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Guildford History

Being the county town of Surrey, Guildford has much to offer visitors. Steeped in history, the town also offers good shopping areas and modern recreational facilities. Guildford Museum is situated at Castle Arch in Quarry Street and features the archaeological and historical background to Guildford and Surrey.

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117 Stoke Road
Guildford Surrey


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The Royal Castle built by William the Conqueror became the centre of local government in Surrey.  Now the oldest part is a huge C11 motte. This was added to in the usual way in the early C12 with a masonry shell keep around the top, now visible chiefly on the southwest side. This was in turn replaced around 1170 by the impressive Tower Keep built on the east side of the top of the motte, in complete contrast to Surrey’s other surviving castle at Farnham. Guildford was a royal castle and the building represents the grim official architecture of Henry II.

Now roofless and floorless and with nearly all the dressed stone details gone, the rather bizarre late Victorian detailed landscaping of the motte is a stark contrast to the bleakness of the castle’s ruins. Some outer building still remains by a simple two-order arch in Quarry Street from the outer gateway beyond. Just south of Castle Hill within a little park is a disused quarry where entrances to old clunch mines can be seen which were later used as Castle cellars.

The Guildhall is a Tudor building to which a 17th century facade has been added (1683). The most prominent feature is the clock overhanging the street. The date on the clock is 1683, the inner works were much older (c 1560) but over the years as parts have worn these have been replaced. The original bell, now cracked and replaced with a new bell, came from St Martha's Church (on the ridge above Chilworth). The iron balcony is used for important proclamations. Within, in the old court-room are a set of standard measures presented to the town by Elisabeth I. These measures are one of the few complete sets in existence.

Abbot's Hospital (Hospital of the blessed Trinity), an imposing redbrick building was founded as an almshouse by George Abbot, a local man who rose to become Archbishop of Canterbury. An interesting feature are the chimneys. If the eastern route of the North Downs Way is followed through the Surrey Hills many of the villages and houses encountered en-route have equally interesting chimneys.

Church of Holy Trinity within which lies the tomb of Archbishop Abbot. The tomb was established by Maurice Abbot, Lord Mayor of London, the archbishop's brother. An inscription tells how the archbishop having risen from humble origins in Guildford to the highest office in Canterbury, could go no farther on earth and then rose to heaven.

Royal Grammar School. Founded in 1509, granted a charter by Edward VI in 1553. The school contains a chained library, started with books bequeathed to the school (1573) by John Parkhurst, Bishop of Norwich, a native of Guildford. The books include Sir Walter Raleigh's History of the World, written whist he was a prisoner in the Tower of London. A document (1598) referring to a match of cricket played by the boys (c 1550) is one of the earliest references to the game. Two models of the earliest cricket bats are on display within the library.

All from the same family, three famous old boys of the Royal Grammar school rose from humble beginnings to high office - George Abbot Archbishop of Canterbury, Maurice Abbot Lord Mayor of London, Robert Abbot Bishop of Salisbury. All three brothers were born in a cottage in Guildford.



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Guildford Guest House. 117 Stoke Road. Guildford, Surrey. GU1 1ET. Call: +44 (0) 1483 590008
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