Gulidford Guildhall.jpg
The Guildhall in Guildford
Guildford is located in Surrey
Guildford shown within Surrey
Population 137,200 (2011 Census)
OS grid reference SU9949
Shire county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district GU1-4
Dialling code 01483
Police Surrey
Fire Surrey
Ambulance South East Coast
EU Parliament South East England
UK Parliament
List of places
51°14′11″N 0°34′13″W / 51°14′11″N 0°34′13″W / 51.2365; -0.5703

Guildford d/ ( About this sound  listen) [1] is a large town in Surrey, England, located 27 miles (43 km) southwest of central London on the A3 trunk road midway between the capital and Portsmouth. [2] [3]

The town has a population of just over 137,000 and is the seat of the wider Borough of Guildford which had an estimated 146,100 inhabitants in 2015.

Guildford has Saxon roots [4] and historians attribute its location to the existence of a gap in the North Downs where the River Wey was forded by the Harrow Way. [n 1] By AD 978 it was home to an early English Royal Mint. [6] On the building of the Wey Navigation and Basingstoke Canal Guildford was connected to a network of waterways that aided its prosperity. [5] In the 20th century, the University of Surrey and Guildford Cathedral, an Anglican cathedral, were added. [7]

Due to recent development running north from Guildford, and linking to the Woking area, Guildford now officially forms the southwestern tip of the Greater London Built-up Area, as defined by the Office for National Statistics.



The root of the first part may be the word "gold" rather than Guild, a society or meeting of tradesmen: the only known 10th-century (Saxon) record uses Guldeford and in the 11th century Geldeford [5] [n 2]; both meaning gold and ford. Local historians with an interest in toponyms cite the lack of gold in the region's sedimentary rocks and have suggested that the mention of "gold" may refer to golden flowers found by the ford itself, [8] or the golden sand; [9] several older sources such as Lewis's topological dictionary of 1848 prefer and give an unreferenced assertion there was a guild. [10]

There is an old coaching inn on the Epsom Road previously called the "Sanford Arms", which may derive from "Sand Ford", adding weight to the suggestion that the first part of "Guildford" and its many historic predecessors may refer to the very distinctive golden sand showing on the banks of the River Wey where it cuts through the sandy outcrop just south of the town. [11]

Early settlement

In Sir Thomas Malory's 1485 fictional series Le Morte d'Arthur, Guildford is identified with Astolat of Arthurian renown; [6] however only rural Celtic Bronze Age pieces have been found in the town. [12] Continuing the Arthurian connection, there is a local public house, the Astolat. [13]

Some of the tiles built into Guildford Castle may be Roman, and a Roman villa has been found on Broad Street Common [5] at the end of Roman Farm Road just west of Guildford's Park Barn neighbourhood. [14]

The Dark and Middle Ages

It is proven by archaeology and contemporary accounts that Guildford was established as a small town by Saxon settlers shortly after Roman authority had been removed from Britain [n 3]. The settlement was most likely expanded because of the Harrow Way (an ancient trackway connecting the ancient cities of Winchester and Canterbury) crosses the River Wey by a ford at this point.

Alfred the Great, the first Anglo-Saxon king of unified England, named the town in his will. [5] Guildford was the location of the Royal Mint from 978 until part-way through the reign of William the Conqueror. [5] [6]

Guildford Castle

Guildford Castle is of Norman design, although there are no documents about its earliest years. [7] Its situation overlooks the pass through the hills taken by the Pilgrims' Way, and also once overlooked the ancient ford across the Wey, thus giving a key point of military control of this long distance way across the country. [5] [n 4].

