Dr Salter and His Daughter

The scheme at Cherry Garden was nearing completion when i became Area landscape Arcitect at Surrey Docks. It was the work of my predecessor Jenny Coe and had won a design award. There was a sum of money within the budget for a piece of public art. I consulted with the local tenant and residetns to find out what sort of thing they would like to see on the site. The message was very clear; something with local relevance; something reflecting the history of the area; something amusing or interesting to look at. Definitely NOT another piece of boring Corporate art dropped from space!

I put together a brief and circulated it to various artsts whose work I had seen, or who had expressed an interest. Ideas came in thick and fast and I selected a shortlist of about five artists and asked them to firm up their proposal perhaps with a maquette or a model.

The one that caught everyone’s imagination was a statue of Dr Salter, local doctor and politician. He had worked with the local community in the 1920’s fighting the scourge of overcrowding, which led to diseases like diptheria, tuberculosis and german measles. he had been a Labour member of parliament, and had set up a free clinic for people who could not afford doctor’s fees. His colleagues weren’t altogether supportive, wondering why a man with such obvious skill andtalent should give his services away.

Sadly, while working there with his wife and daughter, his daughter caught German measles and died. Some cruelly said that had he stuck to a successful private practice, his daughter would still be alive.

Diane Gorvin with her cat

Diane’s installation satisfied the brief in every aspect. The theme was universally popular. One other objective i had was to try and bring people up to Cherry Gardens to see the award winning scheme. Diane answered this with the addition of a bronze cat sitting on the river wall. From Jamaica Road you could see the silhouette of this cat, and it might make people curious to go and see what was up there. Dr Salter was seated o one of the Macemain benches we had installed. he was waving to his daughter who was leaning against the wall and smiling back. The figures made a pleasant triangle.

The statue was hugely popular and dozens of people came down to sit next to Dr Salter to have their photograph taken. Sadly, it proved too much of a magnet and local people campaigned to have it removed. it was moved to another location, but the fixing of the statue was not as good as the original fixing we had used, and the statue was shortly afterward stolen and sold for scrap.

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