Home » London Sculptures » Great London Sculptures: Dr Salter’s Daydream in Bermondsey

Great London Sculptures: Dr Salter’s Daydream in Bermondsey

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Walking along the Thames walk in Bermondsey near the Angel pub, you come across in a family group of sculptures. The scene is entitled Dr. Salter’s Daydream and tells the story of Dr Alfred Salter, his wife Ada Brown and their daughter Joyce with the family cat perched on the wall.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Alfred Salter was born in nearby Greenwich in 1873 and went on to study medicine at Guy’s Hospital, London. He qualified in 1896 and it looked like he would have a successful career ahead of him in medicine. However, in 1898, Dr Salter became a resident at the Methodist Settlement in Bermondsey and began to work amongst the people who lived in poverty in the area. Many of the population of the area worked in the docks but due to the causal nature of the work it was difficult to have any kind of financial security.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Whilst at the Settlement, Salter set up health insurance schemes and adult education classes and met Ada Brown who shared many of the doctor’s political and social concern views. The Doctor and Ada married in 1900 and in the same year established a medical practice in Bermondsey. The work of the couple led to a the establishment of a pioneering comprehensive health service in the area. To bring more widespread change to the area, Dr Salter and Ada decided to enter the political arena. Salter was elected to Bermondsey Borough Council in 1903, to the London County Council and eventually became a Member of Parliament for the area from 1922 up to the Second World War.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Ada was elected to Bermondsey Borough Council in 1922, and in the same year was elected as the first female mayor of the borough. Ada became an early pioneer of urban gardening, and organised campaigned against air pollution in London. By the 1930s she had planted thousands of trees, decorated many buildings with window-boxes, and filled disused open spaces with plants and flowers.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Amid the couple’s social and political work, they had to endure a personal tragedy in 1910, when their eight years old daughter Joyce, died of scarlet fever. The couple carried on their work till the 1940s when first Ada then Dr Salter died.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

To remember and celebrate the lives of the Salter family, a series of sculptures were commissioned and in 1991, sculptor Diane Gorvin unveiled her artwork. Originally Dr. Salter was seated on a bench in old age looking and remembering his young daughter when she was still alive with the cat on the wall. The well-loved sculpture of the Doctor was stolen in 2011 and a new model was made and a sculpture of Ada added which pays tribute to her tree and planting schemes for Bermondsey.


© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Since 2014, the family group has graced this lovely spot over looking the Thames and reminds people about some of the area’s history and characters before large-scale redevelopment took place.


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