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Guildford ( ) is the county town of Surreymarker, Englandmarker, as well as the seat for the borough of Guildfordmarker and the administrative headquarters of the South East England region. It is situated some 43 km (27 miles) southwest of London on the A3 trunk road linking the capital to Portsmouthmarker.

The town has Saxon roots,
and likely owes its location to the existence of a gap in the North Downsmarker where the River Weymarker is forded by the Harrow Way. The town grew enough in importance   by 978 to be the Royal Mint. With the building of the Wey Navigationmarker and Basingstoke Canalmarker  Guildford was in the centre of a network of waterways that aided its prosperity.

The Guildford pub bombingmarker by the Provisional IRA in 1974 killed five people including four off-duty soldiers from the local barracks. The subsequently arrested suspects became known as the Guildford Four.


It is believed that Guildford was founded by Saxon settlers shortly after Roman authority had been removed from Britain (which was c.410AD). The site was likely chosen because the Harrow Way (an ancient trackway that continues along Hog's Backmarker) crosses the River Weymarker at this point, via a ford. This probably gives rise to the second half of Guildford's name. The root of the first part is gold rather than society or meeting place. The Saxon name would have been Gyldeford, meaning golden ford. It has been suggested that the gold may refer to golden flowers by the ford, or the golden sand, but this is not certain. There is an old coaching Inn on the Epsom Road previously called the 'Sanford Arms', which almost certainly derives from 'Sand Ford', so this adds weight to the suggestion that 'Guildford' is a corruption of 'Gold Ford', referring 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.

In Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, Guildford is identified with Astolat of Arthurian renown. Guildford's model railway club, the Astolat Model Railway Circle, and a local pub, the Astolat, are just a couple of the modern day reminders of the legend to be found in the town.

From 978 Guildford was the location of the Royal Mint.

Guildford Castle
Guildford castle may date back to Saxon times, if not much earlier. Its situation overlooks the pass through the hills taken by the Pilgrims' Waymarker, and also, presumably, once overlooked the ancient ford across the Wey, thus giving a key point of military control of this important East-West route way across the country; just as Windsor Castlemarker and the Tower of Londonmarker once guarded the Thames.

Guildford appears in Domesday Book of 1086 as Geldeford and Gildeford. It was held by William the Conqueror. Its domesday assets were: a town; the king held 75 hagæ (houses enclosed in fences'). It rendered £32. Stoke, a suburb within today's Guildford, appears in Domesday Book of 1086 as Stoch. It was held by William the Conqueror. Its domesday assets were: 1 church, 2 mill worth 5s, 22 ploughs, of meadow, woodland worth 40 hog. It was in the King's park. It rendered £15.

William the Conqueror himself used The Pilgrims' Way when he sacked the countryside, including Guildford, after his victory at the Battle of Hastingsmarker. He then had the castle built, or maybe rebuilt, in the classic Norman style, the keep of which still stands. There can be no doubt that another major purpose of Norman castle building was to overawe the conquered population and at Guildford this also was the case. As the threat of invasion and insurrection declined the castle's status was demoted to that of a Royal hunting lodge as Guildford was, at that time, at the edge of Windsor Great Parkmarker. It was visited on several occasions by King John and King Henry III. The surviving parts of the castle were restored in Victorian times and then in 2004; the rest of the grounds are a pleasant public garden.

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

Guildford elected two members to the Unreformed House of Commons. From the 14th century to the 18th century, it prospered with the wool trade.

In the 1300s 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. It was in 1683 when a projecting clock was made for the front of the building and can be seen throughout the High Street.

In 1598, a court case referred to a sport called kreckett being played at the Royal Grammar School, Guildfordmarker which was built in 1509 and became a Royal Grammar School in 1552 granted by Edward the Sixth. The Oxford English Dictionary gives this as the first recorded instance of cricket in the English language.
The Hospital of the Holy Trinity still has a charitable role
In 1619 George Abbot founded the Hospital of the Holy Trinity, now commonly known as Abbot's Hospital, one of the finest sets of almshouses in the country. It is sited at the top end of the High Street, opposite Holy Trinity churchmarker. 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.
One of the greatest boosts to Guildford’s prosperity came in 1653 with the completion, after many wrangles, of the Wey Navigationmarker. This made it possible for Guildford businesses to access the Thames at Weybridgemarker 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 Godalmingmarker and in 1816 to the sea at Arundel via the Wey and Arun Junction Canalmarker and the Arun Navigation. The Basingstoke Canalmarker also was built to connect with the Wey navigation, putting Guildford in the centre of a network of waterways. Although the Wey was never made navigable as far as Farnhammarker, that town also benefited greatly from the existing navigation, being able to transport produce to and from Guildford via the Pilgrims' Waymarker.

