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The Salters Return

Nearly three years ago when this blog was in its infancy, I wrote a piece about ‘Doctor Salter’s Daydream’ statue; a public sculpture which was sadly stolen (most likely by scrap metal thieves) in November 2011.

The statue of Dr Salter which was stolen in 2011 (photo by jim Linwood)

The statue of Dr Salter which was stolen in 2011 (photo by Jim Linwood)

The statue’s theft was all the more cruel considering the background of the man whom it represented; Dr Alfred Salter, a humble Quaker born in Greenwich in 1873.

Aged just 16, Alfred won a scholarship to study medicine at Guy’s Hospital where he proved to be an outstanding student.

Doctor Alfred Salter (image: The Religious Society of Friends in Britain)

Doctor Alfred Salter (image: The Religious Society of Friends in Britain)

After qualifying as a doctor, Alfred and his beloved wife, Ada vowed to dedicate themselves to helping London’s poor and set up a practice on Bermondsey’s Jamaica Road, then at the heart of a deeply impoverished area.

Ada Salter

Ada Salter

Their practice was revolutionary in that Dr Salter charged little or nothing at all for his services; a sort of prelude to today’s NHS.

In their quest to help London’s many downtrodden inhabitants, Alfred and Ada also turned to politics– and with great success, Alfred served on Bermondsey Borough Council and later went onto become MP for Bermondsey West in the 1920s.

Dr Alfred Salter canvassing in October 1909- as depicted by the 'London Illustrated News'

Dr Alfred Salter canvassing in October 1909- as depicted by the ‘London Illustrated News’

Ada too served on Bermondsey council- becoming London’s first female councillor in the process and, in 1922 was elected Mayor of Bermondsey- thus becoming the UK’s first female, Labour Mayor.

Ada Salter with George Lansbury in 1930 (image: Southwark Local History Library & Archive)

Ada Salter with George Lansbury in 1930 (image: Southwark Local History Library & Archive)

Alfred and Ada lived on Stork’s Road, Bermondsey amongst their friends and patients and in 1902 had a daughter whom they named Joyce. 

Loved by locals, the folk of Bermondsey fondly nicknamed Joyce, “our little ray of sunshine.”

Tragically Joyce died of scarlet fever at the tender age of eight.

Alfred and Ada never truly overcame their grief and placed a fresh vase of flowers on their mantelpiece every single morning in their daughter’s memory.

Dr Alfred Salter with his beloved Joyce

Dr Alfred Salter with his beloved Joyce

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In 1991, artist Diane Gorvin created an installation for Bermondsey Wall East featuring the kindly Dr Salter in old age, sitting on a bench which the public were invited to share.

Dr Salter's original statue before its theft (image: The Salter Statues Campaign)

Dr Salter’s original statue before its theft (image: The Salter Statues Campaign)

The sculpture of Dr Salter was waving at an image of his daughter, Joyce and her pet cat playing beside the Thames. Sadly, as the sculpture’s ‘daydream’ title suggests, the two little figures are simply memories; shadows of things that have been as Alfred remembers happier times.

Joyce and her cat. Luckily these images were not bagged by the scrap-metal thieves

Joyce and her cat. Luckily these two sculptures were not lifted by the scrap-metal thieves

This sculpture was by far my favorite in London and I was devastated when I discovered its cruel violation.

However, thanks to the marvelous work and fundraising of the Salter Statues Campaign, a replacement how now been created.

Artist's impression of the new installation (image: Salter Statues Campaign)

Artist’s impression of the new installation (image: Salter Statues Campaign)

Dr Salter has been recreated by Diane Gorvin and the original sculptures of Joyce and her cat (which the thieves thankfully didn’t bag and have been kept safe by Southwark Council since 2011) will be returned to their location.

Even better, Ada Salter will also be included- which means London will receive its first public statue of a female politician and trade unionist. Improved security will be installed to protect the figures.

The new and thoroughly deserving artwork will be unveiled on Bermondsey Wall East at 2pm, Sunday 30th November 2014.

Location of Dr Salter's Daydream statue

Location of Dr Salter’s Daydream statue

I’ll certainly be there with my camera and I hope you can make it too to witness this wonderful event!

An article which I wrote back in May 2013 for LTDA Taxi Magazine details the story of Alfred and Ada and can be read below (please click to enlarge).

My article

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16 responses

  1. Oh.. that is so moving. I’m not ashamed to admit I shed a tear. We live south of the Thames, but I confess our only venture towards Rotherhithe left us completely lost – otherwise we would be there.

    I never cease to be amazed about the philanthropists of that time period. They did things for the good of their fellow man – not to go on TV or get an award.God bless them all!

    Would you mind me doing a link on my blog to this post? – I will put it on, but remove it if you object.(I already have your site listed on my sidebar)

    Good people mustn’t be forgotten…

    1. Hi Andrina, thank you so much for the kind words, I couldn’t agree more with what you say about the philanthropists of that era. You are very welcome to link the post on your site 🙂

      Thanks again.

  2. Great stuff for an old Rotherhithe/Bermondsey boy to read. Full comment on First Night History.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  3. Thanks for a very interesting feature on some outstanding people who deserve to have their memory preserved.

    1. Many thanks, John. I truly hope the new sculpture will educate and inspire many future generations.

  4. A super post about great people, both the Salters and those who keep their memory alive.

    1. Thanks, Helen that’s really kind of you to say.

  5. stewart macdonald | Reply

    Fascinating stuff ! The council has done well to keep supporting this important part of their history despite the thieves, and you’ve done well to let us all know about the progress they are making, a good read for a change.

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Stewart. Agree it is wonderful to see the council doing something so positive, let’s hope it encourages future generations to find out more about the Salters.

  6. Thank You for following up your original story. I am so happy that a new statue has been created and they included a statue of his wife.

  7. Hi Rob,

    Just catching up on your blog and saw this good news. I read your original post about this terrible theft and when I walked down to Greenwich last summer I saw the spot where the Salters should have been, it’s so good to hear they have been reinstated to their rightful place.

    All the best,

    Richard

    1. Hi Richard, thanks for the kind comments; much appreciated.

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