Postman's Park

10 minutes walk from the office is a peaceful haven of greenery, tranquility and general loveliness. A wonderful little spot, full of towering plane trees, a carp-filled circular pond, complete with fountain and duck, and park benches surounding beds of spring tulips and daffodils. I say "little" but I was informed by my EAEKCJ (that's "Equally Adventurous and Extremely Knowledgeable Colleague, Jess") that it's one of the largest parks in the City.


Fountain, carp and duck.  With the memorial in the background.

The only thing spoiling it was the rather loud building works just outside the park gates, but that's continually evolving London for you. From the 23rd floor of our office, a sea of cranes spread across London, a perpetual work in progress and a hotchpotch of new and old.

How many cranes can you spot?  I counted 23 as I panned across the view! 
Ok, you can probably only see two.  But there were lots.  At least 23.

Postman`s park got it's name from being part-bordered by the site of the former head office of the General Post Office, and consequently having been frequented by postmen on their breaks.  However, what is most striking about the space, and the reason we came, is that it contains the "Watt's Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice" - a series of deeply poignant ceramic memorial tablets marking acts of fatal heroism by anonymous Londoners - ordinary people who died saving the lives of others and might otherwise have been forgotten.



Here's some background: It was first proposed by painter and sculptor, George Frederic Watts in 1887, to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria.  The scheme was not accepted at that time, and in 1898 Watts was approached by Henry Gamble, vicar of St Botolph's Aldersgate church.  Postman's Park was built on the church's former churchyard (hence the gravestones here and there on the outskirts of the park), and the church was at that time trying to raise funds to secure its future; Gamble felt that Watts's proposed memorial would raise the profile of the park.  The memorial was unveiled in an unfinished state in 1900, consisting of a 50 foot (15 metre) wooden loggia designed by  Ernest George, sheltering a wall with space for 120 ceramic memorial tiles to be designed and made by William De Morgan. At the time of opening, only four of the memorial tiles were in place.  Watts died in 1904, and his widow Mary Watts took over the running of the project.


In 1906, after making 24 memorial tablets for the project, William De Morgan abandoned the ceramics business to become a novelist, and the only ceramics firm able to manufacture appropriate further tiles was Royal Doulton. Dissatisfied with Royal Doulton's designs, and preoccupied with the management of the Watts Gallery and Watts Mortuary Chapel in Compton, Surrey, Mary Watts lost interest in the project.  Work to complete it was sporadic and ceased altogether in 1931 with only 53 of the planned 120 tiles in place.  In 2009, the Diocese of London consented to further additions to the memorial, and the first new tablet in 78 years was added.



Here is a link to a full list of the tablets:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_tablets_on_the_Memorial_to_Heroic_Self_Sacrifice 

But below are some of the tablets I found most affecting or...unusual!









The memorial, although considered of little architectural merit, is Grade II listed. The register notes that it is "listed as a curiosity".


Here you see the lovely Jess modelling an historic drinking fountain and another old police calling post, just outside the park gates. We're on a roll with police call posts lately, as this is our third sighting!


The gothic drinking fountain is also Grade II listed and the inscription reads: "James & Mary Ann Ward late of Aldersgate and Islington. Erected by their daughters 1876."

On the way to the park, when first setting out along London Wall, we chanced upon some interesting gates and another drinking fountain. The fountain, now filled with flowers, once quenched the thirst of man and beast (the underneath tray provided drinking water for dogs and the trough refreshed thirsty cattle). We were teased with glimpses of bits of the actual London Wall. Can you spot them in these pictures?





Anyway, gates and fountains aside for now...After pondering the lovely memorials, we proceeded onto nearby Newgate Street to look at an English Baroque style Wren tower. It doesn't seem possible to write up a trip without Wren getting a mention - he certainly seems to have had the monopoly on London architecture in his heyday and how wonderful that so much of his handiwork still stands.

Christ Church, Newgate, of which the tower was part, stood on the north side of Newgate Street, and was once the church of the Grey Friars (one of the most eminent of the orders of Mendicants). In size, the church was second only to St Paul's cathedral. The heart of Queen Eleanor, wife of Henry III, was buried here, and Margaret, the second Queen of Edward I, was interred before its high altar. Originally built in the gothic style, the church burned down in 1666 and Sir Christopher Wren designed a new tower and choir, although the church was never rebuilt to its full size. Apart from the tower, the church was destroyed during the Blitz on 29 December 1940, one of the Second World War's fiercest air raids on London. A firebomb struck the roof and tore into the nave.  Much of the surrounding neighbourhood was also set alight - a total of eight Wren churches burned that night.

