Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Postman's Park

Another wonderful find and tranquil treasure in the City is Postman's Park, a stone's throw from the Museum of London. Postman's Park is attached to St Botolph-Without-Aldersgate church and is so called because it was popular with postal workers from the nearby Old General Post Office. Postman's Park is established on what was a former burial ground, as the amount of burial space in the square mile failed to keep pace with the ever expanding population of London. Some of the headstones still line areas on the perimeter of the park.

What distinguishes Postman's Park from others in the City is the addition of a memorial which was established there in 1900. It is artist George Frederick Watt's Memorial To Heroic Self-Sacrifice. A series of beautifully inscribed ceramic plaques set in a lean-to shelter relating the circumstances in which individuals lost their lives in the process of selflessly rescuing others. Some of the circumstances in which they sacrificed their lives seem quite bizarre and dramatic, and you can only begin to imagine how brave, or perhaps foolhardy they must have been to react in the heat of the moment, and in so doing paying the ultimate price. As sad as reading some of the plaques is, reading them gives you a renewed sense of hope in humankind and our willingness to help each other in the most desperate of situations. I also wondered how many similar dramas such as these still play out each day in this city that don't make the news headlines.

The memorial is grade II listed, and the Arts and Crafts ceramic plaques themselves are little works of art, with depictions of period stylised foliage and some beautiful, considered typography. The crazing on some of them only adds to their character. The first 24 of the plaques were designed and made by noted ceramicist William De Morgan, and the rest were made by Doulton of Lambeth.

The gardens aren't particularly private, being hemmed in on all sides by tall office buildings, but they are nonetheless a vital green space in a busy capital and a little haven of respite from the office politics no doubt. The planting is lovely, and in the little pond with a small water feature goldfish can be found darting back and forth beneath the grille.

Postman's Park featured in the 2004 BAFTA award winning film Closer, starring Natalie Portman, Julia Roberts, Jude Law, and Clive Owen. A central element of the plot revolves around Alice Ayres' plaque on the Memorial To Heroic Self Sacrifice.