In the years 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 November the fifth, wearing masks or bizarre disguises and armed with clubs and lighted torches. With the onset of nightfall, or maybe before, 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 68 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.

The Catholic order of Franciscan Friars built a friary for the training of young friars at Chilworth, on the outskirts of Guildford, with the building completed in 1892. The friars continue to minister at Chilworth to this day.

The diocese of Guildfordmarker was created in 1927, and Guildford Cathedralmarker was consecrated in 1961. Previously, Guildford had been part of the diocese of Winchestermarker.

During World War II, the Borough Council built 18 communal air raid shelters. 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. The quarry itself is now the site of the York Road car park, but the shelter is preserved and open once a year to the public.

In May 1968 students at Guildford School of Artmarker began a "sit-in" at the School in Stoke Park which lasted until mid-summer.

On October 5, 1974, bombs planted by the Provisional Irish Republican Army went off in two Guildford pubsmarker, killing four off-duty soldiers and a civilian. The pubs were targeted because soldiers from barracks near Guildford were known to frequent them. 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.

In the summer of 2007, a farm near the local village of Normandy, Surreymarker was the centre of a foot and mouth disease crisismarker amongst livestock. A major operation occurred to prevent the spread of the highly contagious disease.

Modern Guildford

In the 21st Century Guildford is a bustling English town, with a High Street paved with granite setts (frequently referred to as cobbled), numerous shops and department stores.It is a market town with the market being held on Fridays and Saturdays. A farmers' market is usually held on the first Tuesday of each month. There is a Tourist Information Office and several hotels including the historic Angel Hotel which long served as a coaching stop on the main Londonmarker to Portsmouthmarker stagecoach route. According to Channel Four Television's "The Best and Worst Places to Live in the UK" TV show Guildford was the 9th best place to live in Britain in 2006 but slipped to 12th position in 2007, largely due to the pollution produced by the numerous cars found on the roads. Guildford still remains one of the most expensive places to live in the UK outside of London. Guildford is the most attractive and safe shopping destination in the UK, according to the Eve Prime Retail Survey 2004 and ranked 27th in the country overall.


Guildford has the most visited Art Gallery in Surrey, Guildford House Gallery, with over 120,000 visitors per annum. The Gallery is situated in the High Street, in a 17th century Grade I Listed Town House and is run by Guildford Borough Council. Its own art collection includes works of Guildford and the surrounding area, and work by Guildford Artists, most notably John Russell R.A. Also run by the borough Council is Guildford Museummarker.

The town's principal commercial theatre is the Yvonne Arnaud Theatremarker which often shows productions before (and after) they have spent time in London's West End. The Electric Theatremarker opened in 1997 to host performances by musicians and amateur drama groups. It also hosts regular film, family and music festivals as well as comedy and has a Riverside Cafe Bar and Terrace. Guildford also has an Odeon cinema multiplex, which is as of June 2007 the only cinema in the world showing digital 4K films to the public . Guildford Civic Hall was the town's main arts and entertainment venue. It has been shut since January 2004, but is due to be replaced.In 2009 the Mill Studio in Guildford featured the English premiere of the one-woman musical, Estelle Bright, starring actress/singer Sarah Tullamore.

Stoke Parkmarker is the venue for both the Guilfestmarker music festival during the summer and the Surrey County Show (agricultural and general) on the last bank holiday Monday in May. Previous to 2007, the Ambient Picnic was held in Shalford Park, by the River Weymarker.

Radio stations Radio Lion, 96.4 The Eagle, County Sound Radio 1566 AM, GU2 Radio, and BBC Surrey are all based in Guildford.


