George Stacey Gibson was in many ways the quintessential Victorian philanthropist. Very little happened in Saffron Walden without his knowledge. As the town’s banker, Gibson had his finger in many pies. He was a Councillor and then Alderman for 24 years, and was twice elected Mayor. He was Treasurer of the local British Schools for 45 years, Vice Chairman of the Board of Guardians, and Chairman of the Management Committee of the Saffron Walden Hospital. It was Gibson who was prominent in bringing the railway to the town. He was also a distinguished botanist and author of the Flora of Essex. He was a leading member of the Society of Friends both locally and nationally.
But it is as Saffron Walden’s greatest benefactor that Gibson is best remembered. Both during his lifetime and after his death, there was hardly any institution in Gibson’s native town which did not benefit from his liberality. It was said of the Gibsons that their business instincts compelled them to make money and their faith compelled them to give it away. Gibson, when he died in 1883, left a substantial estate of £342,456, worth at least £23 million in today’s money. This was distributed to the hospital, the museum, the literary society, the Grammar School, the British Schools, the Friends’ School, the training school for female teachers, the almshouses, as well as outside the town.