Alfred Salter statue stolen

View of Alfred Salter statue from rear, with daughter's statue in front of him and view of City of London in background.

Alfred Salter's statue looking towards his daughter and the City of London. Photo: Jim Linwood/flickr CC.

A London statue of renowned Quaker Alfred Salter from Bermondsey was stolen from its site by the River Thames this month.

Southwark council has announced that it is offering a reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the thieves of the statue that has been in place since 1991.

Alfred Salter was a doctor who became a member of parliament. He continued to live among his constituents in a poor area of London as part of his witness to them.

Councillor Richard Livingstone, cabinet member for finance, resources and community safety, said: “We are shocked that thieves have stolen the statue.

“Dr Alfred Salter did so much to serve the people of Bermondsey. His statue was a well known local landmark and was a fitting tribute. We’re offering the reward in the hope that the offenders will be swiftly brought to justice.”

The statue has been valued at £17,500. Two related statues showing Alfred Salter’s daughter and their cat have been removed by the council and placed in a secure location.

Simon Hughes, MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark, has joined in the community campaign to find the criminals who stole the statue. After taking part in a community meeting at the Mayflower pub recently, which was joined by Alfred Salter’s great niece, Simon Hughes called on the police to widen their investigation across all scrap metal businesses in London. 

In the government’s autumn statement it was announced that an additional £5 million has been allocated to set up a nationwide taskforce to target scrap metal thieves and scrap metal dealers who illegally trade in stolen metal.

“We must all be determined that those people responsible for such huge disrespect to the memory of Dr Salter and the whole community must be tracked down if humanly possible. Anybody with any information should contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111, Southwark Council on 020 7525 1501 or my office on 020 7232 2557. Like Crimestoppers, I am willing to treat any information leading to the recovery of the statue as confidential. The first priority is to recover the statue. The second is to bring those responsible to justice,” said Simon Hughes.

Read Brian Beecroft’s account of the life of Alfred Salter published by Nayler. Here’s an extract:

“Alfred Salter was a man of principles – a pacifist, a teetotaller, and determined to improve the lives of the poor in Bermondsey. He preached and put into practice these principles. 

He was active in temperance movement as a result of his experiences as a doctor, work on the Board of Guardians and as a magistrate. He joined the Band of Hope when a boy.

He would not be deviated from those principles even if it meant defeat or loss in the short term. One example, in the General Election of 1922 Alfred was the Labour candidate for Bermondsey. On the eve of the election, at a meeting of supporters, Alfred told his audience – “If you want a member of Parliament who will vote for cheaper beer, then elect one of the other candidates. If you want a Member of Parliament who will vote for an army and a navy to defend Britain and the Empire, then elect one of the other candidates.” He went on to denounce beer drinking and to say he would close every pub if he had his way. The audience was stunned. Alfred recalled that he had been a conscientious objector during the war and had not lifted a finger for military victory. He castigated brewers, publicans, militarists and generals and their dupes. Alfred’s agent slipped out of the hall to phone colleagues to send a message to the doctor that a life or death medical case urgently needed his attention – saying that the doctor was losing votes with every word he uttered.

When the agent returned Alfred was summing up: I will vote for prohibition, I will vote against credits for the armed forces. I can do no other. If do not like it, do not make me your MP. There was absolute silence for half a minute and then every one in the hall rose to their feet cheering.

The majority of the audience were drinkers, most of the men had served in the forces during the war yet they voted solidly for the teetotal pacifist the next day and Alfred Salter became their MP.”

You can read more about Alfred Salter and the statue here, and here,

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