Over the past couple of months our special Wednesday series has looked at “10 small, ‘secret’ and historic gardens in central London”. So we’re finishing the series by taking a quick look back at the 10 gardens we featured (and providing a single point where you can find any you may have missed)…

10 small, ‘secret’ and historic gardens in central London…1. Goldsmiths’ Garden…

10 small, ‘secret’ and historic gardens in central London…2. Whittington Garden…

10 small, ‘secret’ and historic gardens in central London…3. St Dunstan in the East Garden…

10 small, ‘secret’ and historic gardens in central London…4. St Mary Aldermanbury Gardens…

10 small, ‘secret’ and historic gardens in central London…5. Seething Lane Garden…

10 small, ‘secret’ and historic gardens in central London…6. Red Cross Garden, Southwark…

10 small, ‘secret’ and historic gardens in central London…7. St Swithin’s Church Garden…

10 small, ‘secret’ and historic gardens in central London…8. Postman’s Park…

10 small, ‘secret’ and historic gardens in central London…9. Garden of Rest, Marylebone…

10 small, ‘secret’ and historic gardens in central London…10. Geffrye Museum Gardens…

Do you have a favourite? Or maybe there’s a ‘small, secret and historic’ garden we didn’t mention that you love (and we may mention in a future special)?

 

Postman's-ParkHousing one of London more unique memorials, Postman’s Park in the City’s north is located on what were once the churchyards and burial grounds of three different churches.

The park – which took its name from its popularity with postal workers who came here to escape their job at the nearby former General Post Office (read a Lost London article on the GPO here) – opened in 1880.

It was originally located on the site of the former churchyard of St Botolph’s-without-Aldersgate and was subsequently expanded to incorporate the adjacent churchyard of St Leonard, Foster Lane, and the burial ground of Christ Church, Greyfriars (also known as Christ Church, Newgate Street). Some of the headstones still stand along the park’s boundaries.

Postman's-Park3Its key feature is the G.F. Watts Memorial To Heroic Self Sacrifice (pictured, right). Victorian artist and philanthropist George Frederic Watts proposed the memorial commemorating “heroic men and women” who had given their lives to save others to mark Queen Victoria’s Jubilee in 1887 but the memorial which now stands there wasn’t built until 1900.

The memorial consists of a loggia, the inside of which is lined with glazed tablets. Each of these commemorates acts of bravery by “everyday heroes” as they attempted to rescue people from fires, runaway trains, sinking ships and drowning. There were 13 plaques at the time of his death in 1904 and his wife Mary added a further 34.

The latest of the memorials commemorating 62 individuals was added in 2009 (for more details, head to our earlier post here, part of our Curious London Memorials series; you can also find more about the memorial, including a free app, here).

The park also features a sundial and fountain amid bright flower beds and various species of trees including a large banana tree, a dove tree and Tasmanian tree ferns.

Claims to fame include its role in the 2004 film Closer, which starred Natalie Portman, Julia Roberts, Jude Law and Clive Owen (we won’t go into details, just in case you haven’t seen it!).

WHERE: Postman’s Park, between King Edward Street and St Martin’s le Grand (nearest tube stations are St Paul’s and Barbican); WHEN: The park, managed by the Corporation of London, is open 7am to 8pm or dusk (whichever is earlier); COST: Entry is free; WEBSITE: www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/green-spaces/city-gardens/visitor-information/Pages/Postman’s-Park.aspx.

Postman's-Park2

We’re kicking off a new special series next Wednesday but in the meantime we thought we’d recap our latest series – 10 (more) curious London memorials, and the previous series, 10 curious London memorials…

So, first for the 10 (more) curious London memorials list…

10. Memorial to 16th century navigators…

9. The Speke Monument…

8. The SOE Memorial…

7. D’Oyly Carte Memorial…

6. 7 July Memorial…

5. National Police Memorial…

4. ‘People of London’ Memorial…

3. William Wallace Memorial…

2. Animals in War Memorial…

1. Kindertransport memorial…

And, for the first curious London memorials list, which we ran way back in 2011…

10. The Bard or not The Bard?

9. The Golden Boy of Pye Corner

8. Edith Cavell Memorial

7. Tower Hill scaffold memorial

6. The Buxton Memorial Fountain

5. Eros (or the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain)

4. The Suffragette Memorial

3. Charing Cross

2. The Albert Memorial

1. Watt’s Memorial in Postman’s Park

Hope you’ve enjoyed them. We look forward to bringing you our next series from next Wednesday…

The third Story of London Festival kicked off at the start of the month with a programme of events aimed at celebrating the 60th anniversary of the 1951 Festival of Britain. This year’s festival is being coordinated by the Museum of London in partnership with the Southbank Centre. It also involves five London borough museums – that of Brent, Dagenham, Haringey, Redbridge and Wandsworth – which are hosting free displays and events around the theme of how they celebrated in 1951. The festival runs until the end of the month, so there’s still plenty of time to get involved. Among the highlights still to come is the Floral Bicycle Parade around the Southbank Centre on 28th August (‘decorating stations’ will be set up at the centre prior to the parade). For a full listing of what’s happening, see www.london.gov.uk/priorities/art-culture/storyoflondon.

