Guy's Hospital

Pages 36-42

Survey of London: Volume 22, Bankside (The Parishes of St. Saviour and Christchurch Southwark). Originally published by London County Council, London, 1950.

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In 1721 Thomas Guy, who had for many years been a governor and benefactor of St. Thomas's Hospital, applied to the governors for a lease of several plots of ground described as being within the "close of the hospital" for the purpose of erecting a hospital for incurables. (fn. 64) The ground, which lay on the south side of St. Thomas Street next to the newly-made way or road to the Maze Pond, had for many years been let out in small plots and had a number of houses standing on it. (fn. 63) The leases of these plots had been bought by Guy from the tenants, William Gabb, Samuel Warburton and others, and in 1722 the governors granted him a lease of the ground for 1,000 years at a rent of £30 a year. The inset plan taken from the lease shows the extent of the ground and the original hospital building. The main gate of the hospital was in Maze Pond but an entrance to St. Thomas Street was made across the land in lease to Thomas Barry, part of a warehouse being pulled down to clear a passage. (fn. 64) Lane designed the building.

Figure 21:

Plan of the original block of Guy's Hospital. From a deed in the possession of the hospital

Thomas Guy died in 1724, leaving (fn. 67) the residue of his estate, after the payment of certain legacies, to trustees, Sir Gregory Page, Charles Joye, William Clayton, Thomas Hollis, John Kenrick, John Lade, Dr. Richard Mead, Moses Raper and John Sprint. The trustees were instructed "to finish and fit up the two new squares of building in Southwark, . . . some time since begun, and intended for an Hospital for reception of . . . four hundred poor PERSONS OR upwards, LABOURING UNDER ANY DISTEMPERS, INFIRMITIES, OR DISORDERS, THOUGHT CAPABLE OF RELIEF BY PHYSICK OR SURGERY; but who, by reason of the small hopes there may be of their cure, or the length of time which for that purpose may be required . . . are, or may be adjudged or called Incurable, and as such not proper Objects to be received into or continued in the present Hospital of Saint Thomas." He also suggested that lunatics not exceeding twenty in number might be admitted to the hospital, but he included a provision that the trustees might at their own discretion admit ordinary sick persons not deemed to be incurable. The governors were, therefore, acting within their powers in allowing the new institution to develop into a general hospital similar to St. Thomas's.

The hospital was opened in 1725 and by an Act of Parliament passed in that year the governors were incorporated. Sir Gregory Page became the first President, Dr. John Oldfield and Dr. James Jurin were appointed physicians, and Francis Crofts and Andrew Cooper surgeons. (fn. 68) John Hanson, the porter of the back gate of St. Thomas's Hospital, was made the first steward of Guy's. (fn. 64)

Guy's Hospital

By 1738 the General Court of the hospital considered that additional buildings were necessary. A lease of the ground between the north front of the hospital and St. Thomas Street was acquired from St. Thomas's Hospital, and the east wing, designed by James Steer, the hospital surveyor, was erected on part of it, the rest being laid out as a courtyard. £5,000 worth of South Sea stock was sold to pay for this improvement, of which £3,167 was paid to James Porter, the contractor for the actual building work. (fn. 69) The new block contained a committee room and a chapel. The work was practically completed by October, 1739, when the statue of Thomas Guy, which had been set up in the inner courtyard in 1734, (fn. 70) was moved to its present position. (fn. 68)

More ground on the north-west side of the hospital was acquired from St. Thomas's in 1756 but no further extensions were made until 1774 when the west wing, designed by Richard Jupp, was begun. (fn. 69)

The Maze Pond estate, south of the hospital, was bought in 1806 (fn. 71) and other ground in the neighbourhood in 1816 and 1833. In 1829 William Hunt, one of the governors, bequeathed £180,000 to the hospital for the fitting up of additional accommodation to hold at least 100 beds. Temporary wards, constructed out of old warehouses, were opened in 1830, but it was not until twenty years later that the small houses between Maze Pond and Newcomen Street were cleared away and Hunt's House was erected from the designs of Rhode Hawkins. The centre and south wing were finished in 1853 and the north wing in 1871. (fn. 71)

The two large houses, Nos. 24 and 26 St. Thomas Street, adjacent to the N.W. wing, were built in 1863 on ground previously occupied by the beadle's house.

