Amazing how you can live in London for your entire life, yet still constantly discover new things you’d never seen or heard of before.
Back in October I attended a ceremony at the Cross Bones Graveyard, an unconsecrated burial ground for London’s outcast. I wrote about how all people are important to the world. Everyone changes the world in some way, and you don’t need to win the Nobel Peace Prize to make a difference. A difference, no matter how small, is a difference. When I walk through ancient cemeteries, I constantly make an effort to pay equal respect to all the graves, especially if the text has been worn away. Everyone leaves their mark on the world, regardless of whether or not their family could afford a high quality gravestone, or could even afford a proper burial at all.
This afternoon I went to the Museum of London to see the Cheapside Hoard. The jewels were beautiful, but on the way there I discovered something all the more fascinating. Just off St Martin’s Le-Grand lies Postman’s Park, joining together the former burial grounds and churchyards of three ancient churches: St Botolph’s-without-Aldersgate, Christ Church Newgate Street, and St Leonard (destroyed during the Great Fire of London and never rebuilt). Within Postman’s Park lies something beautiful: the Memorial to Heroic Self-Sacrifice.
The Memorial to Heroic Self-Sacrifice was first unveiled in 1900 and added to over the years, having originally been proposed by Victorian artist George Frederic Watts. The aim was to recognise people who took part in the ultimate acts of bravery: losing their own lives to save the lives of others. This is no war memorial, however. This is about ordinary, everyday people who changed the world in everyday life by making the ultimate sacrifice, yet may have disappeared into obscurity had it not been for this memorial. They are everyday heroes.
The memorial contains a set of tiles dedicated to some amazing people. Amazing people like Thomas Griffin, a Fitter’s Labourer who died on 12 April 1899 in boiler explosion at a Battersea sugar refinery, fatally scalded in returning to search for his mate.
This is an extremely beautiful memorial, but let’s remember that it represents only a tiny fraction of people in the world who made such sacrifices for their loved ones, or who improved the lives of others in countless ways. For every person remembered here, there must be millions who aren’t. I hope we can spare them all a thought.