One of my favourite places in East London is Postman’s Park. It is situated between St Martins Le Grand, King Edwards Street and Angel Street. It was named Postman’s Park because of The Old General Post Office nearby. At lunchtime every day the post office workers would go and eat their lunches there.
It has an air of melancholy about it, surrounded as it is by tall buildings with its memorial to brave working class adults and children. It was proposed and built by Victorian painter and philanthropist GF Watts 1817-1904. Watts was a socialist who had strong sympathies for the diabolical living conditions of the poor. He wrote to The Times to suggest a memorial for working class people who had given their lives with acts of great sacrifice. He said that this would be a good way to mark Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee Year and at the same time show that working class people were also worthy of being remembered.
The Watts Memorial Gallery was put up in 1817 with ceramic tiles made by Doulton. It’s a lovely place to go and sit and think. If you walk along the gallery and read the sad epitaphs of the brave people, particularly children, it’s a humbling experience. It’s hard to imagine that we ourselves would be that brave to save the life of another, but incredibly heartening at the same time.
The news is always bad, we know the depths to which humans can torture and kill each other, but this little park reminds you that humans are also capable of other better deeds and acts of great personal courage and sacrifice. We simply need to remind our cynical selves from time to time. So go and pay a visit to this little park, it’s lovely.