Guildford historic blue plaques

GUILDFORD BLUE PLAQUES

Self-Guided Trail

Located around central Guildford you’ll find a number of informative and graphical historical blue plaques that provide contextual information about the location and its history.

When I photographed and transcribed them, I found 28 blue plaques and 1 black one. Googling has revealed a further one – Castle Square – which I’ve been unable to find. It was at the site of Charcoal Barn on Tunsgate – which I suspect is where The Ivy Asia (will be soon | is | was) (delete as applicable).

I’ve not been able to find a definitive list of these plaques, so I’ll add to this list as and when I find further ones.

I’m not a Guildford historian, and I’m not running a venture that makes any money through the Guildford content on my website. I’ve transcribed these as part of the work to build my Self-Guided Walking Trail of Guildford, and my free Guildford Treasure Hunt.

I’ve also catalogued and transcribed these local historical artefacts in recognition that not everyone can visit Guildford, nor does everyone have the means by which to visit these places.

Given these are transcripts of publicly available work, on a free to use website, you’re free to copy the contents. If you choose to do this, in recognition of the work that has gone into this, feel free to credit the source.

All but one of these blue plaques features on my walking trails, which have navigation instructions. If you’re not familiar with Guildford, this map of Guildford Blue Plaques may help. Please take care crossing roads, and mind your feet for sharp objects.

GUILDFORD

The town of Guildford lies in the gap where the River Wey cuts through the chalk ridge of the North Downs. The main routes in West Surrey converged to cross the river, over the ford on the site of the Old Town Bridge. It was to this spot that the first Saxon migrants came in about the year AD 500, to settle at Gyldeforda – the “golden ford”.

In the mid 600s, these pagan Saxons became Christians and St Mary’s Church nearby in Quarry Street has a late Saxon tower. In the Middle Ages Guildford thrived as a centre for the wool trade. Lying halfway on the road between London and the South Coast, it was well placed for trade. Although small throughout the Middle Ages, Guildford was a prosperous town having the status of borough from the 10th century, and was recognised by Henry III as the county town of Surrey.

As a centre of the local road network, Guildford had a large number of inns and public houses. Opposite, White Lion Walk marks the site of the great White Lion coaching inn, demolished in 1957. Nearby The Star Inn was the base for most of the “carriers” in Georgian and Victorian times. These men would transport goods to and from the outlying villages. Both The Star and building facing it have the distinctive “jetty”, where the upper storey projects beyond the ground floor. Both date from the late Elizabethan period.

Location: On a wall adjacent to White Lion Walk – where the High Street meets Quarry Street

THE TOWN BRIDGE

This bridge stands on the site of the ancient ford from which Guildford takes its name. Saxon migrants founded the town in about AD500, settling beside the “golden ford”. In the later Saxon period, there may have been a wooden bridge alongside the ford, but no trace of one has yet been discovered. Around 1200, though, a stone bridge was constructed by the monks of Waverley Abbey, one of a series of bridges which they built on the upper stretches of The Wey.

The ford itself remained alongside the bridge until 1760 when it was dredged out to allow barges to pass upstream to the new Godalming Navigation. The bridge itself was widened in the 1820s during the heyday of the coaching trade. However, in 1900 the ancient bridge was destroyed in a flood and was replaced by a bridge of iron and steel two years later. This bridge was closed to traffic when Millbrook was constructed across the end of the High Street in 1970 and the bridge itself was rebuilt in 1983, reusing the cast iron side arches of the previous bridge.

Just downstream from the bridge is the town wharf. Excavations have revealed timber reinforcements of a mediaeval wharf on this site, and it was here that the Wey Navigation established its wharf in 1653 The treadwheel crane that was used to unload grain barges is still preserved in near its original state.

The 1902 bridge bears the arms of Guildford, Kingston, and the Earls of Surrey.

Location: On the town side of the river, near Debenhams

 

ALICE AND THE WHITE RABBIT

The statue of Alice, her sister and the White Rabbit celebrates Guildford’s connection with Lewis Carroll. It depicts the opening scene of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and was made by the local sculptor Edwin Russell in 1984. It stands on what was once an island, called Westnye, or later Bennet’s Island’. A channel once ran where the roadway is now, which served as the millstream for Artington Mill, which stood where the White House is now. The riverside meadow belonging to this mill was known as Millmead. The mill closed in the 17th century and the stream was filled in during the 18th century.

The stone bridge was probably built by the monks of Waverley Abbey around 1200. The name of the island is commemorated in Westnye Gardens, which has an interesting sundial. On this side of St Nicolas church is the glass wall of the Parish Room, built in 1977.

Until the 1960’s, Moon’s Timber Yard stood there across the river. In the flood of 1900, planks floating downstream became jammed under the arches of the ancient bridge and the pressure of water caused the stonework to collapse. A single-arch iron bridge was built in 1902.

There is memorial to Dr John Monsell, Rector of St Nicolas and author of such hymns as Fight the Good Fight, who died in 1875 during the building of the present church. Below the old bridge can be seen the sandy riverbed that may have inspired the town’s Saxon name, Gyldaford – “the Golden Ford”.

