Everything we know about Thomas Guy’s links to the the slave trade
His name is all over KCL
On Sunday, anti-racism protestors in Bristol tore down a statue of slave trader Edward Colston and threw it into the harbour.
Since then, other statues linked to racism, the slave trade, and the empire have come under scrutiny.
Sadiq Khan recently announced a review of statues in London and a statue of slave trader Robert Milligan has already been removed.
Unfortunately for King’s, they have an entire campus named after and dedicated to a slaver, Thomas Guy.
Who was Thomas Guy?
Guy owned £42,000 shares in the South Sea Company, a company that supplied 4,800 slaves a year for 30 years to Spanish plantations in Central and South America and transported around 64,000 slaves in total between 1715 and 1731. He then sold these shares in 1720 for nearly £235,000.
What is his connection to King’s?
Guy’s campus was named after Thomas Guy who was the governor of St Thomas’ Hospital and founded Guy’s Hospital. However, he did so with the profits he made from the slave trade.
Guy’s campus is not the only tribute to him at King’s, Guy’s Hospital, Guy’s Chapel which houses his tomb, and Guy’s Bar are all named after him in addition to a statue in the centre of the campus’ courtyard.
What does King’s say about him?
The KCL website fails to mention Thomas Guy’s involvement in the slave trade. Under a section titled ‘Who was Thomas Guy?’, it describes him as ‘an eccentric and controversial philanthropist who made his wealth by printing Bibles illegally’.
The website claims ‘Thomas Guy is remembered for an act of extraordinary generosity. Guy was a governor of St Thomas’ Hospital, then located on the London Bridge side of St Thomas’ Street.’
‘He hated to see poor people not in full health, and those with mental health problems, discharged from hospital before they were healed due to a lack of funds (see the magnificent sculpture in the Chapel, showing Guy rescuing a vulnerable person from the gutter).’
‘So, with his huge wealth, he decided, in 1721, to found a new hospital from which no one would ever be turned away for financial reasons. He died soon after dedicating his money to this cause.’
Will his statue be taken down?
The Guys’ and St Thomas’ trust has agreed to co-operate with the commission set up by London mayor Sadiq Khan and consider taking down the statue. They stated ‘We welcome the Mayor of London’s commission announced today and will work with the commission to consider the right way forward. We recognise and understand the anger felt by the black community and are fully committed to playing our part in ending racism, discrimination and inequality.’
A petition has also been set up by King’s students to change the name of Guy’s Campus.