Guy’s Hospital

During the 1720s, a new hospital was built alongside St Thomas’s. The hospital was founded by Sir Thomas Guy, a printer, publisher and governor of St Thomas’s, who had been successful on the Stock Market during the `South Sea Bubble’ Crash of 1720. He invested much of his new wealth into the hospital, which he began building in 1721. Unfortunately, three years later (at the age of 80), Thomas died; before the first patients were admitted.

Guy’s Hospital opened in 1726 with 100 beds and a staff of 51. It was originally intended that it should admit the `incurables’ that St Thomas’s refused to accept. It was for ‘the incurably ill and the hopelessly insane’.

It soon, however, developed into a ‘general’ hospital. Employees included a butler and a man responsible for killing bed bugs. When John Howard, the great prison reformer, visited the hospital in 1780 bugs were still a notable problem.

Nevertheless, he praised the iron bedsteads, ventilation, sanitation and new cold, hot and vapour baths. In 1744, a 20 bed lunatic house was built. Although the public attitude to the mentally ill was improving, it was the later work of John Howard, and the sympathy toward the mental illness of George III that laid the foundations of our modern methods of care. Guy was reburied in the new hospital chapel in 1780, where his splendid tomb and statue can be visited. The chapel is to the right of the courtyard on the opposite side of St Thomas’ Street.



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