Thomas Guy

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Thomas Guy, 1706

Thomas Guy (1644 – 27 December 1724) was a British bookseller, investor, member of Parliament, and the founder of Guy's Hospital, London.

Early life[edit]

Thomas Guy was the eldest child of a lighterman, coalmonger, and carpenter, born in Southwark, in south London. When his father died, in 1652, his family moved to Tamworth, Guy's mother's birthplace. He returned to London in 1660 and spent eight years as the apprentice of a bookseller. In 1668, he was admitted into the Stationers' Company and made a freeman of the City of London. The same year, he opened a bookstore in Lombard Street. Initially, Guy illegally imported Dutch bibles into England, as they were of higher quality than English bibles. A frugal bachelor, after nine years of business, in 1677, he paid for new facilities at the Tamworth free grammar school, where he had been educated before his apprenticeship. The next year, he built an almshouse in Tamworth. In 1679, he was contracted by the University of Oxford to produce bibles under their licence. He was elected as MP for Tamworth in 1695 and commissioned a new Tamworth Town Hall in 1701. However, when the voters of Tamworth rejected him in 1707, he angrily refused to help them any further.[1][2][3]

Investment in the South Sea Company[edit]

By the late 1670s, Guy had begun purchasing seamen's pay-tickets at a large discount, as well as making large loans to landowners. In 1711, these tickets, part of the short-term "floating" national debt, were converted into shares of the South Sea Company in a debt-for-equity swap. The South Sea Company was primarily a government-debt holding company; although it held a monopoly on British trade to Spanish America, this used less than 2% of the Company's capital.[4] In 1720, before the South Sea Bubble burst, he sold 54,040 stock for £234,428, making a profit of about £175,000.[5] He re-invested this money in £179,566 4% government annuities, £8,000 of 5% government annuities, and £1,500 East India Company shares.[6]


Foundation plaque, Guy's Hospital, London
Memorial to Guy in the Chapel at Guy's Hospital

In 1704, Guy became a governor of St Thomas' Hospital, in London. He gave £1000 to the hospital in 1707 and further large sums later. In 1721, having quintupled his fortune the previous year, he decided to found a new hospital "for incurables". Work on what became Guy's Hospital began in 1721.

Thomas Guy died unmarried on 27 December 1724. Having already spent £19,000 on the hospital, his will endowed it with £219,499, the largest individual charitable donation of the early eighteenth century. He also gave an annuity of £400 to Christ's Hospital as well as numerous and diverse other charitable donations. The rest of his estate, some £75,589, went to cousins, friends, and more distant relatives.[7]

On 24 March 1725, George I gave royal assent to a bill incorporating the executors of Guy's will and formally thanking Guy for helping "the Honour and Good of the publick".[8]

In 1995, 271 years after his death, a new dual carriageway by-passing Tamworth was named Thomas Guy Way in his honour.


Parliament allowed Guy's Hospital to spend up to £2,000 to perpetuate Guy's "Generous and Charitable Intentions". In 1732, the administrators commissioned Peter Scheemakers, who created a striking brass and marble statue of Guy in the livery of the Stationers' Company, notably wearing no wig, an indication of Guy's lack of ostentation. The monument includes the motto Dare Quam Accipere ("to give than to receive"), a relief of Christ Healing the Sick Man, and another relief of the Good Samaritan. It stands in the courtyard of the main forecourt of Guy's Hospital.

In 1776, the hospital built a new west wing, including a chapel. The administrators commissioned John Bacon to sculpt a life-sized marble funerary monument inside it. Bacon’s work portrays Guy as "a living Samaritan", helping a sick man. Roundels on the monument contain the figures of Industry, Prudence, Temperance, and Charity.[7]

As of June 2020, the future of these monuments is being reviewed by Guy's Hospital Trust, in connection with a commission set up by London mayor Sadiq Khan to review statues and street names linked to slavery, due to controversy over Guy's holdings in the South Sea Company.[9] On 11 June 2020, the Trust said they will remove them from public view.[10]


  • A True Copy of the Last Will and Testament of Thomas Guy, Esq. (London, 1725)
  • John Noorthouck, A New History of London, vol. iii. ch. i. p. 684 (1773)
  • Nichols, Literary Anecdotes, iii. 599 (1812)
  • Charles Knight, Shadows of the Old Booksellers, pp. 3–23 (1865)
  • S. Wilkes and G. T. Bettany A Biographical History of Guy's Hospital, (1892).
  • Copy of the Last Will and Testament of Thomas Guy Esq. with an ACT for incorporating the Executors of the said Will (London, printed for the Governors of Guy's Hospital, 1815)
  • Jane Bowden-Dan – Mr Guy's Hospital and the Caribbean (History Today June 2006)


  1. ^ Hervey, Nick (2004). "Guy, Thomas (1644/5?–1724), philanthropist and founder of Guy's Hospital". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/11800. Retrieved 10 June 2020. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. ^ Gardiner, Juliet (2000). The History Today Who's Who In British History. London: Collins & Brown Limited and Cima Books. p. 376. ISBN 1-85585-876-2.
  3. ^ "Thomas Guy - Tamworth Heritage Trust". Retrieved 16 June 2020.
  4. ^ Dickson, P. G. M. (Peter George Muir) (1993). The financial revolution in England : a study in the development of public credit, 1688–1756. Aldershot, Hampshire, England: Gregg Revivals. ISBN 0-7512-0010-7. OCLC 28695656.
  5. ^ Odlyzko, Andrew (2019). "Newton's Financial Misadventures in the South Sea Bubble". The Royal Society Journal of the History of Science. 73: 29–59.
  6. ^ Jones, T. Roy (1 January 1938). "The Holdings of Thomas Guy in the South Sea Company". Baptist Quarterly. 9 (3): 170–183. doi:10.1080/0005576X.1938.11750464. ISSN 0005-576X.
  7. ^ a b Solkin, David H. (1 September 1996). "Samaritan or Scrooge? The Contested Image of Thomas Guy in Eighteenth-Century England". The Art Bulletin. 78 (3): 467–484. doi:10.1080/00043079.1996.10786698 (inactive 31 October 2021). ISSN 0004-3079.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: DOI inactive as of October 2021 (link)
  8. ^ "An Act for Incorporating the Executors of the Last Will and Testament of Thomas Guy, late of the City of London, Esq; Deceased, and others, in Order to the better Management and Disposition of the Charities given by his said Last Will," 11 George I Cap. XII.
  9. ^ "Black Lives Matter: Winston Churchill monument and Cenotaph boarded up as more statues removed". Sky News. Retrieved 16 June 2020.
  10. ^ Trust, Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation. "Joint statement about Thomas Guy and Robert Clayton statues". Retrieved 16 June 2020.
Parliament of England
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Tamworth
With: Sir Henry Gough 1695–98
John Chetwynd 1698–99
Sir Henry Gough 1699–1701
Henry Thynne 1701–02
Henry Girdler 1702–08
Succeeded by