The History and Antiquities of London, Westminster, Southwark, and Parts Adjacent, vol. 4

Allen, Thomas


Guy's Hospital.


On the north side of , stands this truly excellent foundation, little inferior to the last, but more remarkable, from


the circumstance of its having been built and endowed by a single individual; it is indeed a monument of private munificence, to which it would be difficult to produce a parallel. It is named after its founder, Thomas Guy. He was the son of a lighterman and coal-dealer in Horsleydown, was born in , and was put apprentice to a bookseller and binder, on . He began business with a stock of the value of about in the house which still forms the angle between and . English bibles being at that time very indifferently printed, he engaged in a scheme for printing them in Holland, and importing them into this country; but this practice proving detrimental to the university and the king's printer, they employed all possible means to suppress it, and so far succeeded, that Mr. Guy found it his interest to enter into a contract with them, and in consequence enjoyed a very extensive and lucrative trade. Being a single man, he spent a very small portion of his profits. He dined on his counter, with no other tablecloth than a newspaper, and was not more nice about his apparel. But a still more profitable concern than his trade was opened to his active mind during queen Anne's wars, when he is said to have acquired the bulk of his fortune by the purchase of seamen's tickets.

For the application of this fortune to charitable uses, the public,

says Highmore, in his History of the Public Charities of London,

are indebted to a trifling circumstance. He employed a female servant whom he had agreed to marry. Some days previous to the intended ceremony, he had ordered the pavement before his door to be mended up to a particular stone which he had marked, and then left his house on business. The servant in his absence, looking at the workmen, saw a broken stone beyond this mark which they had not repaired, and on pointing to it with that design, they acquainted her that Mr. Guy had not ordered them to go so far. She, however, directed it to be done, adding, with the security incidental to her expectation of soon becoming his wife:

Tell him I bade you, and he will not be angry.

But she too soon learnt how fatal it is for any


in a dependent situation to exceed the limits of their authority; for her master, on his return, was enraged at finding that they had gone beyond his orders, renounced his engagement to his servant, and devoted his ample fortune to public charity.

Mr. Guy served in several parliaments for Tamworth, in Staffordshire, where his mother was born, and where he founded almshouses for men and women, besides bestowing considerable benefactions. The burgesses, however, forgetful of his services, gave their suffrages to an opposing candidate. They soon repented of their ingratitude, and when too late to repair it, sent a deputation to implore his pardon and to intreat his permission to re-elect him for the next parliament; but he rejected the offer on account of his advanced age, and never represented any other place.



Besides the large sums which Mr. Guy expended on his own hospital, and that of St. Thomas, he bequeathed to a perpetual annuity of for receiving children yearly; to his poor relations he left annuities for life to the amount of and among his younger relations and executors ; for discharging poor prisoners within the city of London, and in the counties of Middlesex and Surrey, who could be released for ; and a perpetual annuity of for the further support of his alms-houses at Tamworth, and putting out apprentices in that town.

If, as the Apostle has taught us, charity covereth a multitude of sins, is it not but reasonable to believe that this has much more than atoned for the only foible, parsimony, with which Mr. Guy has been charged?

Having formed his plan, at the age of , he procured from the governors of a lease of a spacious piece of their ground, for a term of years, at a rent of per annum. It has been said that the reason of his choosing this situation (certainly not a good , though much improved lately), was an intention of putting it under the care of the governors of St. Thomas's, though he afterwards altered that design. Having cleared the ground in , he laid the stone of his new building in the year . He lived to see it covered in, but died , before it was completely finished. His trustees, however, faithfully executed his design, and very soon procured an act of parliament for establishing the foundation according to the directions of his will. By this act it is provided that the executors and gentlemen nominated by Mr. Guy, should be a corporation, by the name of the president and governors of the hospital, founded at the sole cost and charges of Thomas Guy, esq.; that they should have perpetual succession, a common seal, and power to alter the same at discretion, should possess the testator's estates, and might purchase other estates, not exceeding a year, and to sell, lease, or exchange the same as might be convenient; the president and treasurer to continue for life, or till removed by a general court, or till they resign; a committee of ( of which to be annually changed) to have the whole management of the estate; or more, with the president and treasurer, to be a court. By this committee, all officers and servants of the hospital (except the physicians, surgeons, clerk, and chaplain, who are to be elected by a general court), are to be elected, patients admitted, and new governors appointed in case of vacancies, so as the whole number never exceed . The transactions and account to be subject to the inspection and control of governors appointed for that purpose.

The whole expense of erecting and furnishing this hospital, amounted to the sum of great part of which Mr. Guy


expended in his life-time; and he left to endow it; both together amounting to ; a much larger sum than was ever left before in this kingdom, by single person, to charitable purposes.

This building consists of quadrangles, beside the wings that extend from the front to the street.

The entrance into the building, which was erected from the designs of Mr. Dance, is by an elegant and noble iron gate, supported by stone piers. These gates open into a square, in the centre of which is a brazen statue of the founder, by Mr. Scheemakers, dressed in a livery gown, and well executed. In the front of the pedestal is this inscription:--



On the west side of the pedestal is represented, in basso relievo, the parable of the Good Samaritan; on the south side are Mr. Guy's arms, viz. a chevron charged with fleur de lis, between tiger's heads crowned; and on that side of the pedestal facing the east, is our Saviour healing the impotent man.

