A London tradition revived

Although the circumstances are sad, news this morning of the revival of a long-neglected London tradition underlines one of the many things which I love about my city.

For the first time in 80 years, the name of an “ordinary hero” has been added to the wall in Postmen’s Park, near The Barbican. Printworker Leigh Pitt, 30, died in June 2007 while saving the life of a boy who was drowning in a canal in Thamesmead. His name joins those of 53 others, all of whom are commemorated for “heroism in everyday life” in a location established by the Victorian socialist and painter George Watts.

He proposed the memorial to these “likely to be forgotten heroes” would be a fitting way to mark Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee and, having failed to find backers, set up the project himself. He said it would make London “richer by a work that is beautiful, and our nation richer by a record that is infinitely honourable”. Watts died in 1904 and maintenance of the memorial gradually dwindled until 1931, when the last name was added.

Standing in the park, an oasis of calm and tranquility amidst the bustle of central London, and reading the stories on the plaques is a humbling experience; one which gives a strong sense of connection with the city’s history and its people.


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