Postmans Park, City of London – A kind of heart-rending 19C twitter feed in ceramics

On my way through the city last week, I had an hour or so “spare” after shooting a bunch of bankers so decided to revisit Postmans Park, just around the corner from St Pauls.

I was commissioned to photograph this wonderful space last year but at the time was too busy photographing the park itself to concentrate on the other significant feature of the space, namely the George Watts memorial wall.  I have now rectifed that omission!

By way of a very brief overview, the park is the biggest within the City of London walls and was once the city burial ground.  (Because space was at such a premium they laid the corpses down and covered them with earth rather than actually burying them which is the reason why the park is at a higher level than the surrounding area)  It narrowly escaped being sold for development in the early 1890’s and it was rescued in part by a substantial donation from Octavia Hill (later to become the founder of the National Trust).  It was at around this time that George Watts, the celebrated painter and sculptor, along with his second wife Mary Fraser Tytler proposed to create a space to celebrate and remember the bravery of ordinary people.  His original grand ideas were quashed the the great and the good of the city and the project had to be scaled down in size, ending up as a single wall of three rows of tiles with a tiled roof.  He was still able to use his connections in the art world to help in his endeavor.  In particular he sought the support of the renowned (at the time) ceramicist William de Morgan who designed and produced the first batch of tiles.

Unfortunately Watts himself was too infirm to attend the opening ceremony and indeed he died a year later and never saw the fruition of his work.  Mary carried the torch forward though and even though plagued by problems with suppliers (what’s new there then!) installed a total,of 54 tablets before she ran our of money in 1910.  A 55th tablet was added in 2009 commemorating Leigh Pitt who died rescuing a 9 year-old boy from drowning in Thamesmead canal.

All in all they make for a very poignant read and in their brevity they really are a kind of twitter in ceramics.

I recommend a visit if you fancy some downtime when next in the city.  If you can’t make it, you can always watch Jude Law in “Closer” in which the park was used as the opening and closing sequences and is pretty central to the plot as far as I recall.

The first image was commissioned and you can see the covered wall in sunlight ahead of the camera position. The others were shot last week.

(You can read a more in-depth description HERE:

122190 Postmans Park, London EC1

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