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Morbid Monday: Woeful Tales of Dying for Strangers Collected on a London Wall

article-imageMemorial in Postman’s Park (all photographs by the author unless indicated)

Not far from St. Paul’s in London is a much less grand monument that seeks to honor those souls who lost their lives attempting to save others.

The three rows of plaques known as the Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice in Postman’s Park can read a bit like Edward Gorey tales of woe, recited in rambling font framed with floral flourishes. For example there’s William Drake from 1869, who “lost his life in averting a serious accident to a lady in Hyde Park, whose horses were unmanageable through the breaking of the carriage pole.” Yet together they are both a moving and mesmerizing memorial to those people whose final selfless heroism might easily be forgotten. 

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Postman’s Park itself was once a cemetery when the church of St. Botolph’s Aldersgate stood on the grounds. The church has long since been demolished and outbreaks of cholera drove the cemeteries to the outskirts of London in the 19th century. Families had to actually apply to get their relatives from the Aldersgate cemetery, and others just opted to carry away the tombstones, so many of the dead remain to this day below the small park. This is why the ground is a bit higher than the surrounding area, as the dead were stacked up in its crowded years, and why there are little orderly rows of tombstones politely lining the grounds like wallflowers. 

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The Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice was the idea of artist George Frederic Watts, who had long been an advocate for art inspiring social change. The memorial opened in 1900 and the first tablets were made by tile designer William De Morgan, with those memorialized selected by Watts himself through newspaper clippings. While the creators have since changed, a plaque was installed as recently as 2009 to the memorial, which continues to evolve as a quiet space of reflection. 

Below are some of these harrowing tales of self-sacrifice:

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article-imagephotograph by morgaine/Flickr user

article-imagephotograph by Eric Parker

 

article-imagephotograph by morgaine/Flickr user

MEMORIAL TO HEROIC SELF SACRIFICE, London, England


Morbid Mondays highlight macabre stories from around the world and through time, indulging in our morbid curiosity for stories from history’s darkest corners. Read more Morbid Mondays>

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