Location: On a wall on Millmead, opposite what was Debenhams, and before that, Plummers

 

THE WEY AND GODALMING NAVIGATIONS

Sir Richard Weston wished to make the River Wey navigable between Guildford and the Thames. He had already experimented with locks and irrigation channels on his estate at Sutton Place, north of Guildford. In 1651, an Act of Parliament empowered a group of men led by Weston to carry out the work. Although it proceeded rapidly, the project went over budget and there were many disputes about the finances. Despite these troubles the Navigation was finished by 1653 and was an immediate success.

The Wey Navigation reached as far as the Town Wharf, just downstream of the bridge. In 1760 another Act of Parliament was obtained for the navigation upstream to Godalming. The Godalming extension involved enlarging centre arch of Guildford’s Town bridge and dredging out the ford alongside it to allow the barges to pass. Millmead Lock was built here in 1762 to raise barges to the millstream, embanked above the natural level of the river.

The principal cargoes carried were timber, coal, and corn. Many other goods were carried, notably gunpowder from the (gunpowder) mills at Chilworth, and chalk from the nearby quarries for lime. The arrival of the railway in 1845 began the decline of the Wey and Godalming Navigations, but they continued to carry commercial cargoes until 1969. The navigations were presented to the National Trust by their last owner – Harry Stevens, and while no longer carrying cargo, are much used by pleasure craft.

Location: Overlooking Millmead lock

 

THE TOWN MILLS

There was probably a water mill on this site before the Norman conquest, though The Domesday Book is silent on this. A town the size of Guildford would certainly have needed a regular supply of flour. By the later Middle Ages the mills included a fulling mill, in which locally made woollen cloth was hammered to produce a smooth surface. In 1624 Henry Smith, a generous benefactor to Surrey, gave the mills in trust, the income going to support the poor of Guildford. In 1701 pumps were installed in the mill to supply the town with water, which was pumped up hollowed-out elm logs to a reservoir at the bottom of Pewley Hill.

In 1770 the eastern part of the mills was handsomely rebuilt in brick. The western part however was simply repaired until 1851 when it was rebuilt as a two-bay extension. This followed the 1770 style so closely that it is hard to distinguish the join. The population of London was growing rapidly and Guildford, with its important corn market and river communication, was well placed to supply the metropolis.

By the 1890s local milling had declined and the mills were bought by Guildford Corporation to become a water works. In the 1960s the building was taken over by the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre and remains one of the town’s most impressive industrial monuments.

Location: On the end of the Town Mills, near to the Yvonne Arnaud theatre.

 

ST MARY’S CHURCH

St Mary’s Church is the oldest surviving building in Guildford and is almost certainly the original church of the town. The Saxon settlers Became Christians during the 7th century and there was probably at first a wooden church on this site. The church would have been rebuilt in stone in late Saxon times, the present stone tower being all that survives of this building.

In about 1120, King Henry I gave St Mary’s to the Canons of Merton Priory, who held it until the Reformation. Two transepts were added to the north and south of the tower. Around 1140, the chancel was reconstructed and two side chapels with rounded or apsidal ends added on either side. Later in the 12th century narrow aisles were added, a pillared arcade being opened in the walls of the nave. Early in the 13th century the chancel and the side chapels were remodelled in the current “Early English” style with ribbed vaulting. In the mid 13th century, the aisles were extended to their present size, and the north doorway made, Essentially, St. Mary’s church has changed little since then, though later in the Middle Ages windows were added or replaced and the roofs renewed.

The Reformation in Tudor times saw the painted internal walls whitewashed and the stained glass replaced with plain, in accord with the simpler Protestant services. The chancel was shortened in 1825 to widen Quarry Street – it is said to allow George IV’s coach to pass more easily from Windsor to Brighton. The Victorian age saw a return to medieval church practices and in this spirit St Mary’s was restored in the early 1860s. Fortunately this work was done with a light hand and most of the medieval building was untouched. St Mary’s function as a place of worship continues today as it has for over a thousand years.

Location: By the entrance to St Mary’s Church, Quarry Street

 

QUARRY STREET AND ROSEMARY ALLEY

Quarry Street was formerly the main road south to Horsham until Millbrook was built below it in 1961. Originally South Street, it became known as Quarry Street in Georgian times because it led to the great chalk pits just outside the town. The chalk was mainly burnt for lime, which was used as a fertiliser and in building mortar.

Before Stuart times, most of the houses in Guildford were built of timber. The great oak woodlands which covered the southern part of Surrey provided excellent building material and many late medieval and Tudor timber houses survive today. This house, 53 Quarry Street, dates from the early 17th century and has the characteristic “jetty” – the upper floor projecting beyond the ground floor wall. The ceiling timbers inside still retain their original painted decoration. Opposite you can see two other timber framed houses, flanking what is now what is now called Rosemary Alley – once an open drain to the river.

St. Mary’s Church is the oldest in Guildford. The central tower is late Saxon, dating from about 1050. Re-building and extensions over the next 200 years gave the church its present form. The east end – the chancel – used to extend further into the street, making a very narrow passage. It was shortened to its present length in 1825 to allow – so it is said – George IV to travel more easily in his coach from Windsor to Brighton.

