Postman's Park: A hidden treasure in the City of London

I worked in the City of London for thirty years and now that I'm not in the City everyday I've discovered this hidden treasure.  It’s less than a ten minute walk from where I worked and just over the road from St Pauls.  Amazing.

 

It’s also an amazing place and holds the Watts Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice built in 1900, but more on that later.

The gardens were opened in 1880 and are made up of the churchyards and graveyards of three nearby churches, and today it’s a quiet haven for office workers.  It got it’s name from its popularity as a lunchtime garden with workers from the nearby Old Post Office, so it really is a postman's park!

Like many of the City’s enclosed green spaces it has a tranquil feel – I was there just before midday and it was already starting to be a popular spot for people working close by to enjoy some fresh air with their sandwiches.

The planting also helps add an air of tranquillity with ferns and hostas and other shade loving plants.  Although there is some sun, there won’t be much – especially at the edges of the space – as it’s surrounded by tall buildings.  As well as the greenery there’s some brighter, more formally planted beds which bring some colour into the garden.

Towards the centre you find the Watts Memorial, which is a simple but moving memorial to ordinary people who died trying to save the lives of others.  Each porcelain plaque – made by Royal Doulton – records the act of heroism in sometimes quite stark language.

In the photo above the Thomas Griffin plaque reads:

Thomas Griffin
Fitters Labourer
April 12, 1899
In a boiler explosion at a Battersea sugar refinery was fatally scalded in returning to search for his mate.

There’s a full list of the plaques in Wikipedia here.  The last plaque added in the style of the Royal Doulton plaques is dated 2007 – the first addition for 78 years – to commemorate Leigh Pitt, and reads:

Leigh Pitt
Reprographic Operator
Aged 30, saved a drowning boy from the canal at Thamesmead, but sadly     was unable to save himself  June 7 2007

Further into the park there’s a reminder it was once a graveyard with these headstones now alongside one of the buildings on the boundary.

Outside the park there’s a old Police Phone which were for the use of both the police and the public in the days before police radios and mobile phones.

The park also hosts one of the 50 “Book benches” that are springing up all over London which is celebrating London’s literary heritage – this one is for Monica Ali’s Brick Lane for more information on the locations of other benches and trails, see booksabouttown.org.uk 

It was a fascinating place, made all the more fascinating for me because I’d worked so close by in ignorance for so many years!  I mean look at how close I'd been:

Where I worked is circled above, Postman's Park is underlined