Postman's Park, City of London
In 1887 Watts wrote to The Times proposing a project to mark Queen Victoria's Jubilee of that year. He believed that stories of heroism could uplift and stimulate and should therefore be commemorated. As his idea was not taken up he created the memorial himself in the form of a 50ft long open gallery situated in the public gardens on the site of the former churchyard of St. Botolph, Aldersgate.
On the southern boundary lay the General Post Office and many postmen spent their breaks there, hence the inevitable name by which it became known. Along the walls of the gallery Watts placed tablets, each describing acts of bravery that resulted in the loss of the hero or heroine's life. The tablets consist of a number of ceramic tiles, initially manufactured by William De Morgan and later by Doulton of Lambeth, with an inscription and appropriate decorative motifs.
Following the original 13 tablets that Watts erected, Mary added a further 34 after his death. The stories that the tablets tell are touching, often involving children and usually concerning fire, drowning or train accidents. In Watts's letter to The Times proposing the idea, he drew upon the plight of poor Alice Ayres, her inscription finally read ‘daughter of a bricklayer's labourer, who by intrepid conduct saved three children from a burning house in Union Street, Borough, at the cost of her own young life. April 24 1885.’
Most recently, Postman’s Park was featured as a location for scenes in the film of Patrick Marber’s play Closer.
Where to find Postman's Park
Edward St, London, EC1A 7BX
The Actor's Temple present 'Postman's Park'
Quietly hidden in a small pocket near St Paul’s Cathedral is a park of great consequence; for therein lies a monument celebrating heroic acts of self-sacrifice by everyday Victorian people; ballet dancers, nurses, compositors and policemen to list a few.
At the end of July, The Actors Temple will bring Postman's Park to St Pancras Church Crypt and it is here that you are cordially invited, at the bequest of the artist and philanthropist behind the memorial, G. F Watts.
Once inside, the truths beneath the memorial inscriptions are revealed. These Victorian heroes share their memories of golden days; weddings, births and days-out whilst also harbouring doubts about the final moments of their life. Loss of loved ones, misleading news reports and ulterior motives float around in this underworld exhibition of living portraits.
A fully immersive world of interaction is there for the taking. The audience is rewarded by asking questions, overhearing conversations and finding dark corners where secrets are shared.
At times macabre, at others profoundly beautiful. Postman’s Park offers an insight into the human capacity to love, to live and to die for what we believe in.
Watts Gallery have published a book on the memorial: Postman's Park: G. F. Watts's Memorial to Heroic Self-Sacrifice
The Watts Memorial to Heroic Self-Sacrifice in Postman's Park is an evocative example of how the past survives in the modern world. Created in 1900 by the Victorian artist G.F.Watts, the memorial contains fifty-three memorial tablets dedicated to individuals who lost their life heroically attempting to save another.
The tablets allude to tragic circumstances, but they also convey the courage and bravery of those who gave their lives. The memorial also has much to communicate about the beliefs and values of Watts himself, as well as aspects of the period and society in which he lived. This short study provides a comprehensive history of the Watts Memorial while also placing it into a wider historical context through the use of new research.
Click here to order a copy now
A Celebration of Postman's Park:
Watts's Memorial to Heroic Self-Sacrifice
Wed 3 June, 12-4pm
Postman’s Park is a very special place that celebrates those remarkable acts of bravery that history would have otherwise forgotten. It is a national treasure initiated by G. F. Watts OM RA (1817-1904) that is modestly constructed yet overwhelmingly powerful, like the stories of the everyday heroes that it celebrates. It is not a grand statue of monumental proportions, but a simple and beautiful memorial set at eye level with a simplicity that speaks to everyone. It still retains a unique atmosphere which has continued to inspire artists and writers since its creation in 1899. This celebration is presented by Watts Gallery, St Botolph’s Church Aldersgate, the City of London and the Museum of London.