About Ada and Alfred Salter

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Ada and Alfred Salter were Quakers and social reformers in Bermondsey, south-east London, in the early 20th century. Working as a team in the 1920s, their ‘Bermondsey Revolution’ was a landmark in municipal history.

Ada Salter opens the Tanner St playground by planting a tree. Alfred Salter MP stands on her left.

Ada (1866-1942), a pacifist from her youth in Raunds, Northamptonshire, before she became a Quaker, was appalled by the slums of London and she devoted her life to the demolition of slum housing and the improvement of the urban environment. She built a model housing estate at Wilson Grove, campaigned against air pollution, and carried through a programme for the beautification of all of London through parks, children’s playgrounds and tree-lined streets.

Alfred (1872-1945), an outstanding doctor from Greenwich, was similarly appalled by the slums but from a medical point of view. He treated poor patients for free and imported into Bermondsey all the latest medical clinics and facilities, creating in miniature an ’NHS before the NHS’. In 1922 Alfred was elected as MP for Bermondsey, representing the ILP, while Ada in the same year became the first woman mayor in London and the first Labour woman mayor in Britain. 

   

In this 1909 photo Alfred had just established his famous medical practice in Bermondsey and was standing for election as an MP. Ada, a social worker at the Bermondsey Settlement, was about to be elected as the borough’s first woman councillor.