receive a blank stare and shake of the head.
This lovely green space is rarely mentioned in tourist brochures.
Taxi drivers just may know the venue.
Why this place is so overlooked is a mystery. It isn’t hidden away in some obscure part of London, it’s around the corner from St Paul’s Cathedral…
Clearly this is a bustling busy part of town although the park is a haven of serenity.
It also has an intriguing and emotional history.
Here’s what makes this small park so different and worth visiting.
Hidden away in a corner, under a wooden awning are over 50 plaques dedicated to heroic people who tragically died attempting to save another life.
These are haunting and heartrending memorials dedicated to humble, brave and courageous people, ordinary people who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Alice Ayres, daughter of a bricklayer - labourer, who by intrepid conduct saved three children from a burning house at the cost of her own young life. April 24th 1885.
Not always politically correct for 2015 but still meaningful...
John Cranmer Cambridge – aged 23 drowned near Ostend whilst saving the life of a stranger and foreigner. August 8 1901.
George F Watts - The Beginning
On the fifth of September 1887 George Frederick Watts wrote to the Times newspaper. He proposed a scheme to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria.
He envisaged a covered way with marble plaques dedicated to unsung heroes who gave their lives for others. He suggested this be established in Hyde Park.
His suggestion was dismissed. Despite this setback he and his wife Mary worked tirelessly. The result was the Watts Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice here in Postman’s park.
Sparing no expense the first four memorials consisted of hand painted and glazed ceramic tiles designed by William de Morgan.
Only nine more tablets were added before Watts died in 1904. Mary Watts took over the project.
When Morgan closed his ceramic business in 1907 Mary Watts turned to Royal Dalton. She was not totally happy with the results and the next batch of tiles were placed unceremoniously under the original ones.
Following the death of Mary in 1938 the project was abandoned. Only 52 of the intended 120 spaces filled. Since the there have been numerous attempts to add new names and plaques, to little avail.Only one new tablet has been added.
In June 2007 Leigh Pitt, a print technician drowned rescuing a nine year old girl. His colleague suggested to the Diocese of London a memorial tablet in commemoration of his bravery.
In June 2009, 78 years after the last memorial was added, his tablet was installed.
He's my brother
The material prosperity of a nation is not an abiding possession: the deeds of its people are – George Frederick Watts.
Inspired by George and Mary Watts and their work I contacted several London dignitaries including the Lord Mayor, Boris Johnson.
My quest was for the project to be re-examined and possibly re-instated – or at least be made more accessible and cared for.
Sadly, all in vain, no one showed interest or desire to consider the idea.
Would you like to see the tributes at Postman's Park continue and be updated?
Why the name Postman's Park?
The name Postman’s Park was acquired because workers from a nearby General Post Office always used the park for relaxation at lunchtime.
Prior to being a park it was a cemetery. A Royal commission had discovered that cemeteries in London were absolutely overcrowded. So extreme was the lack of space for burials that to bury another body meant cutting through an old one. This was rectified by several large cemeteries opening outside of central London.
In 1858 it was decided to clear the graves and make way for parkland.
Having lunch under the awning at Postman's Park
Chuch of St Botolph
St Botolph Church.
This historic church underwent several restorations during the 19th and 20th centuries. You'll find it at Postman’s park and it is well worth a visit.