Guildford appears in Domesday Book of 1086 as Geldeford and Gildeford, a holding of William the Conqueror. The King officially held the 75 hagae (houses enclosed in fences or closes) in which lived 175 homagers (heads of household) and the town rendered £32. [15] Stoke, a suburb within today's Guildford, appears in the Book as Stoch and was also held by William. Its Domesday assets were: 1 church, 2 mills worth 5 s, 16 ploughlands with two Lord's plough teams and 20 mens plough teams, 16 acres (65,000 m2) of meadow, and woodland worth 40 hogs. Stoke was listed as being in the King's park, with a rendering of £15. [16] [17]

William the Conqueror had the castle built in the classic Norman style; the castle keep still stands. A major purpose of Norman castle building was to overawe the conquered population. It had £26 spent on it in 1173 under the regency of the young Henry II. [18] As the threat of invasion and insurrection declined, the castle's status was demoted to that of a royal hunting lodge: Guildford was, at that time, at the edge of Windsor Great Park. It was visited on several occasions by King John, Eleanor of Aquitaine and King Henry III. [6] In 1611 the castle was granted to Francis Carter [19] whose grandson's initials EC and the year 1699 were above the entrance way. [10] The surviving parts of the castle were restored in Victorian times and again in 2004; the rest of the grounds became a public garden. [20] [21]

In 1995, a chamber was discovered in the High Street, which is considered to be the remains of the 12th century Guildford Synagogue. [22] [23] While this remains a matter of contention, it is likely to be the oldest remaining synagogue in Western Europe. [23]

Guildford elected two members of the Unreformed House of Commons. [24] From the 14th century to the 18th century the borough corporation prospered with the wool trade. [25]

In the 14th century the Guildhall was constructed and still stands today as a noticeable landmark of Guildford. The north end was extended in 1589 and the Council Chamber was added in 1683. In 1683 a projecting clock was made for the front of the building: it can be seen throughout the High Street.

Post Renaissance/Dissolution of the Monasteries

The town's Royal Grammar School was built in 1509 and became Royal gaining the patronage of Edward VI in 1552. [10] In the years around 1550, a pupil at the school was John Derrick who in later life became a Queen's Coroner for the county of Surrey. In 1597, Derrick made a legal deposition that contains the earliest definite reference to cricket being played anywhere in the world. This is preserved in the "Constitution Book" of Guildford. On Monday, 17 January 1597 ( old style date, with the new year reckoned as 25th March, and thus 1598 by modern reckoning), he bore written testimony as to a parcel of land in the parish of Holy Trinity in Guildford which, originally waste, had been appropriated and enclosed by one John Parvish to serve as a timber yard. [26] This land, said Derrick, he had known for fifty years past and: [27]

Being a scholler in the ffree schoole of Guldeford, hee and diverse of his fellows did runne and play there at creckett and other plaies.

John Derrick was then aged 59 and his testimony confirms that cricket was being played by children in Surrey c.1550 and it is perhaps significant that cricket is the only one of the "plaies" referred to by name. [26] Derrick was a coroner and so it must be assumed his deposition was accurate. [27] [28]

The Hospital of the Holy Trinity still has a charitable role in modern society

In 1619 George Abbot founded the Hospital of the Holy Trinity, [6] now commonly known as Abbot's Hospital, [29] one of the finest sets of almshouses in the country. It is sited at the top end of the High Street, opposite Holy Trinity church. The brick-built, three-storey entrance tower faces the church; a grand stone archway leads into the courtyard. On each corner of the tower there is an octagonal turret rising an extra floor, with lead ogee domes. [29]

The River Wey in Guildford is canalised into the Wey Navigation

One of the greatest boosts to Guildford's prosperity came in 1653 with the completion, after many wrangles, of the Wey Navigation. This allowed Guildford businesses to access the Thames at Weybridge by boat, and predated the major canal building program in Britain by more than a century. In 1764 the navigation was extended as far as Godalming and in 1816 to the sea near Arundel via the Wey and Arun Junction Canal and the Arun Navigation. The Basingstoke Canal also was built to connect with the Wey navigation, putting Guildford in the centre of a network of waterways.

