|Postman's Park||City of London|
This small park was laid out as a public garden in 1880, formed from the churchyard of St Botolph Aldersgate. In 1890 it was enlarged with the adjacent disused graveyards of St Leonard's Foster Lane and Christchurch, Newgate Street, and further expansion took place in 1900. Postman's Park is so-called from its popularity with workers at the adjacent Post Office sorting office. The erection of the memorial shelter with its wall of tablets commemorating the heroic deeds of ordinary men and women who lost their lives to save others had been proposed by the artist G F Watts in commemoration of Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887, although it was not created until 1899.
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Postman's Park, Memorial Shelter, June 2010. Photo: S Williams
Click photo to enlarge.
This small park, the second largest within the City, was laid out as a public garden in 1880, formed from the churchyard of St Botolph Aldersgate. St Botolph was the Anglo-Saxon patron saint of travellers, consequently churches dedicated to him were usually located at city gates. St Botolph's church adjacent to the garden has existed here since at least the early C12th, with the present building largely dating from the C18th, built by Nathaniel Wright, 1788-91. The churchyard existed from 1348 and was extended in the C15th. Early C19th railings of the former churchyard still exist on the boundary of the public garden. In 1890 the garden was expanded with the adjacent graveyards of St Leonard's Foster Lane and of Christchurch, Newgate Street. St Leonard's had been destroyed in the Great Fire and not rebuilt, its parish added to that of Christ Church Newgate. The first church had been built for the Franciscan Friars in 1225 as Greyfriars Monastery, where the heart of Henry II's Queen Eleanor of Provence was buried in 1291. The monastery continued to be patronised by royalty when Edward I's wife Queen Margaret began rebuilding the church in 1306, and she was later buried here in front of the high altar. In 1526 765 burials were recorded in and around Monastery. Dissolved in 1538, its chancel was renamed Christ Church in 1548 but gravestones were broken up and the materials sold to the Lord Mayor of London. Christ Church was destroyed in the Great Fire, rebuilt by Wren in 1677-87 but destroyed in the Blitz apart from its steeple.
The OS map of 1875 shows the disused churchyards crossed by straight paths, but ten years later a watercolour by J Crowther (in Guildhall Library) shows luxurious sub-tropical planting. In 1896 the London County Council was petitioned by St Botolph's Churchwardens for further land to be acquired for the garden as a result of which the LCC contributed £500 and the garden was extended in 1900 with additional land between the existing park, the rear of the church and along Little Britain. It was purchased by public subscription in 1900 and designed to commemorate the jubilee of Queen Victoria. The erection of a wall of tablets commemorating the heroic deeds of ordinary men and women who lost their lives to save others had been proposed by the artist G F Watts as a commemoration for Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887, although it was not created until 1899. Watts devised and paid for the 50 ft timber shelter with a pitched tiled roof which is lined with a total of 53 glazed plaques, 13 designed by Watts, 30 by his widow, with five added in 1930 and subsequently one more added. In a central niche is a small wooden statuette of G F Watts which was erected in 1907, by T H Wren. The shelter is listed as a curiosity!
The name Postman's Park derives from its position near the Post Office chief London sorting office, as a result of which it was much used by postal workers. The park is long and narrow site and its layout was based on a series of focal points: a pool with luxurious planting around it and surrounded by round-headed railings; the memorial shelter; a central flower bed, and a tree which originally had a circular seat around it. Illustrations in 1938 and 1957 show much the same layout, and it is relatively unaltered today. A number of mature plane trees create shady areas, and other trees include chestnut, lime, fig, black poplar. A commemorative oak planted in 1973 for the first issue of a British stamp to show a tree blew down in 1987 and a new one has since been replanted.
The entrance from Aldersgate Street has its original ornamental metal railings and gates, one side of which is a memorial drinking fountain (still operational) of 1870 and the other a plaque commemorating John Wesley. Headstones are generally lined against the perimeter, with a few tombs in the space of the garden; in front of the Aldersgate Street entrance is a small fountain surrounded by a circular pond with goldfish, and between this and the Watts shelter is a stone sundial surrounded by beds profusely planted with flowers. Planted among the shrub beds are numerous fine tree ferns and other exotic species. A plaque on the exterior churchyard wall on Little Britain is dated 1903. At one time the gardens had a sculpture, 'Minotaur' by Michael Ayrton, 1973 now re-located in the City Walkway gardens within Barbican Estate (q.v.).
In 2010 the City of London and British Land collaborated in 'Beyond the Hive', an architectural competition to celebrate the International Year of Biodiversity. The design brief called for proposals for 'Insect Hotels': ecologically sustainable and creative insect habitats, and resulted in five finalists. The winning entries were built during June 2010 in 5 public gardens in the City: Bunhill Fields, Cleary Garden, West Smithfield Garden, St Dunstan-in-the-East (q.q.v.) and here in Postman's Park.
F E Cleary, 'The Flowering City', The City Press, 1969; Elain Harwood and Andrew Saint, 'Exploring England's Heritage', London, 1991; Simon Bradley & Nikolaus Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England, London 1: The City of London', 1997 (1999 ed.); B Plummer and D Shewan, 'City Gardens', London, 1992; London Diocesan Advisory Committee for the Care of Churches data; Corporation of London Planning Dept. Postman's Park Conservation Area Character Statement; LCC Parks and Open Spaces Committee 22 December 1896; CLRO Parks Archive at Guildhall Library.