John Guest, a historian, was born in 1799; the son of a tailor who had business premises in Bridgegate. He did not enter into his father’s business, but instead became apprentice to a grocer. He later became a solicitor’s clerk, before joining the firm of Sandford and Owen at the Phoenix Foundry, where he took up the position of clerk.
As a young man he was known for his fondness of drink and his intemperate nature. In 1835 he was involved in a serious accident whilst driving a gig under the influence of drink.
Later in life he became a staunch member of the temperance movement and through his involvement with the temperance movement he met Richard Chrimes, with whom he entered into partnership. The workforce of Guest and Chrimes were expected to follow the example of their employers and nothing stronger than tea was permitted on the premises.
In 1865 John Guest wrote a paper which he called Relics and Records of Men and Manufacturers at or in the Neighbourhood of Rotherham. The paper was read on 27 March 1865 before the members of the Rotherham Literacy and Scientific Society. The paper was published one year later in 1866.
The books deals mainly with the history of manufacturing in the Rotherham area and illustrates the industries of Rotherham in the middle of the 19th Century.
John Guest was a member of Rotherham’s first town council when it became a Borough in 1871, and was elected councillor for the South Ward. He sat on many committees including the old Health Board, the Burial Board and the Board of Guardians and became an Alderman of the town. He however declined the invitation to become the first mayor of Rotherham and stated that he could never, as chief magistrate punish a man for doing what had so often done himself.
John Guest was one of main supporters of the Freehold Land Society, which promoted the Building of Moorgate Grove, where he built himself Grove Cottage.
Later on he purchased Moorgate Cottage on Moorgate Road and built Moorgate Grange.
John Guest was the instigator of Rotherham’s first park, Boston Park, which was opened in 1876.
Towards the end of his life in 1879 he left one of his chief legacies, “John Guest’s Historic Notices of Rotherham”, a series of papers, which he prefaced, “I may observe that my object has been to collect all the old documentary evidence that could be found, relating to ancient ecclesiastical, collegiate and civil institutions which had existed and some of which yet exist; and also notices of the eminent persons who were connected with them from the earliest period recorded of the town’s existence – and to let these tell their own tale. Instead of endeavoring to weave out of an heterogeneous mass of material, bearing the peculiar and striking impress of the different periods of time to which it related, something like a polished and pleasant narrative respecting celebrated by-gone persons, places and events, I have preferred to occupy the humbler place of the collector and compiler; this only implies on my part diligent research, instead of my aspiring to the chair of the learned historian, to which I have no claim”.
John Guest died the following year age 80. He suffered a seizure at a Board of Guardians Meeting, made a partial recovery but died while dressing for church.