Post Industrial Revolution

The Chilworth gunpowder works operated right through the Industrial Revolution, and transported much of its wares through Guildford and its toll paid[ clarification needed] canal network. [30]

A six-mile (10 km) branch of the London and South-Western Railway from Woking to Guildford was opened in May 1845. In 1846, Acts were passed for making two railways from Guildford: one leading to Godalming, and the other to Farnham and Alton; and in the same year, an Act was obtained for a railway from Reading, via Guildford, to Dorking and Reigate. [10] All of these followed in the 19th century [5] and remain in use. [31]

From 1820 to 1865 Guildford was the scene of severe outbursts of semi-organised lawlessness commonly known as the "Guy Riots". The Guys would mass on the edge of the town from daybreak on Guy Fawkes Night, wearing masks or bizarre disguises and armed with clubs and lighted torches. At nightfall they would enter the town and avenge themselves on those who had crossed them in the preceding year by committing assaults and damaging property, often looting the belongings of victims from their houses and burning them on bonfires in the middle of the street. In later years attempts to suppress the Guys led to the deaths of two police officers. In 1866 and 1868 the Guys were dispersed by cavalry and this seems to have brought an end to the riots. Similar disorder surrounding the St Catherine's Hill Fair, held just outside the town on the Pilgrims' Way, was suppressed around the same time. [32] [33] In 1906 the Guildford Union Workhouse Casuals Ward ("The Spike") was built on the grounds of the Workhouse near the castle; today The Spike is a tourist attraction. [34]

After the death of their father in 1882, brothers Charles Arthur and Leonard Gates took over the running of his shop, which held the local distribution franchise for Gilbey's wines and spirits, and also sold beer. However, in 1885, the brothers were persuaded to join the temperance movement, and they poured their entire stock into the gutters of the High Street. Left with no livelihood, they converted their now empty shop into a dairy. Using a milk separator, they bought milk from local farmers, and after extracting the cream and whey, sold the skim back to the farmers for pig feed. In 1888 three more of the Gates brothers and their sons joined the business, which led to the formal registration of the company under the name of the West Surrey Central Dairy Company, which after development of its dried milk baby formula in 1906 became Cow & Gate. [35]

20th century

Guildford High Street in 1945

During World War II, the Borough Council built 18 communal air raid shelters. [36] One of these shelters, known as the Foxenden Quarry deep shelter, was built into the side of a disused chalk quarry. Taking a year to build, it comprised two main tunnels with interconnecting tunnels for the sleeping bunks. It could accommodate 1000 people and provided sanitation and first aid facilities. Having been sealed since decommissioning in 1944, it has survived fairly intact. [36] [37] [38] The quarry itself is now the site of the York Road car park, but the shelter is preserved and was occasionally open to the public.[ citation needed]

In May 1968 students at Guildford School of Art began a "sit-in" at the School in Stoke Park which lasted until mid-summer.[ citation needed]

On 5 October 1974, bombs planted by the Provisional Irish Republican Army went off in two Guildford pubs, killing four off-duty soldiers and a civilian. The pubs were targeted because soldiers from the barracks at Pirbright were known to frequent them. [39] The subsequently arrested suspects, who became known as the Guildford Four, were convicted and sentenced to long prison sentences in October 1975. They claimed to have been tortured by the police and denied involvement in the bombing. In 1989 after a long legal battle, their convictions were overturned and they were released. [40]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Guildford
العربية: غلدفورد
asturianu: Guildford
Cymraeg: Guildford
dansk: Guildford
Deutsch: Guildford
Ελληνικά: Γκίλντφορντ
español: Guildford
euskara: Guildford
فارسی: گیلدفورد
français: Guildford
Gaeilge: Guildford
한국어: 길퍼드
íslenska: Guildford
italiano: Guildford
Latina: Gilfordia
lietuvių: Gildfordas
magyar: Guildford
Nederlands: Guildford (stad)
norsk: Guildford
norsk nynorsk: Guildford
polski: Guildford
português: Guildford
română: Guildford
русский: Гилфорд
Scots: Guildford
Simple English: Guildford
ślůnski: Guildford
српски / srpski: Гилфорд
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Guildford
suomi: Guildford
svenska: Guildford
Türkçe: Guildford
українська: Гілфорд
vèneto: Guildford
Volapük: Guildford
粵語: 僑福
中文: 吉爾福德