Salter Statues Campaign

Registered Charity No.1148242

Support this great socialist doctor – an inspiration to us all!

Dr Alfred Salter (1873–1945), who created the original local ‘NHS’

In the 1890s Alfred Salter was the most brilliant medical student Guy’s Hospital had ever known. He did research at the British Institute of Preventive Medicine, and by the time he was 25, his work on diphtheria was known all over Europe. Yet instead of making a fortune in Harley Street, Alfred, appalled by the slums of Bermondsey, decided to devote his life to helping the poor.

His wife, Ada, came from Northamptonshire and settled in London doing social work in the slums. When they married, Alfred set up a philanthropic medical practice, treating patients free of charge when necessary. He introduced startling innovations, including a solarium for victims of tuberculosis, and utilised unusual methods of health education, such as documentary films shown in the streets off the back of vans.

However Alfred quickly realised that good medical treatment was no substitute for decent housing and adequate food. To campaign for improved living conditions he became politically active, first in the Liberal Party, then in the Independent Labour Party. In 1922 he was elected the local Labour MP, which he remained (apart from one year) until his death.

Ada was similarly active, a campaigner for women’s suffrage, trade union rights and peace, who became the first woman mayor in London. A believer in the health-giving power of nature, she chaired a ‘Beautification Committee’, which covered the area with trees, flowers and children’s playgrounds. Their council became renowned for its housing programme, replacing slums with model cottages in garden-city style, and transforming the borough in the ‘Bermondsey Revolution’.

Tragically, the Salters’ only child Joyce died aged 8, from scarlet fever caught by living amongst the slums alongside the people they served. The Salters were both Quakers and committed pacifists, and were devastated when World War 2 destroyed all they had achieved for their community through their ethical socialism.

Alfred Salter's statue

On the 50th anniversary of Alfred’s death, a statue was erected on the Thames river-side, and there was outrage when this was stolen by metal thieves in November 2011.A campaign was set up by local residents to replace the statue of Alfred and add one of Ada, with new statues commissioned from the original artist, Diane Gorvin.

Southwark Council is match-funding every pound.We have already raised £51,000 and only need another £7,000 to cover the new, intensive security measures. Please support this wonderful socialist doctor and help us reach our full target.

You can donate by cheque to ‘Salter Statues Campaign’ at 148 Cherry Garden Street, London SE16 4PB, or online at:

Thank you so much for your support!


Dr Salter was a founder member of the Socialist Medical Association