London Day 4: Postman’s Park and the Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice

The final stop of my London cemetery day (after visiting Kensal Green, Brompton, and Highgate) was Postman’s Park. The green space was formerly the burial ground of St. Botolph’s Aldersgate church, and is just a short distance from St. Paul’s in Central London. The church has since been demolished and cholera outbreaks and overcrowding encouraged the removal of burials to the new Magnificent Seven cemeteries set up in the 19th century (including the three I’d visited earlier in the day). The ground in Postman’s Park is in fact still higher than the area around it because with no room left for burials, corpses were instead placed on top of existing graves and covered with dirt. However, the existing graves in the churchyards were not necessarily moved to the new garden cemeteries, and relatives had to apply to disinter their family members and could also just take the tombstones. Postman’s Park was opened in 1880 on the old cemetery, and the old tombstones now line its garden.

The story of the small park is interesting enough, yet its the pavilion inside it that brought me there. The Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice was created by the artist George Frederic Watts to be an area of remembrance for extraordinary actions by ordinary people, particularly those who died while trying to save someone else’s life. There are now three rows of tablets, with the most recent being added in 2009, each with its own ghastly and fascinating tale. I could have easily photographed them all, but I picked a few as my favorites that I will share below.

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