Guildford's Spectrum Leisure Centremarker, in Stoke Parkmarker, is a national prizewinning sports centre that includes a variety of pools (for leisure and for serious swimming), Ten-pin bowling, a small inflatable Laser tag (with a similar facility in the town centre), an ice rink and an athletics track, as well as general halls used for indoor sports including gymnastics and trampolining. The Spectrum is home to several local sports teams, including the Guildford Flames of the English Premier Ice Hockey League, Guildford City of the Combined Counties Football League, Guildford International of the National Volleyball League and Guildford Heat of the British Basketball League.

The Surrey Sports Park, owned by the University of Surreymarker, is currently under construction on its Manor Park campus close to the Royal Surrey County Hospitalmarker and the Surrey Research Parkmarker. On completion it will house a 50 metre pool, as well as squash courts, floodlit tennis and pitches.

Guildford Cricket Club play their home matches at the Woodbridge Roadmarker ground. Surrey County Cricket Club also play one or two matches a season there. The town is home to two-time BCAFL Southern Conference, Southern Division Champions, and the Surrey Stingers American Football team. Charlotteville Cycling Club is based in Guildford and named after one of the areas of the town. They promote the Guildford Town Centre Cycle Races that take place on the cobbled high street each July. There is a martial arts and fitness centre, AJIMA located on Cabell Road in Park Barnmarker . Guildford also has two indoor rock climbing centres, Craggy Island on Moorfield Road in the Slyfield Industrial Estate, and The Vertex on the University of Surreymarker campus.


State schools

As for the rest of Surrey, Guildford's state schools operate in a three tier system. Primary schools in the town include St Thomas of Canterbury (Catholic), Boxgrovemarker, Sandfield and Guildford Grovemarker. Amongst the Junior schools are Bushy Hill, Holy Trinity, Northmead Junior and Queen Eleanor's C of E. Secondary schools include St Peter'smarker, King's Collegemarker, Christ's Collegemarker, George Abbotmarker and Guildford County Schoolmarker.

Private schools

The Royal Grammar School is towards the east end of the High Street
Probably the best-known school in the town is the Royal Grammar School, Guildfordmarker. The 'old school' building which was constructed over the turn of the Tudor and Elizabethan periods and houses a chained library, lies towards the top of the High Street. The school was established in 1509. The feeder school for the Royal Grammar School is Lanesborough Schoolmarker which is the choir school for Guildford Cathedral. Other private schools in the town include Rydes Hill Preparatory Schoolmarker, Guildford High Schoolmarker and Tormead Schoolmarker.

Tertiary education

The campus of the University of Surreymarker is in Guildford. Battersea College of Technology (previously the Battersea Polytechnic Institute) moved to the town in 1966, gaining a Royal Charter in order to award its own degrees and changing its name to its current title.

The town is home to the inaugural campus of The College of Lawmarker and to the Guildford School of Acting. Other institutions in Guildford include Guildford College of Further and Higher Educationmarker (which also occupies the site of the former Guildford School of Artmarker), Academy of Contemporary Musicmarker and the Italia Conti Arts Centre.


The town of Guildford forms part of the larger area administered by the borough of Guildfordmarker, which in turn forms part of the county of Surreymarker. Whilst the rest of the borough's area is split into civil parishes, the urban area of Guildford in unparished. Thus, within the town of Guildford, the Borough Council takes the role of both first and second tier local authority, whilst the County Council forms the third tier of local authority.

Though often referred to as a city Guildford is a town, but has applied for city status several times. Guildford's 2002 application to be granted the status of a city was unsuccessful, losing out to Prestonmarker, the only English town being formally recognised as a city as part of the Queen's Golden Jubilee celebrations. Traditionally, the establishment of a diocesan cathedral in a town conferred city status, and the presence of a University is often used as a rule of thumb in determining a settlement's status. Guildford has both of these institutions, has a rich social history and is a significant economic hub in Surrey, a county with no city.

The Cathedral of Surrey, in Guildford

Even though Guildford is the county town for Surreymarker, the council itself has its administrative base in Kingston upon Thamesmarker which, although formerly in Surrey, is now in Greater Londonmarker.

Other organisations of note that have headquarters in Guildford include Surrey Police and SEEDA, the South East England Development Agency. The South East England Regional Assembly also meets in Guildford.