Architectural Description

The plan of the original building, which still remains as the core of the hospital, is rectangular, with two internal courts divided by a cross wing which has an open arcaded ground storey of semicircular stone arches. This arcade extended around the remaining sides of both courts, but these portions were filled in about 1780, and semicircular headed windows were inserted. The building is of London stock brickwork, with red brick dressings to segmental-arched windows, and comprises three storeys and dormers. The roof generally has been altered by the construction of an overhanging slate mansard with large dormer windows and stone modillioned eaves cornice, but the western half retains on three sides the old tiled roof behind a parapet. Several old lead rainwater heads and pipes still remain.

The main entrance is on the north front and was remodelled about the time of the erection of the west wing to form a broad central projecting feature of five bays in Portland stone. The ground storey, which has v-jointed rustications, has three semicircular-arched openings with wrought-iron gates and fanlights of radiating bars and acanthus leaves and anthemion ornament, and is flanked by arched windows in recesses. It is approached by a flight of six granite steps with rounded ends extending across the width of the three openings at ground level. The second and third storeys have five bays with four attached Ionic columns and two flanking Ionic pilasters supporting an entablature and a central pediment. Set in niches in the end bays at first floor level are sculptured figures of Aesculapius and Hygieia, both by John Bacon. Beneath the three central second floor windows are sculptured panels of cherubs, and in the tympanum sculptured figures, the whole symbolising the arts of healing.

On either side of the entrance the rusticated ground storey, with a basement, is continued across the front for four bays on either side, in advance of the original building, and is surmounted by a balustraded parapet. Above are later additions in the form of iron balconies supported on cast-iron Ionic columns.

The glass-roofed operating theatre, built in 1867 above the centre block, has since been removed.

The east wing, which was similar in design to the existing west wing, was almost completely destroyed during the late war. In this wing were the Superintendent's House with its contemporary mahogany staircase, the Governors' Court Room decorated in the style of William Kent, and the Governors' Committee Room with the original Chippendale and Hepplewhite chairs belonging to William Hunt. These chairs are now in the present Court Room, formerly the Martha Ward, in the central block.

Most of the pictures of governors, surgeons and others connected with the hospital, which were formerly in the Governors' Court Room, have also been moved to the new Court Room. Among them is the portrait of Thomas Guy painted by Vanderbank in 1706 (Plate 31).

The west wing, designed by Richard Jupp, was erected in 1774–80. The centre part, facing the courtyard, projects slightly and the ground floor is faced in stone and rusticated; the remainder of the ground storey is plain. At first floor window level is a deep plain stone band containing turned stone balusters beneath the five windows of the centre projection. The upper part is of yellow stock brickwork with a moulded stucco cornice below the parapet, and a central pediment with stone cornice moulds and brick tympanum containing a clock. The ground floor openings have semicircular-arched heads and are set in arched recesses with plain keystones. The first and second floor windows of the centre portion have stone architrave surrounds, those on the first floor having pedimented heads alternately pointed and segmental.

Figure 22:


The hospital chapel, in the centre block of the west wing, is approached from the courtyard through a narrow vestibule. The chapel is square on plan and six bays in length; the sanctuary, with a single row of stalls on either side, occupies the westernmost bay and the vestibule the easternmost. The vestibule, which is completely screened off from the chapel, has a plaster vaulted ceiling and contains the stairs to the gallery.

On three sides of the chapel there is a plain wood-fronted gallery supported on wood Ionic columns and extending over the vestibule. The chapel walls have arched panel treatment in plaster and are divided at the east and west ends by wood Ionic columns similar to those supporting the gallery. Over the body of the chapel is a flat plaster ceiling ornamented in the centre with a circular fan motif, and framed by plaster-groined semi-vaults springing from the columns at gallery level. The gallery has a plaster-groined ceiling.