There is now a public rose garden where the original pews would have been, and clematis and climbing roses weave their way up 10 tall wooden towers, which represent the pillars that once held the roof.

Tower and rose garden
(It was a little too early in the year to see the garden in full bloom)


Above left, you can see the other side of the tower, with big oak door, and I nearly forgot to mention that, most intriguing of all, and although you wouldn't know it walking by, this centuries old tower is actually now someone's cleverly disguised private residence, smack, bang in the middle of the city, and the oak door is someone's front door.  We know you're in there!

What's through the gate (above right)?

Dead pineapple

Aside from toppled pineapples, the rose garden (from the other side)!  


We were having way too much fun to do anything so silly like return to work but, sadly, it was time to meander back.  However, other interesting stuff along the way kept us entertained...and made us slightly late...again.  It's very easy to get side-tracked by things like this little garden we found on Gresham Street (below), which all sorts of worshipful folk were involved in the making of.  (See earlier blog on Guildhall for details of the livery companies and what the worshipful folk are all about.)



The sign at the foot of the steps reads:  "This garden belongs to the WORSHIPFUL COMPANY OF GOLDSMITHS and is maitained for the enjoyment of the citizens of London.  In 1994/1995 it was refurbished by the WORSHIPFUL COMPANY OF GARDENERS assisted by the WORSHIPFUL COMPANY OF BLACKSMITHS, LIGHTMONGERS AND CONSTRUCTORS in partnership with the Goldsmiths' company and THE CORPORATION OF LONDON as a City Changes Project."  What a collaboration!

At the top of the steps, in a curious spot, are gravestones, flat set into the pavement.  Beyond (in the next pic, above) is a sunken garden with a sculpture of three people in the corner, watching over the garden.

A lovely old building from the Victorian era (1891) caught our eye at no. 1 Gresham Street - the offices of Semperian PPP Investment Partners Group Ltd. Particulary cheery is the smiling sun in the semicircular pediment above the door.



And then, bam!  Around the corner, on Noble Street, more remnants of the London Wall, in all its ruined glory.



Over 1,000 Roman soldiers worked for the provincial governor in London.  They were housed in a stone fort built in AD110. Some ninety years later, Roman construction workers began to build the first City Wall, using more than one million blocks of ragstone shipped in from Kent on over 1,750 boat loads.  This massive defensive stone wall stretched amost three kilometres, from Blackfriars in the west to where the Tower of London now stands in the east.  It was six to nine feet (two to three metres) wide and about 20 feet (six metres) high.

The Roman City Wall set the shape of the City of London for the next 1,600 years, although throughout those centuries, workers continued to maintain it, using various building techniques.  The parish churches, religious houses and the street pattern (still visible in this area), became firmly established throught the medieval and tudor periods and - although London began to grow beyond the City Wall - the wall remained a defensive barrier.


The Great Fire of London in 1666 burned this far but was stopped by the City Wall, saving areas further north and north-west from destruction.  Later on, parts of the City Wall were demolished whilst others were incorporated into new buildings, now built in brick or stone as an anti-fire measure.  This part of Noble Street saw the rise of new offices and warehouses for the garment and cloth trade, and a 19th century wall still preserves its line.

When German bombing raids in 1940 destroyed the area, the City Wall was revealed once again.  For more than 20 years, the area remained undeveloped, allowing archaeologists to identify the site of the Roman fort for the first time.  A new road, London Wall, was constructed in 1956, as a new city emerged from the ruins.  New developments have been designed to preserve and enhance the area's historic core.


In 1984 the Museum of London set up a Wall Walk from the Tower of London to the Museum, using 23 tiled panels. A number of these have been destroyed in subsequent years. At Noble Street, the panels were replaced by etched glass panels. These were intended as a prototype for new panels along the entire walk, but no further replacements have been made.

Looking down from St Alphage Highwalk, now a couple of mins away from the office, we caught one last glimpse of another chunk of the wall.  The road you can see below the Highwalk is London Wall.  And what a lot of it we found by happy accident on our travels today!

 



Comments

  1. Thank you; I thought I knew a lot about London but there's so many wonderful hidden treasures! ❤️

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