Location: On what is currently Olivo restaurant, on Quarry Street

 

GUILDFORD MUSEUM

Around 1630, next to the medieval gateway of Guildford Castle, Francis Carter built a “hall-and-crosswings” house, including two fine fireplaces. Later, the house became divided into several tenements and was bought by Guildford Corporation in 1885. In 1898 it was restored to its original form to be the headquarters of the Surrey Archaeological Society. The Society had been founded in 1854 in response to a growing interest in archaeology. It began to acquire antiquities, and in 1898 was able to display them in a permanent museum.

A purpose-built gallery was added in 1911, designed by the local architect Ralph Neville. Since 1937, the museum has been run by Guildford Borough Council, though it remains the home of the Surrey Archaeological Society.

As a consequence, the museum houses the principal archaeological displays for the county. These include the Stone Age, Iron Age, Roman and medieval objects from the local area. Of especial note are Roman priests head dresses, pagan Saxon grave goods and medieval floor tiles. The local history displays cover local trades, industries and social history, including Victorian childhood. There are special displays on Lewis Carroll and Gertrude Jekyll, the garden designer and cottage life collector. A specialist collection needlework covers sewing
techniques such as samplers, patchwork, dress accessories, baby clothes, smocks and lace. There is also a collection of needlework tools.

Location: On Guildford museum, Quarry Street

 

CASTLE ARCH

In the gardens opposite can be seen remains of this great palace. The standing walls are probably part of the private quarters built for the young prince Edward – later Edward I – in 1246. Excavations have revealed the foundations of other palace buildings beneath the present garden.

Guildford Castle was probably founded soon after 1066, with the prominent “motte” on which the keep now stands and the bailey to one side enclosed by a ditch and a wall. The original bailey ditch ran under the chestnut tree you see behind you. In about 1200 this was filled in and the bailey extended into this area. The gate you see in front of you was constructed in 1256 by John of Gloucester, King Henry III’s master mason. At this time Henry was lavishing a great deal of money on buildings in the bailey, making it one of the most luxurious royal residences in England. On either side of the gateway can be seen the grooves in which the portcullis slid.

The portcullis was a spiked grill which slid up and down in the grooves on either side of the gate.

In 1630 the northern gate tower wall was adapted as the end wall of this house. Clad in brick with tile-hanging on the upper storeys, it is of the hall-and-crosswings plan characteristic of the local style. It was built by Francis Carter, who had acquired the castle from James I in 1610 and had attempted at first to live in the keep. Since 1898 it has been Guildford Museum.

The doorway to “the Lord Edward’s Chambers was revealed in excavations in the 1990s.

Location: On the end of Guildford Museum, behind Castle Arch, Castle Hill

 

CASTLE CLIFFE GARDENS

Castle Cliffe Gardens once formed part of Guildford Castle and the bank at the top of the garden marks the position of the original outer wall. The present garden area was an extension added in Henry III’s time. Archaeological digs in the 1990’s revealed the foundations of many buildings. The ruined walls in the corner may well have belonged to The Lord Edward’s Chamber; a set of rooms for Henry III’s young son, later to be Edward I. Henry III spent considerable sums of money on Guildford castle in the 1240’s and 1250’s, making it one of the most luxurious royal residences in England.

James I sold the Castle in 1611 and in about 1630 the Carter family built a house by the Castle Arch, now the museum. These gardens belonged to Castle Cliffe – the house further up the hill – until Mr Harry Stevens gave it to Guildford Borough Council as a public park in 1971.

The house overlooking the gardens called The Chestnuts was the home of Lewis Carroll’s family from 1868 to 1919. Carroll, who lived in Oxford, was a frequent visitor. Alice in Wonderland had been published before he came to Guildford, but parts of his later works were written here. It was while staying at The Chestnuts in 1989 that Lewis Carroll died. In the public garden, behind the house next door, is a statue of Alice looking through the Looking Glass.

Location: By the entrance to Castle Cliffe Gardens, off Castle Hill

 

GUILDFORD PALACE

The ruins you can see nearby are the remains of what was once one of the most luxurious royal residences in England. Guildford castle was probably founded by William the Conqueror soon after 1066, with its prominent “motte” around the “bailey” to one side, enclosed by a ditch and a wall. The original bailey ditch seems to have been near the spot where you are standing now, until it was filled in when the bailey was extended to Quarry Street in about 1200. Here in the bailey there would originally have been timber buildings to house the garrison. These would have been replaced with stone during the 12th century, and subsequently Henry III lavished a great deal of money on buildings and decorations here.

The ruin to your right may well have been the King’s Great Chamber, his private quarters when staying at Guildford – as he often did at Christmas. We know from exchequer records that the chamber was panelled with wood, there was glass in the windows and the celling was decorated with moons and stars. The King had his own chapel nearby, as did the queen. Henry’s wife, Eleanor of Provence, was a highly cultured woman who introduced colonnaded gardens and tiled pavements at Guildford.

Location: On the arch that leads from the Castle Grounds to Castle Hill

 

THE CASTLE KEEP

Guildford Castle was probably founded by William the Conqueror soon after 1066, as one of a series built in major towns. The mound or “motte” was made by piling up chalk dug from a deep ditch around it. Another ditch and bank enclosed the outer area called the “bailey” where the domestic buildings stood. The early timber buildings were replaced with stone during the 12th century. First a shell keep of chalk was built around the top of the motte, then in the 1130s or 1140s, the “great tower”’, or keep, was built in two phases. The line of the first phase battlements are marked out in the plaster. The first phase was probably built as the King’s private apartments, reached by an outside staircase. Not long after the tower was built a second floor was added. The great tower could have been used for defence if the castle was attacked, but it was also a symbol of the King’s importance.

