Statue of Robert Clayton

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.

Statue of Robert Clayton, St Thomas' Hospital, Lambeth
ArtistGrinling Gibbons
Completion datec.1714
SubjectSir Robert Clayton
LocationLambeth, London
Coordinates51.4992°N 0.1201°W / 51.4992; -0.1201
Listed Building – Grade I
Official nameStatue of Robert Clayton at North Entrance to Ward Block of North Wing at St Thomas' Hospital
Designated30 May 1979
Reference no.1319925


Robert Clayton was born in 1629, the son of "a poor man of no family".[1] Through his efforts, firstly as a land agent and subsequently as a banker, he made an enormous 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".[1] 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.[1]

The origin of St Thomas' Hospital was the sick house attached to the Church of St Mary Overie[2] in Southwark, founded in the 12th century.[3] 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.[4] The new buildings, of red brick and in a classical style were completed just after Clayton's death, in 1709.[2] 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,[5] which is supported by the Survey of London.[3] Historic England's listing designation gives a slightly later date of 1714, supported by an inscription on the statue's plinth.[6] Following the complete reconstruction of the hospital in 1872, on a site further up the River Thames at Lambeth,[4] the statue was moved to its present position.[5]

Architecture and description

The commission for the statue was awarded to Grinling Gibbons.[5] 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".[3] The statue is carved in marble, and stands on a marble plinth.[6] Clayton is depicted in his robes, with a periwig and pigtail, and carrying a scroll.[7] The plinth is decorated with cherubs and bears an inscription in Latin.[6]

The statue was designated a Grade I listed structure, the highest grading given to buildings and structures of "exceptional interest", in 1979.[6]



Further reading

  • Dresser, Madge (1 October 2007), "Set in Stone? Statues and Slavery in London", History Workshop Journal, 64 (1): 162–199, doi:10.1093/hwj/dbm032
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