Postman's Park, London

Postman's Park

A quiet space in the City of London is remarkable, but Postman’s Park is unique. Round the corner from St Paul's Cathedral where the streets are full of city gents bursting with self-importance, it contains the Watts Memorial where people who were ordinary, yet extraordinary are remembered in a very beautiful way.

In one corner of the park, easily overlooked under a canopy, there are over 50 plaques, with beautiful lettering hand-painted onto Royal Doulton tiles. Each one details the untimely end of a heroic soul who died trying to save another life. Except they put it much more poetically than that. Although they're short, they're beautifully written with flashes of detail that paint vivid pictures of these tragic gothic scenes. Take David Selves, aged 12 of Woolwich who "supported his drowning playfellow and sank with him clasped in his arms", or William Donald of Bayswater who "drowned in the Lea trying to save a lad from a dangerous entanglement of weed". Fans of Edward Gorey or Lemony Snicket get yourself down here.

At first they seem funny - a bit over the top. But by the end of the first panel I was hooked. What next? What fresh disaster? After 30 or so plaques it's almost heartbreaking. Every tile has something, a name or a place or a word that places it firmly in the past. There are occupations that don't exist anymore and situations no one would ever find themselves in, peopled by a cast of Fredericks, Herberts and Alices. Even the causes of death are wonderfully archaic - descending a high-tension chamber, trampled by a runaway horse; or spectacularly bizarre like Sarah Smith, pantomime artiste who "died of terrible injuries received when attempting in her inflammable dress to extinguish the flames which had enveloped her companion".

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Nothing To See Here

In August 2008

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