Guildford Castle was the only royal castle in Surrey and became the headquarters of the sheriff – the King’s deputy in the county. He held trials for serious crimes, and prisoners were held in the keep, which was the county gaol for Surrey and Sussex. The king had moved to new apartments in the bailey.

Henry III developed the castle into one of the most luxurious royal palaces in England. After his death in 1272 the buildings fell into ruins and were later abandoned, except for the great tower which continued as, the county gaol. In the early 16th century, the gaol closed and the tower was used by the Daborne family, who put in the brick window surrounds and fireplaces. In 1611 James I sold the estate to Francis Carter. He, or his son, built a new house attached to the Castle Arch. The great tower was then abandoned, and the roof taken off. The castle was bought by Guildford Borough Council in 1885 and the grounds were laid out as a public park. Conservation work in 2004 saw a roof and floors put in.

Location: On the door to the Keep, Guildford Castle

 

ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS

The statue of Alice passing through the looking glass was made by Jean Argent in 1990 and presented to the town by Municipal General Insurance Ltd, to mark the link between Lewis Carroll and Guildford. Lewis Carroll was the pen name of the Rev. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, an Oxford mathematics tutor. He acquired the lease of the Chestnuts, the house visible beyond the sloping brick wall, in 1868. The death of his father had left him, as eldest brother, the head of a family that included six unmarried sisters. A home was needed for them, and The Chestnuts was ideal.

Lewis Carroll was already famous as the author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. He did not actually live in Guildford – his home was in was in Christchurch, Oxford, but he was the householder, and spent vacations here. In 1871 he completed the second Alice book “Through The Looking Glass” while staying at Guildford. As a clergyman, Rev. Dodgson would sometimes preach at St Mary’s church, nearby in Quarry Street. He would take long walks in the area: during one of these, the inspiration for “The Hunting of the Snark” occurred to him.

The statue stands in what was the garden of Castle Gate, the house beyond the railings. Lewis Carroll had many child friends and was a frequent visitor to little Miss Edith Haydon, who lived at Castle Gate. A keen amateur photographer, he took a picture other standing against the sloping garden wall. While spending Christmas at The Chestnuts, he caught flu and died in January 1898. He was buried in the Mount Cemetery across the river valley from his family home. His sisters continued to live at The Chestnuts until 1919.

Location: Castle Gardens, behind Castle Hill

 

THE BOWLING GREEN

The area of the Castle Grounds that contains the bowling green and bandstand probably formed the outer bailey of the medieval castle. A bowling green had been laid out by the early 17th century. In 1885, the Guildford Corporation acquired most of the grounds of the medieval castle from Lord Grantley. They were laid out as public pleasure gardens to plans by the Borough Surveyor, Henry Peak. The grounds were opened in June 1888 on the 50th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s coronation. At that time the bowling green was known as the Mayor’s Lawn and was not used again for bowling until 1907.

A memorial to Guildford’s dead of the First World War was designed by local architect F.J. Hodgson and dedicated in 1921. In 1952 it was rededicated to include those who had died in the Second World War The grounds were also renamed the “Guildford Garden of Remembrance”, However, the names of the Second World War dead were not engraved until 1995, when a central pillar was added under the arch of the memorial. Many in both wars had served with the local regiment, The Queen’s, based at Stoughton Barracks.

The classical stone column standing near the gates was the base of one of the first gas street lamps in Guildford. It was erected at the junction of the London and Epsom Roads in 1824 by the trustees of the turnpike road, who paid the Guildford Gas & Coke Company to supply it.

Location: On the Castle grounds office, Castle grounds

 

HENRY PEAK

Henry Peak was Guildford’s first Borough Surveyor. Amongst many other projects, he designed the present Castle Grounds, which opened in June 1888. He also had an extensive private practice as an architect, playing a major part in developing Charlotteville, together with housing in Stoughton and around the Markenfield Road area of the town.

Perhaps his most famous achievement was the paving of the town centre in 1868, using granite setts (often wrongly called cobbles), which are still a feature of Guildford’s historic High Street today.

Born in London, Peak came to Guildford in 1851 as an apprentice architect and married a local lady five years later. Setting up his own practice in 1861, he soon established himself designing churches, chapels, shops and houses of all kinds. In 1864 he was appointed Borough Surveyor and built a new waterworks, with a reservoir on Pewley Hill to supply the town with clean, safe water. He retired as the Borough Surveyor in 1891, was elected to the Borough Council, becoming Mayor in 1899. Henry Peak, more than anyone else, was responsible for the appearance of Victorian Guildford.

Location: On the Castle grounds office, Castle grounds

 

CASTLE SQUARE

Castle Square Guildford was founded around AD 500 and remained a small settlement, although there was a royal residence here by the reign of Alfred the Great, some 400 years later. In the 16th century the town was enlarged as a commercial and defensive centre. A rampart and boundary ditch were dug to enclose an area north and south of what became the High Street. The southern town ditch ran here, along the line of what is now Castle Street and Sydenham Road. A mint was set up to strike silver pennies. Only seventy towns in England had their own mints, and possession of one indicates that Guildford was a ‘borough’ – a town owned directly by the King.