The altarpiece, of polished oak, has three painted panels, the centre one, which is pedimented, depicting the Crucifixion and those on each side the figures of St. Luke and St. Barnabas. Above are three stained glass memorial windows to William Hunt, who died in 1829.

On the walls below the north and south galleries are a series of mosaic panels of Scriptural figures interspaced by oak memorial panels commemorating men and women who have died in the service of the hospital since 1867. The font is of white marble.

At the back of the chapel, in the centre of the east end and set in a semicircular arched surround of green marble, is a white marble monument to Guy by John Bacon. (fn. n1) It was erected in 1779 and represents the founder inviting a stricken figure to the hospital which is shown in low relief in the background. Above in white marble is a shield bearing the arms of the hospital with the motto "Dare Quam Accipere" on a scroll. The base has two circular panels with figures in relief and bears the inscription—
Underneath are deposited the Remains of
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 prosperous 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 administring with extensive
Bounty to the claims of Consanguinity,
He established this Asylum for that stage
of Languor and Disease to which the Charities of
Others had not reached. He
provided a Retreat for hopeless Insanity, and
rivalled the endowments of Kings.
He died the 27th of December, 1724,
in the 80th Year of his Age.

The monument is enclosed within a semicircular iron railing with delicate cast ornament.

In the chapel are also a number of memorials to various benefactors and members of the hospital staff.

Beneath the chapel is a crypt with groined brick vaults supported on massive brick piers. Guy's remains now rest in a plain stone coffin-shaped tomb bearing the inscription—
The Remains of
Founder of this Hospital
who died the 27th Decr., 1724
Aged 80
Removed from the Vault
under St. Thomas's Church
to this place
4th September, 1780.

The following inscriptions occur on other table tombs in the vault—
The Body of
Treasurer of St. Thomas's
& Guy's Hospital;
who died the 20th Decr., 1737. Aged 67 years;
To be remov'd into Guy's
Chapel when built, & lay'd
as near as may be to the
Body of the Founder
By order of a Court of
Committees, of Guy's
Hospital, dated the
7th Ianry., 1737/8.

The Remains
Died 23rd September, 1829
Aged 79 Years.

BARt. G.C.H.
Died 12th Feby.
(This inscription is on a brass plate
attached to the tomb.)

The main courtyard to the hospital is entered from St. Thomas Street by a fine 18th century gateway with double wrought-iron gates to the carriageway and single side gates for foot traffic, each with an overthrow of scrolled ironwork; the arched centre one, which is of later date, is crowned with the arms of the hospital.

The gateway is flanked by two massive rusticated Portland stone piers each with a semicircular headed niche and surmounted by a pulvinated frieze and cornice and ball terminal. Plain wrought-iron railings with ornamental panels at intervals extend along the remainder of this side of the courtyard.

The statue of Guy by Peter Scheemakers, in the main courtyard, is a standing figure in bronze, representing him in a livery gown. On the front of the stone pedestal, which is of later date, is a bronze cartouche bearing the inscription "Thomas Guy Sole Founder of this Hospital in his lifetime A.D. MDCCXXI." The sides have bronze panels in relief representing the Good Samaritan and Christ Healing the Sick. On the fourth side is a bronze cartouche with the arms of the hospital. The statue is enclosed within stout wrought-iron railings of mid-18th century date. Within the eastern internal court is a round-hooded Portland stone alcove from old London Bridge. It was taken down in 1831, brought to the Hospital in 1861, and re-erected in its present position in 1926.

Figure 23:

Stone alcove from London Bridge


  • n1. John Bacon and Joseph Wilton were both asked to prepare models for the monument, but Bacon's was preferred. He received £1,000 for the completed work. Wilton was paid £31 10s. for his model.
  • 63. Guy's Hospital Records.
  • 64. St. Thomas's Hospital Records: Minute Books.
  • 67. A Copy of the last Will and Testament of Thomas Guy, 1732.
  • 68. Guy's Hospital Records: General Court Minute Book.
  • 69. Guy's Hospital Records: Accounts.
  • 70. Gent. Mag.
  • 71. Guy's Hospital, by Wilks and Bettany, 1892.