Posted by: marymarthatours | May 19, 2011

Postman’s Park, London

One of the secret and little-known gardens of London that Martha and I visited last October was the amazing Postman’s Park. Tucked between buildings north of St. Paul’s Cathedral, the park is not easy to find. To get there, you need to have good directions. One good resource is the map of City of London Gardens put out by the City of London, And if you want to explore more of the area around Postman’s Park, you can also download Walking Tour #2 from the same website.

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Postman’s Park, London (photo by Iridescent)

The park itself covers land that once served as the burial ground for three adjacent or close-by churches. Because the space for burials was limited, bodies were often laid on the ground and covered with dirt, which means the park is now elevated above the streets surrounding it. It sits just behind the General Post Office, and provides a relaxing outdoor space for its workers.

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People relaxing near the Heroes Memorial (photo by Iridescent)

The park was opened in 1880, but it was in 1900 that it gained the feature that lured Martha and I to this tranquil inner-city gem. That was the year that the park became home to George Frederic Watts’ Memorial to Heroic Self Service. Mounted on a long wall under a narrow overhanging roof, the Memorial consists of a series of ceramic plaques bearing the names of ordinary people who lost their lives in heroic acts of sacrifice. The original plan, as envisioned by George Watts, was to include a total of 120 plaques to be designed and made by the noted ceramicist William De Morgan.   ( http://www.demorgan.org.uk/de-morgans/william-de-morgan )   These beautiful tiles show the exquisite Arts & Crafts style that De Morgan was famous for.

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De Morgan tile (photo Jez Nicholson) — Royal Doulton tile (photo by Martha)

Unfortunately, De Morgan abandoned his ceramics business in 1906, after making only 24 memorial tiles. The firm of Royal Doulton took over the manufacture of the plaques, but by 1931 only 53 of the tablets were in place. The first new memorial since 1931 was added in 2009. The stories on the memorial plaques are heart-breaking, but they are also heart-warming. It was a special time for us to stop and read these stories. You can view and read the tablets at this website .

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Mary reading the plaques, Oct. 2010

On the way back to the St. Paul’s tube station after our visit to Postman’s Park, we passed another unusual garden. At the corner of Newgate and King Edward Streets we paused at the remains of Christchurch Greyfriars, one of Christopher Wren’s London churches. Bombed in World War II, the church is now home to a lovely rose garden which grows where the pews would have been. Clematis and climbing roses weave their way up wooden towers representing the original pillars. As the light was fading, we stopped in this peaceful place to “smell the roses”.

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Rose Garden at Christchurch Greyfriars, 2010

(by Mary)

Photo credits:

2 photos of Postman’s Park, copyright Iridescent and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike License 3.0.

De Morgan tile, copyright Jez Nicholson and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike License 2.0.

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