Soon after 1066 William the Conqueror imposed control on his new kingdom by constructing castles in the main centres of population. Guildford’s was a typical Norman castle, with a flat-topped mound or “motte” and a bailey or outer area, enclosed by a rampart and ditch. At first the defences and buildings would have been of timber, but were later rebuilt (at least partly) in stone. The great tower (or keep) was built in the 12th century from the rusty Bargate stone from the hills south of Godalming. The original outer gate of the castle may well have stood opposite here, at the main entrance to the Castle Grounds.

Tunsgate, the street leading to the High Street through the arch of the former Cornmarket, was once the passageway leading through the Tun Inn. It was widened in the 1930s to take motor traffic. Until 1954 the ‘Charcoal Barn’ Baptist chapel stood on this spot. The green lawn across Castle Street was the site of the earliest civic swimming baths in England, built in 1889 and demolished in 1971.

Location: Charcoal Barn, Tunsgate

 

TUNSGATE ARCH

There have probably been markets held in Guildford since Saxon times. Markets are one of the features distinguish a town from a village, and were an essential part of rural life. Farmers from the countryside around would bring their produce into Guildford for sale and then buy other goods. There were three markets each week: for corn; for cattle; and a general market for food and household goods.

Growing com was the most profitable kind of farming in the Guildford area. Wheat for flour, barley for brewing beer, and oats for animal food would be displayed for sale under this arch. The corn porters, who carried the sacks, would take a pint of grain from each one as a market toll. The scoops they used can still be seen in the Guildhall. The money from selling the toll went to the corporation.

In 1901 sales of corn moved to Woodbridge Road (where it ended in about 1970. This building was used by the Corporation until 1937, when the two middle columns were moved apart to build a road through to the street behind. In 1992 this road was filled in and the steps replaced. The coat of arms of Guildford and of its twin town Freiburg were set into the pavement under the arch.

The street beyond is Tunsgate. In old Guildford “gate” meant passage, or alleyway, and this one used to run to the now vanished Tuns Inn.

Look for Guildford’s coat of arms in the pediment facing the High Street. Notice behind it the sword of justice (referring to the law court) and a horn of plenty (for the cornmarket).

Location: Under Tunsgate Arch, Tunsgate, High Street

 

GUILDHALL

The Guildhall with its clock projecting over the High Street is, for many, the symbol of the town. Here the Mayor and Corporation met to regulate the commerce of the Borough, and the Courts of Law sat in judgement.

There was a medieval Guildhall on this site but the present hall dates from 1589, when Elizabeth I paid one of/her visits to the town. Her coat of arms in stained glass was inserted in the window above the judge’s bench. In 1683 the Guildhall was re-fronted, with a council chamber and balcony at first floor level. The council chamber contains beautiful carved chalk fireplace said to have come from Stoughton Manor. Also added were a bell turret and a projecting clock. The story is told of a London clock maker, named John Aylward, who presented the clock to the Corporation in return for the freedom to trade in Guildford. A long case clock by Aylward stands in the Mayor’s Parlour added to the rear of the Guildhall 1934.

The Guildhall is still used for ceremonial meetings of the Borough Council and occasionally to hear legal cases. It houses the borough’s magnificent collection of plate which includes two maces and the mayor’s badge of solid gold. Among other items are silver tankards and table decorations for civic entertainments. Historic paintings hang on the panelled walls, including a portrait by Guildford artist John Russell of Admiral Sir Richard Onslow at his victory with Duncan over the Dutch fleet at Camperdown in 1797.

Location: Opposite the Guildhall, High Street

 

GUILDFORD HOUSE

Guildford House, now the town’s art gallery, is a rare example of a Restoration town house. John Child, a wealthy London attorney, began its construction in 1660, incorporating parts of an existing timber framed building. It uses classical features in the style made fashionable by Inigo Jones. John Child had been born in 1629, the son of a Buckinghamshire gentleman, and rose to prominence in Guildford, where he served as mayor in 1676, 1681 and 1691.

The house seems to have been built in two phases, the first in the early 1660s and then in the 1680s. The magnificent staircase belongs to this latter phase, and echoes the work of the great wood-carver Grinling Gibbons. The plaster ceilings, panelling and elaborate window ironwork all indicate that this was a house of a gentleman of taste and wealth. In 1736 the Childs sold the house to the Martyr family. They, too, were lawyers and were known as the hereditary Town Clerks of Guildford. The Martyrs made several alterations to the house, including the panelling in the first-floor front room. This was known as the Sheriff’s Parlour (now the Powell Room), where the Martyrs entertained the Sheriff of Surrey and the judges when the assizes were held in Guildford. It may also have been the Martyrs who clad the rear of the house with “mathematical” tiles, which give the impression of brickwork.

The house became a shop in 1841. The entrance steps were removed, and bay windows inserted at street level. Passing through several owners, it became Nuthall’s Restaurant in
1930. The Guildford Corporation bought it for use as an art gallery, which opened in 1957.

