Thomas Guy

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Thomas Guy, 1706

Thomas Guy (1644 – 27 December 1724) was a British bookseller, speculator and de facto founder of Guy's Hospital, London.

Early life[edit]

Thomas Guy was born a son of a lighterman, wharf owner and coal-dealer at Southwark. In 1668, after eight years as an apprentice of a bookseller, he began his own bookstore in Lombard Street. At first he sold bibles that were poorly printed in England so he imported them from the Netherlands. Eventually he gained a privilege of printing them from the University of Oxford and became book publisher.

Guy had a reputation as a miser, mainly because a rival bookseller John Dunton accused him of paying low wages and refusing to help the charities. In fact, Guy was a stock speculator. He invested in government securities and bought shares to the value of £42,000 in the South Sea Company, a company involved in the Atlantic slave trade. In 1720 he successfully sold his stock of the company with the price ranging £300–600 per share and amassed a large fortune. During the British wars against Louis XIV of France, Guy successfully speculated in seamen's pay tickets.


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

Despite his reputation, Guy did provide for charities. In 1678 he gave money to almshouses at Tamworth, his mother's birthplace, and also represented that town in parliament from 1695 to 1707.

In 1704 Guy became a governor of St Thomas' Hospital. In 1707 he had built three wards and supported the hospital afterwards. In 1725 Guy opened the Guy's Hospital opposite to Thomas' Hospital at a cost of £18,793, 16 shillings.

Thomas Guy died unmarried on 27 December 1724 and was buried in the crypt beneath the chapel at the hospital which bears his name. His will left £219,499 to the Guy's Hospital. He also gave an annuity of £400 to Christ's Hospital, which at that time was in London. In his will, he bequeathed financial support for the releasing and discharging of poor prisoners for debt out of prisons in London, Middlesex and Surrey and made various provisions for the homeless as well as sick. The rest of his estate went to cousins, friends and more distant relatives or acquaintances, many of whom were left up to £1,000 each.

The will had been signed and sealed in the presence of a John Oldfield, William Pepys, John Adlam and Samuel Adlam.

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


  • 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)


  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Guy, Thomas". Encyclopædia Britannica. 12 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  • Jane Bowden-Dan – Mr Guy's Hospital and the Caribbean (History Today June 2006)
Parliament of England
Preceded by
Michael Biddulph
Sir Henry Gough
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
Richard Swinfen
Henry Girdler