Bust: Keats House at Guy's - bust 1 - William Harvey
Erection date: 1863
The collar, the hair-line, the facial growths - we hope you agree that this is Harvey.
Site: Keats House at Guy's (4 memorials)
SE1, St Thomas Street, 24-26, Keats House
The ground floor of the right-hand side is used as a doctor's surgery and we asked at reception for information about the building. A lady there was very helpful, telling us that it was built in 1863 as part of nearby Guy's Hospital. However, they have tried and failed to discover the identity of the busts. And we've struggled.
These busts are displayed in the arches above the first floor windows. On the second floor the same spaces above the two outer windows carry a shield device with a circular belt "dare quam accipere" - Guy's Hospital's motto, "it is better to give than to receive".
We'd expect the heads to show men either connected with Guy's Hospital and/or medicine more generally, with Thomas Guy and John Keats being very likely candidates. Bust 2 could be either of them but Keats is consistently shown with a centre parting which suggests number 2 represents Thomas Guy, but we are not certain.
The last two seem to be in Greek-Roman togas. In images Hippocrates is almost always bald and bearded so he could be number 3. And so we expected number 4 to represent Galen but he is never shown with such wild hair so we are stumped.
Surprisingly the building does not seem to be Listed, so no help there. Assistance needed.
2018: Phil Sutters came to the rescue. He pointed us to the excellent book 'Public Sculpture of South London' by Terry Cavanagh. Here our William Harvey and Hippocrates are confirmed. Sir Astley Paston Cooper is strongly suggested for bust 4. Portraits of him on-line show the same swept-back hair, long nose and slightly bulging eyes - we're convinced. But Cavanagh has nothing to offer for Bust 2. Phil thinks it must be (a late, and not well) Keats (given the name of the building) but we think it could equally well be Thomas Guy (compare with his statue at Guy's Hospital) although Phil points out that the clothing is anachronistic. It actually doesn't look much like either of them (meaning their portraits available on-line) so it could be another man entirely. Cavanagh gives the sculptor of all four busts as J. W. Seale, with the building designed by Newman & Billing.