Location: Wall on Guildford House, High Street

 

HOLY TRINITY CHURCH

The present brick building stands on the site of an earlier church, which may have had its origins in the late Saxon times. The first record of Holy Trinity is in the 12th century, when it belonged to Augustinian canons of Merton Priory. By the later Middle Ages, Holy Trinity had become the foremost of Guildford’s three parish churches. It is here that Henry Norbridge, Mayor of Guildford, was buried in 1512. He left land to the south of the town, the rent of which would pay for a “chantry” – that is, for prayers to be said for his soul. This land, to this day, is known as The Chantries. In 1540 Sir Richard Weston of Sutton Place built his chantry chapel on the south side of the church in a chequered pattern of flint and stone: this is the only part of the earlier church which survives. Both chantries were closed down in 1548 at the time of the Reformation.

George Abbot, a Guildfordian who became Archbishop of Canterbury and who built the magnificent “hospital” or old people’s home across the street was buried in Holy Trinity in a magnificent tomb in 1633. However, by Georgian times the church had been allowed to fall into disrepair and in 1740 the central tower fell, destroying most of the ancient building.

The present church was completed in 1763, designed in the Palladian style by the architect James Horne. Much of the work was paid for by the Onslow family of Clandon Park, whose crest can be seen over the clock face. In 1888 the church was extended at the east end. This involved moving a great deal of earth – and burials. This was piled up to form an L-shaped mound in the churchyard behind. When the diocese of Guildford was formed in 1927, Holy Trinity acted as the pro-cathedral until the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit was consecrated on Stag Hill in 1961.

Location: Wall next to Holy Trinity Church, High Street

 

THE THREE PIGEONS

A pub called the Three Pigeons has stood here since the middle of the 18th century. A fire badly damaged the inn in 1916 and it was rebuilt two years later. The design of the frontage was inspired by a late 17th century house on Oxford’s High Street. Like many buildings on Guildford’s ancient High Street, it is reputed to be haunted.

Up until 1913 there were four other businesses between the Three Pigeons and the corner of North Street. On the corner itself stood the Ram Inn, constricting the width of the High Street and forming a bottleneck for the increasing motor traffic. The Ram and other buildings were demolished, and Barclays Bank built on a widened junction.

Between the Three Pigeons and Abbot’s Hospital stood Gates’ grocery. In 1882 it was inherited by Arthur and Leonard Gates, whose temperance convictions led them, so it is said, to pour all the wines and spirits into the gutter outside. Instead, they concentrated on dairy product, and went on to found the successful firm of Cow & Gate.

Location: On a wall, Three Pigeons, High Street

 

ABBOT’S HOSPITAL

George Abbot was born in Guildford in 1562, the son of a cloth-worker. He received a good education at the Royal Grammar School and went up to Oxford. He was a talented scholar, particularly of classical languages. He befriended King James I and was one of the translators of the Authorised Version of the Bible. The King favoured Abbot, making him first a bishop and in 1611, Archbishop of Canterbury.

As Archbishop, Abbot became a wealthy man and he decided to reward the town of his birth and education by building a “hospital” – an almshouse where elderly Guildford men and women could lead out their lives in comfort. The design is very similar to the Oxford and Cambridge colleges in which Abbot had spent most of his life. The massive gatehouse with its domed turrets and the gables of the crosswings are typical of the Tudor brick style. This style was somewhat old fashioned by 1622 When it was completed. Around the quadrangle inside there were a chapel, common rooms, and apartments for twelve “Brothers” and eight “Sisters”.

The latin text above the door means “God has made this place of ease for us”.

Abbot’s arms – a chevron between three gold pears – is halved with the arms of the See of Canterbury.

Location: Opposite side of High Street, near George Abbot statue

 

THE ROYAL GRAMMAR SCHOOL

The Royal Grammar School was founded by Robert Beckingham (a London merchant and probably a native of Guildford) who died in 1509 and whose will left property to set up a free school in Guildford. The school was established in 1512 alongside the castle until, in 1552, it was re-endowed out of former charity lands by King Edward VI.

This site was acquired by the Corporation and construction of a new school was begun in 1555. It consisted of a school room on the south and two houses for the Schoolmaster and his Usher on the west and east respectively. A screen wall with a gallery above was added to the street side, thus completing a quadrangle. The work was completed in 1586.

Grammar School boys are recorded as playing “creckett” in about 1550 and this has often been thought to be the first reference to the game.

Grammar meant essentially Latin, and the boys were taught to read, write, and speak it. It was the language not only of the classics and the learned professions but also the religious books that were such an important part of Tudor education. In its first hundred years the school produced two Lord Mayors of London and five bishops, one of whom was George Abbot, who became Archbishop of Canterbury. Archbishop Abbot provided Guildford with an almshouse, the Hospital of the Blessed Trinity, a few hundred yards to the west of the school.

John Parkhurst, Bishop of Norwich, left his Latin books to the school in 1575, and they remain, attached by iron chains to the shelves in the gallery.

At first, teaching was free but, as the endowments proved increasingly inadequate, later schoolmasters took in fee-payers. the school’s fortunes fluctuated in the 18th and 19th centuries until it was completely re-organised in 1889. In the twenty years that followed, science classrooms and a gymnasium were added behind the original Old Building. The New Building across the street was opened in 1965.