The centre of the front is of stone, and consists of a rusticated basement, in which are arched entrances to the quadrangle, and windows. This supports pilasters and Ionic columns, the intercolumniations containing windows and niches, in which are emblematic statues. The attic has windows, and the tympanum is ornamented by an emblematic relief. This front was new faced about the year , and is, with the statues, the work of the late Mr. Bacon, who was a native of .

Passing through the arches is a long colonnade, on each side of which are the wards for the patients, containing above beds. Iron bedsteads have been introduced as a preservative against vermin. of the wards are appropriated to surgical cases, for accidents; the remainder are filled according to circumstances. The court room is a handsome apartment: over the president's chair is a portrait of the founder by Dahl. He is represented seated in a chair, having a large flowing wig, a long neckcloth, and black gown. On the ceiling of this apartment is his apotheosis. He is represented seated on a cloud, surrounded with emblematic figures, cherubs suspending a coronet over his head.

The superstructure of this hospital has floors besides the garrets, and the same construction runs through the whole building, which is so extensive as to contain wards, in which are beds, exclusive of those that may be placed in the additional part; and the whole is advantageously disposed for the mutual accommodation of the sick, and those who attend them.

In the chapel, which is plainly fitted up, is a fine figure of Mr. Guy in statuary marble, by the late Mr. Bacon, in , which cost He is represented in his livery-gown standing, and holding


out hand to raise an emaciated figure lying on the ground, and pointing with the other to a on a bier carrying into the hospital. In the back ground is the hospital. There are some small emblematic medallions on the sides of the pedestal, on which is this inscription:--

Underneath are deposited the remains of Thomas Guy, citizen of London, member of parliament, and the sole founder of this hospital in his life-time. It is peculiar to this beneficent man to have persevered, during a long course of prosperity and industry, in pouring forth to the wants of others all that he had earned by labour, or withheld from self-indulgence. Warm with philanthropy, and exalted by charity, his mind expanded to those noble affections which grow but too rarely from the most elevated pursuits. After administering with extensive bounty to the claims of consanguinity, he established this asylum for that stage of languor and disease to which the charity of others had not reached; he provided a retreat for hopeless insanity, and rivalled the endowment of kings. He died the

27th of December, 1724

, in the


year of his age.

As soon as this corporation was established by parliament, the governors immediately set about completing the work, by finishing and furnishing the hospital, and taking in patients, the number of whom, at , amounted to . The officers and servants belonging to this hospital are chosen by the governors, who have, ever since, carried on this noble charity in such manner as to answer, in the strictest degree, the benevolent intentions of the founder.

The parish had some old houses, for the residence of poor persons, standing on part of the ground where the new houses on the north side of have been built, which they gave up to when they were improving the street and building the good houses standing near . In exchange for these, the hospital gave them small houses in Pipe-makers alley, for the residence of poor persons.


[] Manning and Bray's Surrey, iii. 672.

This object is in collection Subject Temporal Permanent URL
Component ID:
To Cite:
TARC Citation Guide    EndNote
Detailed Rights
View all images in this book
 Title Page
CHAPTER I: Site, local divisions, and government of the City of Westminster; history of the Abbey; Coronation Ceremonies; and lists of the Abbots and Deans
CHAPTER II: Westminster Abbey, and Description of the Tombs and Monuments
CHAPTER III: History and Topography of St. Margaret's Parish
CHAPTER IV: History and Topography of St. John's Parish, Westminster
CHAPTER V: History and Topography of the parish of St. Martin's in the Fields, Westminster
CHAPTER VI: History and Topogrpahy of the parish of St. James, Westminster
CHAPTER VII: History and Topography of the Parish of St. Anne, Westminster
CHAPTER VIII: History and Topography of the parish of St. Paul, Covent Garden
CHAPTER IX: History and Topography of the Parish of St. Mary-le-strand
CHAPTER X: History and Topogrpahy of the parish of St. Clement Danes
CHAPTER XI: History and Topography of the parish of st. George, Hanover Square
CHAPTER XII: History and Topography of the Precinct of the Savoy
CHAPTER XIII: History and Topography of the Inns of Court
CHAPTER XIV: History and Topography of the Precincts of the Charter-house and Ely Place, and the Liberty of the Rolls
 CHAPTER XV: Historical Notices of the Borough of Southwark
CHAPTER XVI: History and Topography of the Parish of St. Olave, Southwark
CHAPTER XVII: History and Topography of the parish of St. John, Southwark
CHAPTER XVIII: History and Topography of the parish of St. Thomas, Southwark
CHAPTER XIX: History and Topogrpahy of the parish of St. George's, Southwark
CHAPTER XX: History and Topography of St. Saviour's Parish
CHAPTER XXI: History and Topography of the parist of Christ-church in the County of Surrey
 CHAPTER XXII: A List of the Principal Books, &c that have been published in Illustration of the Antiquities, History, Topography, and other subjects treated of in this Work
 Addenda et Corrigienda