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Guildford Walking Tour : Mount Cemetery and Booker’s Tower

Lewis Carroll extension

From St Nicolas church, walk away from town for 50m until you reach the Portsmouth Road, turn left, and then walk until you reach The Cannon pub – built in 1844 as the tap for the Cannon Brewery. If you fancy your chances, step inside and see if it’s improved. It’s unlikely that it’s got worse.

Using the pedestrian crossing, cross the main road, turn right, then turn left to walk up The Mount.

Before walking up the Mount, it’s worth reflecting on the fact that you are about to walk along an ancient trail that was once the primary route out of Guildford towards Farnham along the Hogs Back, then on to Winchester. It was previously known as Old Road, and was a turnpike.

Walk up the Mount, over the crossroads with Mount Pleasant, and then for a further 400m until you reach iron gates that are hung on brick pillars (opposite #78) – being the entrance to Mount Cemetery. Follow the path inside, and you will immediately see a stone building. To the left of this, you’ll find the final resting place of the Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson – AKA Lewis Carroll.

The Guildown Cemetery is on the site of a Saxon burial ground, and so goes back over 1500 years. Much research and archaeological work has been done here, and if you have the time and interest, the Surrey Archaeological Society has many published papers on the subject.

Lewis Carroll

Although we’re at his final resting place, given the absence of traffic and other distractions, now seems like as good a time as any to put a little flesh on the bones – which seems a little inopportune as a phrase, given where you’re standing.

The association between Guildford and the Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson is interesting, and you could be forgiven for thinking that he was a Guildfordian born and bred. Born in Cheshire, and having lived much of his life in Christ Church, Oxford, Dodgson had family in Guildford, was a homeowner in Guildford, and was a routine visitor, spending time at the home of his sisters at The Chestnuts on Castle Hill.

In 1871, while staying in Guildford, he completed “Through The Looking Glass” – the second Alice book. He occasionally preached at St Mary’s church, Quarry Street, and was inspired to write “The Hunting of the Snark” while walking along the Hogs Back.

While spending Christmas at The Chestnuts, he caught flu and died in January 1898. He’s buried where you stand now, while his sisters continued to live at The Chestnuts until 1919.

Follow the tarmac path that runs up the middle of the cemetery, until you reach the end. Here you’ll find Booker’s Tower.

Booker’s Tower

Measuring nearly 70 feet tall, and built in 1839 using local bargate stone, Booker’s Tower was built for Charles Booker. Booker was a corn merchant and miller by trade (with premises at the Town Mills), was three times the Mayor of Guildford, as well as being Borough Justice of the Peace. Originally built in memory of his two sons, both of whom died at the age of 15 (through smallpox and drowning), the tower was opened in 1849, shortly before Booker’s death later that year. The tower later served as the base for research into lightning by John Rand Capron, and was then used as an aircraft observation tower in the second world war.

Having taken your fill of Booker’s Tower, it’s worth looking through the trees – across to town. On the right you’ll see Pewley Hill, and in front of this Guildford Castle and Castle Grounds, and to the left of this, the High Street.

Return to the entrance to the cemetery.

If you were to continue further up the road that led you to the cemetery, you’d find yourself in an area rich with history. Barely 100m further up there’s a site (no public access) discovered in 1929 that holds the bodies of over 220 people “slaughtered” in the 1036 “Guildown Massacre”. Subterranean remains have also been found of saxon gallows – likely sited such that they could be seen from the town. The road itself, previously Old Road, was the main route from Guildford to Farnham, and then beyond – being a turnpike. There’s also a memorial to the Cornish Rebellion of 1497, Henley Fort, and a picnic spot with views of the London skyline (not to be confused with the aberration that is the Woking carbuncle).

Turn right onto The Mount, retrace your steps down the hill, cross the main road by the Cannon pub, and return to St Nicolas church.

End of Lewis Carroll extension.