Location: On a wall, Royal Grammar School, upper High Street

 

SOMERSET HOUSE

Charles Seymour, 6th Duke of Somerset (1662-1748), was known as the ‘Proud Duke’. He would often stay overnight in Guildford when travelling between London and his seat at Petworth. It is said that his irascible nature led him to quarrel with every inn keeper in the town. Eventually he decided to buy his own house, just outside borough boundary. It is a good example of the contemporary Queen Anne style, with fine brickwork and a gable and entrance steps in the Dutch manner. It was extensively refurbished in 1847, but remained a private house until the 1920s, when shop fronts were knocked through the street frontage on either side of the entrance steps.

The upper High Street has had various names in the past, most notably Spital Street. This was short for Hospital Street, and referred to an ancient leper hospital which stood at the junction of the London and Epsom Roads until the 1840s. An alderman’s wife, Mrs Quittenton, considered the name improper and in 1901 led a successful campaign to have it changed to ‘Upper High Street’. In 1961 it was formally included in the High Street, and all the addresses were re-numbered.

Across the street, the North side has been almost entirely rebuilt from 1931 onwards, in order to widen the roadway for motor traffic.

Location: Wall, Somerset House, upper High Street

 

ALLEN HOUSE GARDENS

The present Allen House Grounds are the northern end of a grand garden, that once stretched from here to the rear of Allen House, a mansion on the Upper High Street, opposite the Royal Grammar School. The house was built in about 1660 by Thomas Canfield. It was a fine brick building with six pilasters running through, three storeys. Architecturally, it was in a rather grander version of the “Artisan Mannerist” style seen at Guildford House, which, was being built at the same time.

Anthony Allen, a London lawyer who held the post of Master in Chancery, bought the house in the early 1720s. From then on it was known as Allen House. A map and engraved view of Guildford were published in 1738 and 1739. They both show Anthony Allen’s mansion house. Behind the house a formal garden has a broad avenue with statue and spiral maze. The 2009 refurbished garden includes a maze as a reference to the garden’s history.

Beyond it, the map shows the rectangular plot which Anthony Allen bought in 1739 from Jonathan Turner. It is this plot which forms the present Allen House Grounds. It became a walled garden with a summer house (now known as The Lodge) and a fountain. In 1782 the Allen family sold the house and gardens and the property passed through a number of hands. In 1806 it was bought by the Reverend H.G. Merriman headmaster of the Royal Grammar School, who used it as a boarding house for his pupils.

Merriman retired in 1874, and sold the house to Frank Apted, a Guildford businessman and benefactor. It was his intention to give the garden at Allen House to the town as a public open space. He died before he could carry this out, and his daughter eventually carried out her fathers wishes in 1914 by transferring the present Allen House Gardens to Guildford Borough Council. In the same year, H.A. Powell presented the 3 ½ acres of the former garden to the grammar school. It was on this field, from 1958 onwards, that the school built new buildings that involved the demolition of the mansion in 1964. Now only the Allen House grounds remain of what was once one of the grandest properties in Guildford.

Location: Side wall of small brick building, near the maze, Allen House Gardens

 

FOXENDEN QUARRY DEEP SHELTER

This brick and concrete building is one of two which protect the ventilator shafts to the tunnels of the air raid shelter 50 feet below. The vertical shafts had rungs set into them, with doorways at the top, so that they could be used as emergency exits if the main entrances were blocked.

In October 1940 experiences of The Blitz in London showed the shortcomings of the air raid shelters in use then. The government proposed that tunnel shelters be constructed, deep enough below ground to resist the heaviest bombs. In Guildford the disused chalk pit known, as Foxenden Quarry, already had slit trenches to act as shelters for the children of the nearby Sandfield School. Guildford Borough Council decided to provide a shelter capable of accommodating a thousand people by digging into the chalk face and excavating a grid of connected tunnels. There would be bunks, lighting, ventilation, sanitation, a shelter marshal’s office, and a first aid post.

Chalk is very suitable for tunnelling, being easy to dig but stable and unlikely to collapse. At first it was thought that the tunnels would not need lining, but in the event some sections were lined with brick and concrete. Three blocks of male and female toilets had cubicles containing Elsan lavatories – basically buckets containing disinfectant with wooden seats. There was no piped water supply, but bottled water was available. The St John Ambulance Brigade was to supply volunteers to man the first aid post.

The construction took about a year to complete, by which time the worst of the bombing raids were over. In fact the shelter was very little used, and parts of it became storage. However, in June 1944 a fresh danger threatened – flying bombs – and the shelter was again used as a refuge for the town. When the flying bomb menace faded though, it was clear that the Foxenden Quarry Deep Shelter was no longer needed, and it closed in November 1944.

Location: Side of brick tower, next to basketball court, Allen House Gardens

 

QUAKERS ACRE

The Society of Friends, or Quakers as they were generally known, became established in Guildford during the 1650s, when Oliver Cromwell ruled following the Civil Wars. They suffered persecution after the Restoration of Charles I in 1660 but in 1672 this was relaxed.


The Guildford Quakers, who had previously met each others homes now felt it time to acquire a meeting house and burial ground. In 1673 they acquired a house and a plot of land at the North Street end of the inn yard of the Crown (now the NatWest Bank). A new meeting house was built on a site across the street in 1805 and this garden was used simply as a cemetery until it was given to the town in 1927. Nearby, the Speakers Tree’ had become a recognised place for public oratory.

