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Guy's Hospital

Mr. Guy, a very wealthy citizen and bookseller of London, not satisfied with his great benefactions to St. Thomas's, determined to be the sole founder of another hospital. The history of the building is remarkable, and deserves some detail. At the age of seventy-six, Mr. Guy took a piece of ground, opposite to St. Thomas's, of the governors of that hospital; and there in 1721, at the expense of 18,793l., he proceeded with that hospital which now bears his name; and he left to endow it the immense sum of 219,499l. He was the son of a lighterman and "coalmonger" in Southwark, and his splendid fortune he amassed from very small beginnings. He was not only fortunate in the sale of bibles, but he was very successful in purchasing seamen's tickets in queen Anne's reign, and in buying and selling South-Sea stock in the memorable year 1720! He died Dec. 27, 1724, aged 80 ; but he previously saw the roof on his hospital. Besides his expenditure on his own hospital, in his life-time he gave to many poor relatives 10l. and 20l. a year; to others money to promote them in business; and he bequeathed to his aged relations 870l. in annuities, and to his younger relations and executors 75,589l. !! He also bequeathed to Christ's hospital an annuity of 400l. for receiving four children yearly; and of 1,000l. for discharging poor prisoners within Middlesex and Surrey, who could be released for 5l. In consequence of this legacy, between 600 and 700 persons have obtained their liberty.

Previously to exclusive notice of Guy's Hospital, the preceding mention of the singularly successful founder cannot but be acceptable. In the chapel, "shouldering God's altar," as Pennant quaintly expresses himself, is a white marble statue of Mr. Guy, by J. Bacon, raised in 1779. He is represented standing in his liveryman's gown, with one hand raising a miserably sick object, and with the other pointing to a second object on a bier, being carried by two persons into his hospital. It cost 1,000l., some proof of the exuberant wealth of the foundation. Between 1728 and 1734, there were admitted into this hospital 12,402 patients; and at that time the house contained 12 wards, and 435 beds. There are now not quite so many beds.

The governors of this hospital were incorporated by act of parliament, which empowered them to purchase, either in perpetuity or for a term of years, any estate not exceeding 12,030l. per ann. The number of governors, to be appointed from those of St. Thomas's Hospital, by the founder, is 60; and it is enacted, that if the number does not exceed 40, the vacancies shall he supplied by the lord chancellor, lord keeper, or commissioners of the great seal, and lord chief baron of the exchequer, so as to make up the number of 50. It is also enacted, that the management of the hospital be referred to a president, treasurer, and 21 governors, forming a committee, appointed by a general court, seven of whom are annually changed. This committee is empowered to choose, and at pleasure to remove, all officers and servants employed in the hospital, except the physicians, surgeons, clerk, and chaplain, who are elected by the general court, to appoint their salaries, to admit objects of charity, and in general to transact the affairs of the hospital, subject to the inspection and control of a general court; and this general court has power to make any byelaws or the better government of the corporation. This hospital, so liberally endowed by its founder, was established for the reception of 400 sick and diseased objects, besides twenty incurable lunatics, who are provided for in a separate building.

This hospital is under the medical inspection of three physicians, three surgeons. and an apothecary. The number of patients admitted into this hospital on an average of ten years, has been 2,244 yearly, of whom 2,014 have been discharged, and 230 have died. To this hospital belongs a theatre for chemical, medical, and anatomical lectures. One evening in the weak medical subjects are debated. And there are yearly about 2,000 out-patients; but we believe there are not returns periodically published, as is the case with the other great hospitals.

Of late years the funds of this hospital have greatly improved. As far back as 1785, the late Dr. Lettsom (vide his Memoirs by Pettigrew, Correspondence, p 87) estimated the amount to be upwards of 20,000l.; and the assertion would not be made by such an individual on light grounds.

Source: Leigh's New Picture of London. Printed for Samuel Leigh, 18, Strand;
by W. Clowes, Northumberland Court. 1819