Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility Telling the full histories of Sir Robert Clayton and Thomas Guy - Guy's & St Thomas' Foundation

Telling the full histories of Sir Robert Clayton and Thomas Guy

Some of the most visible artworks within our collection are statues of Sir Robert Clayton and Thomas Guy, which sit in public spaces outside of hospitals within Southwark and Lambeth.

The base of Sir Robert Clayton statue sits in the photograph's foreground, with Big Ben in the background


We have a new statues webpage. Read about the conservation work on statues of two of our benefactors, and our work to better understand and contextualise their histories.


We own and manage one of the largest health-related arts and heritage collections in Europe. Just over half of the collection is currently on display across Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust hospitals and community sites, enhancing spaces for patients, staff and visitors. This supports our mission to build the foundations of a healthier society.

Some of the most visible artworks within our collection are statues, which sit in public spaces outside of hospitals within Southwark and Lambeth. A statue of Thomas Guy by Peter Scheemakers sits within a central courtyard outside Guy’s Hospital, while a statue of Sir Robert Clayton by Grinling Gibbons sits outside St Thomas’ Hospital. Both statues are listed objects. They gained listed status in the 1970’s when listing prioritised areas threatened by post-war development.

Explore our collection and how it is used.

Listed buildings and objects

Listing marks a building’s special architectural and historic interest, and also brings it under the consideration of the planning system, so that it can be protected for future generations.

Find out more about the listing system on the Historic England website.

Findings of public consultation

Expert historical research commissioned in 2020 confirmed that both men made a substantive part of their wealth from the trade of enslaved people. An independent, public consultation recommended that both statues should be retained in the public realm, with the statue of Thomas Guy relocated to a less prominent location, and changes should be made to how they are positioned and interpreted.

In September 2021 we confirmed the intention to follow these recommendations. This includes developing information explaining full histories of both men, including how they made their wealth, and their connections with the trade of enslaved people, made more broadly available through interpretation at the statues and online.

The Foundation commissioned work to develop this information to tell the full histories of Guy and Clayton (often referred to as interpretation in a museum context). It is being led by experts and shaped by best practice, historical research, recommendations from the public consultation and engagement. We are currently asking people who come into frequent contact with the statues for their views on the design of the interpretation, with the support of community engagement experts.

Our ability to move the statue of Thomas Guy to a less prominent location is informed by government policy, which currently sets out that statues should remain in place, but with more explanation provided on their history, and is unlikely to change in the short to medium term. Our commitment to moving the statue will be based on further consultation and government policy in the future.

Conservation of the Statues of Sir Robert Clayton and Thomas Guy

Both statues were placed behind protective hoarding in 2020 while we consulted with local communities on the future of the statues. The hoarding has been removed to allow conservation work on the statues, which we are legally required to do due to their listed status and our role as custodians of both artworks.

Due to their listed status, the Foundation is legally required to ensure the preservation of the two statues and this includes undertaking conservation work.

The first step is an expert assessment of the statues to determine the extent of the conservation needed. This includes assessing deterioration to the statues’ stonework from weather, planning the cleaning and protection of metal elements.

While this work is conducted, temporary interpretation will be in place. The assessment process will take approximately eight weeks.

Our approach

In a museum context, telling the full story is often referred to as ‘interpretation’. The Foundation is taking an approach that is led by experts, and shaped by best practice, historical research and public consultation and engagement. It has also been informed by the views of specialist organisations, such as Historic England and the Mayor’s Commission on Diversity in the Public Realm. It is also aligned with the ‘retain and explain’ approach in the revised government heritage guidance, and the advice from Historic England to ‘provide thoughtful, long-lasting and powerful reinterpretation’ to historical monuments.

The interpretation is being developed in collaboration with an Interpretation Working Group made up of representatives from Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, King’s College London, Black Cultural Archives and the Foundation. The Group includes a range of professionals from the worlds of heritage, arts development, history, education, diversity and inclusion and student relations. They have responsibility for representing the voices of their organisations and communities to guide the interpretation work.

In approaching the interpretation in this way, the Foundation aims to bring together a range of diverse perspectives, including those who are typically under-represented in public discussions of this kind and recognising the particular experience of people from African and Caribbean communities.

Making the interpretation accessible

The interpretation will focus on facts, be easy to understand, and provide more historical context about these two men. It will help people to better understand the histories of both men including how they generated their wealth has left a legacy that has long lasting impacts on society today. It will be layered and accessible to ensure that we cater to different learning styles and make the information provided relevant to people’s lives.

To help inform the final materials, the emerging designs will be shared to gather views from a range of people who are in close contact with the statues, such as people connected with key local institutions and people living in the area.

Art, health equity and our mission

Our mission is to build the foundations of a healthier society that helps everyone stay healthier, for longer. To drive greater health equity, we aim to collaborate with all parts of society, from communities and grassroots organisations to hospitals, academics, charities and government.

We are committed to tackling the impact racism has on health inequalities and supporting greater diversity within the Foundation and our work.  This includes working to increase the diversity of voices celebrated in the public realm through our arts collection and commissions within healthcare settings.

We are committed to building a better understanding of how our past has a presence in the present as it plays an important role in helping us achieve our mission.  This includes acknowledging our heritage and doing more to understand the historical links of our endowment with the trade of enslaved people.

You can read more about the history of our collection, and more about the legacy stream of our Diversity Equity and inclusion work.