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Statue of Robert Clayton
Sir Robert Clayton statue.jpg
The statue in 2015
Artist Grinling Gibbons
Completion date c. 1714
Type Sculpture
Medium Marble
Subject Sir Robert Clayton
Location Lambeth, London
Coordinates 51°29′57″N 0°07′12″W / 51.4992°N 0.1201°W / 51.4992; -0.1201Coordinates: 51°29′57″N 0°07′12″W / 51.4992°N 0.1201°W / 51.4992; -0.1201
Listed Building – Grade I
Official name Statue of Robert Clayton at North Entrance to Ward Block of North Wing at St Thomas' Hospital
Designated 30 May 1979
Reference no. 1319925

The statue of Robert Clayton stands at the entrance to the North Wing of St Thomas' Hospital, Lambeth, London. The sculptor was Grinling Gibbons, and the statue was executed around 1700–1714. Sir Robert was a banker, politician and Lord Mayor of London. As President of St Thomas', he was responsible for the complete rebuilding of the hospital, and associated church in the late 17th century. The statue was designated a Grade I listed structure in 1979.

Description

The statue is carved in marble, and stands on a marble plinth. Clayton is depicted in his robes, with a periwig and pigtail, and carrying a scroll. The plinth is decorated with cherubs and bears an inscription in Latin.

History

Robert Clayton was born in 1629, the son of "a poor man of no family". Working firstly as a land agent and subsequently as a banker, he made a large fortune such that, by the 1670s, the diarist John Evelyn, described him as "this prince of citizens, there never having been any, who, for the stateliness of his palace, prodigious feasting, and magnificence, exceeded him". Clayton became an M.P., served on innumerable parliamentary committees and in 1692 was made President of St Thomas' Hospital, an office he held until his death in 1707.

The origin of St Thomas' Hospital was the sick house attached to the Church of St Mary Overie in Southwark, founded in the 12th century. By the late 17th century, the hospital was in a dilapidated state and Clayton employed the architect, and St Thomas' governor, Thomas Cartwright to undertake complete rebuilding. The new buildings, of red brick and in a classical style were completed just after Clayton's death, in 1709. The statue was commissioned at some time around this date, to commemorate Clayton's contribution to the hospital. Dates for the actual construction vary; Pevsner gives 1701–1702, which is supported by the Survey of London. Historic England's listing designation gives a slightly later date of 1714, supported by an inscription on the statue's plinth. The commission for the statue was awarded to Grinling Gibbons. Gibbons was paid £50 "to cutt the said Statue in the best Statue Marble by Christmas next" and a further £150 "as soon as the Work is finished".

Following the complete reconstruction of the hospital in 1872, on a site further up the River Thames at Lambeth, the statue was moved to its present position. The work was listed at Grade I, the highest grading given to buildings and structures of "exceptional interest", in 1979.

Removal of the statue

The killing of George Floyd in the United States on 25 May 2020 led to worldwide protests against racism, including in the United Kingdom. A demonstration in Bristol organised by the Black Lives Matter movement culminated in the toppling of the statue of Edward Colston, targeted due to Colston's involvement in the slave trade. This action led to a wider debate in the UK regarding statues commemorating those connected to slavery. Clayton was a shareholder in, and assistant to, the Royal African Company, founded in 1660, a major slaving institution. On 11 June 2020, a joint statement from the Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust announced that Clayton's statue, together with that of Thomas Guy, would be removed from public view.

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