Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility New projects to understand our history - Guy's & St Thomas' Foundation

New projects to understand our history

7 August 2020
2 min read

We're working to better understand and contextualise the histories of two of our benefactors in the 1700s and their links with the trade in enslaved people.

Illustration of Guy's and St Thomas' hospitals


History of our collection

As part of our large art and heritage collection, we own two statues with links to the trade in enslaved people. One of Thomas Guy, who profited from investing in the South Sea Company, and the other of Robert Clayton, who was an investor in the Royal Africa Company.

In June 2020, we and our partners at King’s College London and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust took the decision to remove both statues from public view, releasing a statement for more context.

We will shortly be initiating two pieces of work to better understand and contextualise the histories of Robert Clayton and Thomas Guy and to help us to determine appropriate long-term locations for the two statues

Contextualisation of our history

We have commissioned a research project from King’s College London to investigate the history of Thomas Guy and Robert Clayton This will review existing literature and scholarly analysis on the lives and careers of Thomas Guy and Robert Clayton and will assess past commemoration and public discussion of both.

The work will be overseen by a panel of experts including colleagues from Black Cultural Archives and academics from other institutions working on similar issues. Our aim with this project is to reach a clear historical basis to ground the rest of our decision-making.

Wider consultation

In addition to the research project, we have appointed an independent consultant to help us conduct a thorough and inclusive conversation about what the statues represent to a wider group of people within our communities. The consultation will use online surveys and focus groups to engage with communities from across Lambeth and Southwark, alongside in-depth discussions with staff from both the Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and King’s College London.

The output of this consultation will be a set of recommendations on the permanent location and contextualisation of both statues. As part of our commitment to transparency, the report will be made publicly available and the findings shared with the Mayor’s commission on diversity in the public realm.

We have agreed with Historic England to extend the planning permission process so that the outcomes of these two exercises can inform the final decision. Historic England has noted this as an exemplary approach and will be working closely with the Foundation moving forward.