Salter, Alfred

Christian Socialist, pacifist and republican, born on 16 June 1873 at Greenwich, the son of a Devon-born father. The family attended the WM chapel at Blackheath , but on moving to Denmark Hill associated with the Plymouth Brethren. Educated at Roan Grammar School, Blackheath, he won a scholarship enabling him to train at Guy's Hospital. There, under the influence of Joseph Lister (1827-1912), the pioneer of antiseptic surgery, he was launched on what promised to be an outstanding career in medical research. Following a period of agnosticism, he regained his Christian faith and became a Quaker.

In 1898 he went to work for Scott Lidgett at the Bermondsey Settlement, abandoning his prospects in the medical world for a lifetime of service to the people of Bermondsey.There he gained a reputation for being a political firebrand, joining the Liberal Party and being the Treasurer of the Bermondsey West Association.. In 1900 he went into general practice in Bermondsey and married Ada Brown (1866-1942), the sister of a WM minister, who had worked at the West London Mission before taking charge of the Bermondsey Settlement's Girls' Club in 1897..

In 1903 he was elected as a [Liberal] Progressive to the Bermondsey Borough Council and in 1907, with Scott Lidgett's encouragement, to the London County Council. The following year he became a founding member of the Bermondsey Independent Labour Party, stood unsuccessfully for Bermondsey West in the 1909 and 1918 general elections, but was subsequently elected in 1922, defeating Roderick Kedward, who in turn held the seat from 1922-1924. Salter then represented the constituency from 1924 until 1945. He was a founder member of the Socialist Medical Association and a member of the Peace Pledge Union. He died on 24 August 1945.


'His uncompromising pacifism had been rejected by almost all of his former political associates. Yet to many in Bermondsey he remained "the Doctor", a man whose medical achievements outweighed disagreements with his austere politics.'

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

  • Fenner Brockway, The Life of Alfred Salter: Bermondsey Story (1949)
  • Oxford DNB