The City of London has released a new filmlovers’ walking tour of London which takes in locations featured in films and TV shows. Lights, camera, action starts on Millennium Bridge (destroyed in the opening sequence of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince) and takes in 23 other locations including St Paul’s Cathedral (The Madness of King George and Great Expectations), Bank Junction (28 Days Later, National Treasure II), St Bart’s Hospital (Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason), Moorgate (Ocean’s 13 and The Bourne Ultimatum) and Tower Bridge (BranniganThe Mummy ReturnsThunderbirdsTomb RaiderSherlock Holmes) before finishing at Postman’s Park (Closer). The walk has been mapped out by the City’s film team which works with location managers and film directors when they’re working in the Square Mile. The leaflet can be picked up free-of-charge from the City of London Information Centre (opposite St Paul’s) or downloaded here.

• Interested in a snapshot of what London was like during a particular historical era? The Museum of London has launched a series of 16 “pocket histories”, each of which, in up to 1,000 words, tackles a particular aspect of the city’s history based around five objects or images. The subjects covered range from a look at the River Thames in prehistory to life in medieval London, from an examination of the history of Jack the Ripper and the East End, to a detailed look at the London’s plagues. While designed for a general audience, the histories are expected to be particularly useful to school students. They can be looked at online or downloaded as a PDF. Further subjects are expected to be added in the future. See www.museumoflondon.org.uk/pockethistories. The museum has also launched Picturebank, a collection of images which can be accessed online and viewed, printed or copied for educational use.

• On Now: Your 2012. The Museum of London Docklands is hosting a free exhibition featuring images capturing the construction work at the Olympic site in East London and the impact on the surrounding boroughs and the environment as well as archival images which show the history of the site. The free exhibition runs until 5th February. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk/docklands/.

To kick off the year, Exploring London is taking a look at 10 of the more unusual memorials in London. First up is the Watts Memorial in Postman’s Park.

Located between St Martin’s le Grand and King Edward Street, just off London Wall next to St Botolph-without-Aldersgate, the park is actually located in what was the former churchyard of St Botolph, Aldersgate, St Leonards, Foster Lane, and the graveyard of Christchurch, Newgate Street. It was apparently named for the fact that the southern boundary once adjoined the General Post Office and its popularity with postal workers.

The G.F. Watts Memorial To Heroic Self Sacrifice was first unveiled in 1900. It had been conceived by the Victorian artist George Frederic Watts initially to mark Queen Victoria’s Jubilee in 1887 but wasn’t constructed until some time later.

The memorial features a series of ceramic ‘tablets’ embedded in the wall which record the names and deeds of those who died trying to save others. According to the memorial, “Watts believed that these ‘everyday heroes’ provided models of exemplary character and behaviour”. The memorial also quotes Watts as saying that “the material prosperity of a nation is not an abiding possession; the deeds of its people are”.

Watts, a prominent artist of the Victorian period – so much so that he was apparently once dubbed ‘Britain’s Michelangelo’, put up 13 tablets but after his death in 1904 his wife Mary added a further 34 after his death.

The plaques celebrate those who gave their own lives in rescuing people from house and factory fires, runaway trains, sinking ships and drowning. Not all were successful and while some of the plaques recall the heroic feats of police or firemen, others who died making the ultimate sacrifice were factory workers, ballet dancers, children or in the case of Alice Ayers, the daughter of a bricklayer’s labourer, who saved three children from a house fire (her story is featured in the recent film Closer).

Most of the tablets date from the late 1800s and early 1900s and until recently the most recently dated from 1931. In 2009, however, a new memorial was added – that of Leigh Pitt, a 30-year-old reprographic operator, who died on 7th June, 2007 after saving a boy from drowning in a canal at Thamesmead in the city’s south-east.

A moving tribute to those who gave all they had to save the life of others.

WHERE: Postmans Park, between King Edward Street and St Martin’s le Grand (nearest tube station is St Paul’s or Barbican); WHEN: The park, managed by the Corporation of London, is open 7am to 8pm or dusk (whichever is earlier) ; COST: Entry is free; WEBSITE: The Watts Gallery in Surrey has some information about the park on its website, www.wattsgallery.org.uk/exhib_postmanspark.html.

Let me know if you know of a curious memorial you think should be mentioned. Just leave your comment below or send an email to exploringlondon@gmail.com.