Sunday, 23 July 2017

Beautifying Bermondsey

Bermondsey's Ada Salter (left) was a keen supporter of the orginial joyslide so it was good to be able to link the Joyslide Fun Day to two other events as part of an Ada Salter Weekend.

Yesterday evening a special event for the Bermondsey and Rotherhithe History Society in St James combined musical items by the South Bermondsey Big Local Community Choir, Old tyme music halls favourites by Adrian and Marian Greenwood, poems by the 'Bard of Bermondsey', and a talk by local historian Graham Taylor about George Balleine, Vicar of St James (1908-1938) and close friend of Alfred and Ada Salter.

This morning our service at 10.30am we remembered Ada Salter's remarkable life of service to the people of Bermondsey from when she came at the age of 29 to run clubs at the Bermondsey Settlement for the 'roughest and toughest girls' to her death more than forty years later.

We recalled her famous Bermondsey Beautification Campaign which resulted in the planting of 7,000 trees, decorating buildings with window boxes, and filling open spaces, including St James Churchyard, with flowers. She was also an enthusiastic supporter of the joyslide project.

She also championed the cause of factory girls in Bermondsey's many food factories, and campaigned for model housing for council tenants - the houses in Wilson Grove (left) that she had built, stand to this day as fine family houses.

She was the first female Mayor of Bermondsey, and the first Labour woman mayor in the country.

Everything she did was undergirded by a strong Christian faith which in due course she communicated to her husband, Arthur, who came to share her faith.

St James Churchyard, beautified by Ada

Quoting the words of the prophet Jeremiah (‘Build houses and settle down. Plant gardens and eat what you grow in them.  Marry and have children. Then let your children get married, so that they also may have children. You must increase in numbers and not decrease. Work for the good of the cities where I have made you go as prisoners. Pray to me on their behalf, because if they are prosperous, you will be prosperous too),  I said: 

"I don’t know if Jeremiah’s words were in the Salter’s minds as they set to work in Bermondsey, but that’s just about what they set out to do.

They made Bermondsey their home. They didn’t just work here: they lived here. They set out to make Bermondsey a better place. And pretty soon – houses were built – new purpose designed homes for people to live in – and Ada famously planted many gardens. Indeed, her goal was to make the place where she and thousands lived a more beautiful place.

They gave themselves fully to work for the good of this city and today we honour their achievement and seek to follow their example.'

Ada Salter Garden, Southwark Park

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