Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Postman's Park & the Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice #London #travelblogger #travel

Tucked into a little area that was the original city of London before it began sprawling outwards is a small open space called Postman's Park. It's within a stones throw from St Paul's Cathedral, St Bartholomew's Hospital and the Museum of London, but blink and you might miss it. In fact today Nina and I did just that as we literally walked right past it before having to double back. 

Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice, Postman's Park, London, Closer, Closer film, Alice Ayres, George Watt'sBefore I headed down south to the big smoke, I'd googled 'unusual things to do in London'. Having spent a lot of time in London (including a brief hedonistic spell one summer living in Camden with my musician friend, Charlie and a night actually sleeping on the streets of London when I was 11- both experiences of which definitely deserve blogposts of their own) I felt like I knew London pretty well. It's safe to say I haven't done it all and have actually only recently started doing the more traditional touristy stuff but still, I wanted to see something a bit different on this trip. I knew I'd have a few hours to kill waiting for my train so I decided to head to Postman's Park which wasn't far from where we said goodbye to Bryony who had to work. Nina came with me as she knew about it after seeing it in the film 'Closer' and was which I really must watch now I've been.

Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice, Postman's Park, London, Closer, Closer film, Alice Ayres, George Watt's, loggia
For those who haven't seen the film, you might be wondering why I was so interested in visiting this little park when there are so many other much more magnificent parks to visit in London. However there was something I wanted to see especially as recently I have been touched by the actions of the teachers in Newtown, Connecticut who died trying to save the lives of the children in their care. Postman's Park is the location of a truly moving memorial to people like them. The Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice is dedicated to people who have died trying to save the life or lives of others. It was unveiled in 1900 and was the brainchild of artist George Frederic Watts who 'believed that these everyday heroes provided models of exemplary behaviour and character' It was a project that he believed so much in that he put in a lot of the money to finance it himself as well as changing his will to ensure money would go towards it's completion.

Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice, Postman's Park, London, Closer, Closer film, Alice Ayres, George Watt's
The memorial is fairly simple, just a covered wall (my research tells me this is actually known as a loggia, you learn something new everyday!) and large decorative tiles which describe the heroic actions of each person who died. There is space for 120 of these tiles, however for various reasons, the project was never completed in either Watt's or his wife's lifetime. Most of the tiles date from around that time however there is a recent addition from 2007 which commemorates the actions of Leigh Pitt who drowned in a canal after saving a child. Apparently more tiles may be added as the Diocese of London of London announced it would consider nominations of people who should be added.

Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice, Postman's Park, London, Closer, Closer film, Alice Ayres, George Watt'sWalking along the wall, each story seems as heartbreaking as the next. From 10 year old Harry Sisley who died trying to save his brother to Alice Ayres who died saving 3 children from a burning house before succumbing to the smoke herself (incidentally according to my research, it is Alice Ayres' name that forms a key part of the story for Closer which is weird because that was one of the stories that really caught my eye) I did feel quite emotional reading each one but also proud of all these heroes who otherwise might have gone unsung. It's a shame that the money wasn't in place to continue it from the start but it would be great to see it being updated as I'm sure each year there must be more and more of these ordinary people who die saving someone else's life rather than their own.

After our moving time in Postman's Park, Nina and I parted company and I discovered just how close to the park the Museum of London was and decided that would be my next stop. A lovely free museum in London. I do really love this city!

Museum of London, City of London, London, Travel Bloggers, travel, museum entrance