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.
Who were Thomas Guy and Sir Robert Clayton? Who were the artists who created the statues? And what is the Foundation's role in their conservation?
Thomas Guy (1644-1724) served as a governor of St Thomas’ Hospital from 1704 and donated money to rebuilding the hospital. He founded Guy’s Hospital during his lifetime. When he died, he gave Guy’s Hospital a further £200,000 in his will, which supported it to continue running.
A large amount of Guy’s wealth came from investments in the South Sea Company. This was an organisation that transported enslaved people across the Atlantic. Guy contributed to the origins of Guy’s & St Thomas’ Foundation’s endowment. His initial investment of £200,000 in 1720 would be worth approximately £424.7 million in 2020 values. This helped build Guy’s Hospital and set up the Foundation.
Sculptor Peter Scheemakers made the statue of Guy that stands in the courtyard of Guy’s Hospital.
Sir Robert Clayton (1629-1707) was a president of St Thomas’ Hospital and donated money to rebuilding the hospital. Clayton had direct connections to and profited from the transatlantic trade of enslaved people, the plantation business and English colonialism. He was a member of the Royal African Company from 1672 to 1681, which profited from the trade of enslaved people. Clayton made a significant financial contribution to our endowment. He left £2,000 in 1707, worth approximately £4.4 million in 2020 values, to the hospital.
Sculptor Grinling Gibbons made the statue of Clayton that stands by the hospital next to the river.
Peter Scheemakers (1691-1781) was born in Antwerp. He became one of the most successful sculptors in 18th-century Europe. He moved to London in about 1720.
Dr Richard Mead, physician at St Thomas’ Hospital and executor of Guy’s will, was a patron of Scheemakers. It was a stipulation of an Act of Parliament that legislated Guy’s will, to put up a statue of him at Guy’s Hospital. Mead was part of the committee who commissioned Scheemakers to create Guy’s statue.
Grinling Gibbons (1648-1721) was a Dutch sculptor. In about 1667 he came to England and settled in York. In 1671, he moved to southeast London. He spent the end of the 17th century working with Sir Christopher Wren (a governor of St Thomas’ Hospital) at St Paul’s Cathedral.
From 1700, Gibbons worked mainly in stone. He was the only sculptor named in commissioning the statue of Clayton. His workshop was at the time very likely on the south bank of the river, in the area between Lambeth and Southwark. The hospital planned the statue in Clayton’s lifetime and installed it in 1701. The plinth was inscribed with Clayton’s biography in English and Latin after his death.
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