The opportunity was taken to dedicate a memorial to G.F Watts (1817-1904), a prominent local artist who had lived and worked at Compton. Another memorial commemorates the victims of the pub bombings of 5th October 1974, Paul Craig, William Forsyth, Anne Hamilton, John Hunter, and Caroline Slater were killed in the Horse & Groom across the street (now a shop).

The building with the short clock tower, now public conveniences, is the former fire station of 1872. On the opposite corner of Ward Street is a bank. This was opened in 1881 as a temperance hotel. It did not thrive and in 1891 its upper floors were incorporated into the Guildford Institute which had been built next door in Ward Street.

Location: Left of entrance gate, opposite old Fire Station, North Street

 

 

ANGEL HOTEL

The Angel is the only survivor of Guildford’s many famous coaching inns. Situated half-way on the two-day journey between London and the south coast ports, Guildford became an overnight stopping place for travellers. In 1636 the poet John Taylor wrote of Guildford, “This towne hath very fine inns and good entertainment at the taverns, the Angell, the Crowne, the White Hart and the Lyon”. The Angel has been an inn at least since Henry VIII’s time. Its Tudor timber-framing is visible behind the frontage added in 1820 at the height of the stagecoach era.

A “Posting House” was where a traveller in a hurry could swap a tired horse for a fresh one. You could leave your horse to be looked after at “Livery Stables”.

The coming of the turnpikes in the 18th century revolutionised road transport. These were privatised main roads, where tolls were paid at gates and the income used to maintain a good road surface. The Portsmouth Road was turnpiked in 1749 and the road over the Hog’s Back to Southampton in 1758. This enabled coaches to complete the journey in one day and travellers no longer needed to spend the night in Guildford. The Royal Mail was carried at first on horseback by boys who “posted” – that is, they changed their tired horses for fresh ones every ten or twelve miles. (We still refer to the mail as “the post”.) In 1784 the mail began to be sent by coach and the early part of the last century saw a boom in the coaching trade. However, the coming of the railway to Guildford in 1845 saw the disappearance of the coaches almost overnight. Not only was the train faster and more comfortable, it was far cheaper. One by one the town’s High Street inns closed and became shops. Now only the Angel remains.

Location: On the Angel Hotel, High Street

 

 

GUILDFORD MPD

The railways came to Guildford around 1845 when a six mile length of single track was joined to the South-Western’s main line at Woking. In 1896 there were sixty locomotives allocated to the depot and it was then decided to make some alterations. When completed, the extension was used as a running shed allowing the semi-roundhouse to be used for repairs and boiler washouts. In 1926, the shed had an allocation of just over 80 locomotives and boasted a staff of 465 men, of whom 328 were drivers, firemen, and cleaners. Other staff consisted of foremen, boiler-washers, coalmen, chargemen, boilersmiths, fitters, and apprentices. Among other grades of men employed were sandmen, ash loaders, gland-packers, tubers, painters, and even carpenters.

Between 1923 and 1948 the biggest change in the allocation of steam locomotives to Guildford was the arrival of the Maunsell classes, especially the U and the N 2-6-0’s for the Reading – Redhill line. Other Maunsell locomotives also appeared – “King Arthur”, “Schools”, and S15 classes working trains to Portsmouth before the line was electrified. By 1965 Guildford’s allocation was down to twenty-eight locomotives and with the withdrawal of the Maunsell S15 Class and the Bulleid Q1 Class, much of the variety which was once the trademark of Guildford Motive Power Department disappeared.

On Sunday in Aug 1967, after years of decline and neglect, only four steam locomotives remained. The first two locomotives to leave (initially to Salisbury and then later to South Wales to face the cutters torch) were BR Standard Class 5MT 73155 and 73118 – coupled together). West Country Class 34018 “Axminster” followed them to Salisbury and finally USA Class 30072 left for Salisbury via Havant. All signs of the Motive Power Depot at Guildford have now been razed to the ground. The semi-roundhouse engine shed has disappeared, and the site is now a multi-storey car park.

Location: Pedestrian entrance to Farnham Road car park, railway bridge

 

 

THE GUILDFORD FRIARY

In the Middle Ages, this was the site of the Guildford Friary. It was a house of the Dominican order, known as the black friars because of the colour of their habits. The Guildford friary was probably founded in 1274 or 1275 by Eleanor of Provence, the widow of Henry III.

Friars were not monks. Monks chose a life prayer and worship shut away from the outside world and so built their monasteries in the open countryside. Friars, on the other hand, sought to save souls through preaching and so they settled large towns to reach as many people as possible.

The main building was the church, to one side of which was the square courtyard or cloister surrounded by the buildings where the friars lived. Guildford was small in comparison with friaries: there were never more than 24 friars.

They lived mainly by begging, though they sometimes received gifts from the King. In 1538, Henry VIII closed the Guildford Friary and the buildings were destroyed. A mansion was built on the site and then, in Victorian times, the Friary Brewery. When the brewery was demolished archaeologists investigated the site before the present Friary shopping centre was built.

Location: End of Friary shopping centre, junction with North Street

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