Let’s not forget to remember

The more I get to know London, the less I realise I know of this city heaving and overcrowded with history. And the more I get to know the city, the more I love living here for now.

My New York blogging buddy, jacquelin, told me about Postman’s Park, just behind St Paul’s. I met up with my husband one sunshine-filled lunch time last week, and we walked across the London Millennium Footbridge over the Thames, towards St Paul’s Cathedral – a sight that still takes my breath away – and we walked around the massive and awe-inspiring church to this little spot:

Postman's Park, in the City of London

This little spot is interestingly one of the biggest parks in the City of London. It was built in 1880 on the site of a churchyard and burial ground of St Botolph’s Aldergate. Named as it is because it stands on the former site of the General Post Office where postmen often sat to eat their lunch, Postmans Park is also home to a sheltered wall commemorating, as something of a protest against the upper class, ordinary people who lost their lives heroically trying to save others. G F Watts, the painter (1817 – 1904), came up with the idea and he commissioned Doulton to create the hand-lettered tiles to honour the otherwise unheralded and unnamed heroes.

So quaint and so special

In a similar vein, one of my colleagues showed me this little site just down the road from our office. Known as Cross Bones, this is an unconsecrated burial site, going back to medieval times, for “single women” and paupers. (“Single women” was a euphemism for prostitutes, known in the area as “Winchester Geese” because they were licenced by the Bishop of Winchester to work within the Southwark area known as the Liberty of the Clink.)

According to Wikipedia, the Liberty of the Clink lay outside the jurisdiction of the City of London, and as a result became known for its brothels and theatres, bull and bear-baiting. The age of the graveyard is not known: John Stow (1525 – 1605) wrote about it in A Survey of London in 1598, and by 1769 it had become a paupers’ cemetery for the poor of St Saviour’s parish. It is believed that about 15,000 people are buried there.

Cross Bones, with the Shard - Europe's tallest building-to-be - in the background

When the London Underground planned the construction of its Jubilee Line through the area, between 1991 and 1998, archaeologists found this overcrowded graveyard with bodies piled on top of one another. Test showed the deaths to have been caused by anything from smallpox to TB, Paget’s disease, osteoarthritis and Vitamin D deficiency.

The find captured the attention of local community members who created an informal group – Friends of Cross Bones – to campaign for a permanent memorial garden on the site, which has also become the site of annual Halloween festivals – held every year since 1998 – marked by processions, songs and candles.

A permanent, living memorial marked by ribbons and flowers and poems

My, how the times have changed. Or have they?

Sunshine signing off for today!


36 thoughts on “Let’s not forget to remember

  1. Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and South America all seem to have cultures that revere and memorialize even just fine everyday people that displayed courage and character. The “me and now” generation in the USA could not care less. More distasteful is that most have never learned about or care to learn about such people except for the families of the respectable deceased.

  2. You’re back! I’ve missed your posts…

    London is filled with such great history and this post reminds us of the smaller, quieter bits of it.

    I blogged in 2009 about why I read obituaries — the small-type newspaper ones about real people. They are often deeply moving and remind us that everyone’s life has meaning, even within a small circle of family and friends.


    1. Thank you so much, bsb, I can’t tell you how much I’ve missed writing and reading! A combination of less time and little access to our laptop.
      Anyway, I just love discovering these precious hidden places in London, and what they signify and who they honour. So much history and so many stories … So true what you say about obituaries.

    1. Thank you so much, Renee – it’s good to be back! I’ve missed writing, so much!
      I hope we can see each other when you’re back here – we’re going to Cape Town for three weeks from 1 July …

  3. Have you changed your look slightly? I like it.

    I’ve missed your posts.

    The memorial I like best is Frederick Croft, 31, who Saved a Lunatic Woman From Suicide. Priceless.

  4. Have you been to All Hallows by the Tower? It’s sort of across from the entrance to the Tower of London. It’s been more than 20 years since I’ve been to London, but I remember that church. It’s the oldest in the City of London, and there are Roman artifacts underneath — I took a tour of them when I was there. The church is also, I think, connected with St. Dunstan’s in the East, which is a church with a Christopher Wren steeple that was damaged in the Blitz and was turned into a park, surrounded by the outside walls (including steeple) of the ruined church. It’s quite lovely. I miss London — sounds silly for a place I’ve never actually lived, but it always felt like home to me. I’ve been there four times, but it feels like more — and maybe someday when times are better it will be more.

    1. Thanks, Kate – they are amazing places to visit, and I’d recommend them! If I hadn’t been told about them, I wouldn’t know about either of them.
      The job is going really well – am really loving it, actually. Thanks for asking.

  5. So much history there, Sunshine. Far more than in my neck of the woods which wasn’t settled until the 1800s. Thank you for sharing these lovely photos! Have a happy Mother’s Day and welcome back — missed you!

    1. Thank you, Debbie – I’ve missed being around!
      Glad you enjoyed the taste of history, it really takes my breath away being exposed to this depth of it around here. Gosh.
      Happy Mothers’ Day to you too! It’s not Mothers’ Day in the UK, but thanks anyway!

  6. Thank you for the shout out Sunshine! I’m so glad that you and your husband got to visit Postman’s Park. Your photos took me back to that special afternoon I spent there.

    I wasn’t aware of Cross Bones. What a unique memorial. It will be on my list of places to visit the next time I’m in London. Thanks for sharing that.

    Have you had the opportunity to go to Borough Market? I would love to revisit it vicariously through you. 🙂

    1. It’s a lovely place, so thanks for telling me about it, jacquelin! I could have spent more time there, but I will go back again.
      I have been to Borough Market a few times, but not since I’ve been working three blocks away from it! Isn’t that funny? I will go again soon and write about it. Just for you 🙂

  7. I always appreciate your strolling, “resident tourist” view of London. Makes me think that to really make a proper visit, I will have to move there for a year or so!

    1. True, Patti – living here is a constant journey of exploring and discovering. Thank you for your comment, and for appreciating our finds – it’s such fun writing about them!

  8. Was Postman’s Park featured in the movie “Closer” starring Natalie Portman, Jude Law, Clive Owens and Julia Roberts? In the scene in which Portman and Law meet, they are in a park that has a wall filled with names like this on.

    1. This is so funny – when I first read your comment yesterday I had no idea if the park was featured in that movie. However, I met someone last night who, when I mentioned Postman’s Park, said “Oh, right, that’s the park that was in Closer. I haven’t seen the park but I’ve seen the movie!” So yes – you’re quite right, and I’ve learnt something too!

  9. Shoo wee- this post really touched me. I have watched teh movie Closer, but never actually noticed. Now i want to watch it again.
    How awesome would it be to take a picture of everyone.

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