The statues of Sir Robert Clayton and Thomas Guy
Read about the conservation work on statues of two of our benefactors, and our work to better understand and contextualise their histories.
Guy’s & St Thomas’ Foundation owns and manages one of the largest health-related arts and heritage collections in Europe. As part of our work, we use some of this art collection to enhance spaces in Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust hospitals and community sites for patients, staff and visitors.
Included in our art collection are two statues of Thomas Guy and Sir Robert Clayton, which sit in public spaces outside of hospitals within Southwark and Lambeth. These men were benefactors of the Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospitals and the statues to commemorate them were erected in the 18th Century following their deaths.
Global racial justice protests in 2020 put a spotlight on statues of individuals with connections to the trade of enslaved people in the public realm. This prompted us to take a deeper look at the histories of Clayton and Guy.
We commissioned independent historical research which found that both men profited significantly from the trade of enslaved African people. We also commissioned an independent community consultation which invited people to share their views on the statues and what should happen to them. People told us it was important that the fuller histories of these two men were told in a way that was easy for people to access.
Following these processes, our Board of Trustees committed to keeping both statues on display in public, in line with current government policy and advice from Historic England. Our Trustees committed to installing information panels at the statues to give people more information on the biographies and background of the men they represent.
These informational materials were developed over the last two years, led by historians and academic experts, and informed by further consultation with the people and communities living close to the statues and who interact with them most regularly. During this consultation, we made particular efforts to hear from those whose voices are typically underrepresented in debates of this kind.
The additional information was installed at the statues in November 2023. It is also supported by information hosted online, which can be viewed by following a QR code on the informational panels next to the statues.
This work is an important part of our wider mission to tackle the health inequalities facing people living in Lambeth and Southwark. As part of our mission, we believe we have a duty to address the legacy of the origins of our wealth and to understand its impact on health and healthcare today.
We will keep listening to the people and communities affected by the legacy of the trade of enslaved people and structural racism, and how this impacts our work as a Foundation investing in a healthier society.
We are continuing to engage with the communities that live around the statues and interact with them on a regular basis. We will learn from engagement with the material we have produced and feedback we receive to enrich the online content to more fully tell these stories.