Harry Sisley, aged 10. Drowned in attempting to save his brother after he himself had just been rescued. May 24th, 1878
November 20, 2011 11:42 AM   Subscribe

Hidden away in central London, The Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice is a small public monument in Postman's Park, commemorating ordinary people who died saving the lives of others and might otherwise have been forgotten. It was unveiled in 1900 with plans for 120 memorial ceramic tiles, but by 1931 only 53 had been laid down. In 2009, the first new tablet in 78 years was added. Individual collection of the tiles. A blog post about the memorial.

It was featured in the movie Closer. A video of a visit to the park. Streetview.
posted by growabrain (15 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
Strange that most of these people seem to have died either by fire or water. Incredible memorial, though. Way to go, humans.
posted by Scientist at 11:54 AM on November 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Very cool (and Victorian). And appreciate the simple video walk through without music.
posted by stbalbach at 11:58 AM on November 20, 2011

For those of us who were interested on how Dr. Samuel Rabbeth "tried to save a child from diphtheria at the cost of his own life," a note in the October 25, 1884 Lancet.
posted by The White Hat at 12:30 PM on November 20, 2011 [5 favorites]

This was also made into an installation by Susan Hiller - her work was displayed at the Tate.
posted by dash_slot- at 1:46 PM on November 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Unfortunately that Lancet link isn't working for me, so here's a contemporary newspaper account.
posted by Pinback at 1:49 PM on November 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Postman's Park is one of my favourite curiosities to show visitors. It's very close to the Museum Of London and the Barbican, which makes for a nice little cultural walk. You can then continue on to St Paul's, which is just down the road, and then over the Thames to Tate Modern.

For fans of unusual things in London, the blogs Tired Of London, Tired Of Life and Diamond Geezer are well worth following.
posted by Magnakai at 2:26 PM on November 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

I don't get it: it's a public park, right? So why would the Watts Gallery have total say over whether or not to complete the design by continuing to add tiles, as George Frederic Watts envisioned? I mean, Watts was the memorial's designer, not the park's owner, and his design didn't call for it to be stopped until it reached the full complement of 120 names: he didn't say "stop adding to it when I die." (And though the Watts Gallery has apparently blocked additional memorial tiles, I notice there's a big honkin' one there in Watts' name!)

But yes, it's a lovely little memorial, very Victorian, and it does indeed remind people of otherwise-forgotten everyday heroic acts.
posted by easily confused at 2:28 PM on November 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Postman's Park figures prominently in the play and film Closer.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:39 PM on November 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

This is lovely and surprisingly moving. Thanks.
posted by sklero at 2:47 PM on November 20, 2011

In Sarajevo they have a monument to victims of the Cold War.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 3:50 PM on November 20, 2011

This was also made into an installation by Susan Hiller - her work was displayed at the Tate.

This installation is currently at MOMA PS1 in New York as part of the fantastic September 11th show, which runs through January 9th. If you have a chance to see it I cannot recommend it enough. I went to PS1 just wanting to sit in the James Turrell room and was pretty bummed out when I saw the exhibition was about 9/11... but was completely floored by it. Almost none of the work was made after 9/11 (don't be fooled by the pictures on the website), the relationship between the work and the events is almost entirely curatorial.
posted by nathancaswell at 4:12 PM on November 20, 2011

Randomly stumbling upon this memorial is one of my strongest memories of London.
posted by 256 at 4:32 PM on November 20, 2011

Wonderful post and comments, thank you all.
posted by jokeefe at 5:13 PM on November 20, 2011

Ooh. I'd love to see something like this here on the other side of the pond. A monument to normal people being awesome. I'd nominate Arland D. Williams and the passengers of United Flight 93 for the first two tiles.

Great post. Thanks for this.
posted by schmod at 9:19 PM on November 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I second the point about Closer - in fact the character name Alice Ayres came from a plaque at Postman's Park.
posted by DanCall at 1:37 AM on November 21, 2011

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