Politically, the constituency of Guildfordmarker is thought of as a traditional conservative seat. However, for the first time in over ninety years, the 2001 general election returned a Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament, Sue Doughty. The 2003 Borough Elections returned a majority council for the Conservative party, replacing the Liberal Democrat-controlled council. In the 2005 general election Guildford returned a Conservative Party MP, Anne Milton – by a narrow margin (0.7% of the voting electorate, or 347 votes) and despite a 0.5% rise in the Liberal Democrat vote. The Conservatives also held the council majority in the local elections of 2007.

The town is twinned with Freiburgmarker in southern Germanymarker, and linked with Mukonomarker in central Uganda.


Guildford is a thriving commercial town with the 2006 Financial Times annual list of Top 500 Global Companies listing four major businesses with a significant presence in the town - the list includes Vodafone, Mitsubishi, Electronic Arts, and Colgate-Palmolive. Electronic Arts (formerly Bullfrog Productions), Media Molecule and Lionhead Studios have helped the town become a centre for computer game production . The fire engine manufacturer Dennis Specialist Vehicles and bus manufacturer Alexander Dennis are also located in the town as well as military vehicle builders Automotive Technik. The Surrey Research Parkmarker, contains a number of world leading companies including satellite manufacturers Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd.A global gas and engineering company, The Linde Group, is also present in Guildford.



There are two railway stations in Guildford:

  • London Roadmarker station is on the other side of the town centre to the main station. It serves stopping services running between the main station and Waterloomarker and London Bridgemarker stations.


The stretch of the A3 extending from beneath the A31 (Hog's Back) to Potter's Lane is known as the Guildford Bypass and is busy at peak times since the A3 trunk road links Guildford to Portsmouthmarker, Londonmarker and the M25marker. The M3 and M4 motorways are within short distance. The A31 (known locally as the 'Hog's Back' as it looks like the ridge of a hog's back from aerial view) extends from Guildford to Farnhammarker and is built on the old site of a Roman Road and made up part of the Pilgrim's Waymarker which extended from Winchestermarker to Canterburymarker. Today, there is no direct route from Winchester to Canterbury and the A31 links Guildford to mid-Dorset (east of Dorchestermarker). Guildford has a notorious one-way system in the town centre. There are other numerous minor A-Roads linking Guildford to various other places including Horshammarker, Wokingmarker, Godalmingmarker, Readingmarker, Aldershotmarker, Bracknellmarker and Dorkingmarker.


Bus services in Guildford are primarily operated by Arriva with some additional services provided by Countryliner, Safeguard and Stagecoach. Most routes are centred on the bus station which is attached to the Friary shopping centre. Many internal bus services within Guildford are loop shaped circulars (starting and ending at the bus station) with different numbers for the clockwise and anticlockwise services. There are also services to many surrounding towns and villages including Wokingmarker and Aldershotmarker.

Due to the location of the main railway station on the other side of the river from the bus station, only a small proportion of bus services stop at the railway station leading to poor integration between bus and rail services. To address this issue, the Guildford Shuttle was introduced in 2000. It is a town centre circular linking up various aspects of the town. It was free until the borough council withdrew funding for it in August 2008, at which point the route was withdrawn. The operator of the service reintroduced it in January 2009 on a commercial basis.

There is also a park and ride service, with three main sites at Artington, Merrow and the Spectrum.


National Express operate coach service 030 between London Victoria Coach Station and Portsmouthmarker and Southseamarker via Park Barn in Guildford, but not stopping in the town centre.

Notable residents (past and present)

Guildford has been the home of several notable writers. Lewis Carroll, author of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, had a house in Guildford and is buried in the Mount Cemeterymarker. Edward Carpenter, the gay socialist poet and activist, moved to the town after the First World War and lived there until his death in 1929. He too is buried in Mount Cemetery. Other authors from the town include Gerald Seymour, writer of Harry's Game and New York Times film critic Mordaunt Hall. P. G. Wodehouse was born, prematurely, in Guildford in 1881 whilst his mother was visiting the town.

In music, Guildford lays claim to rock group The Stranglers, who were based in the town in the early 1970s and were briefly known as "The Guildford Stranglers". Drummer Jet Black ran an off-licence in the town and bass player Jean Jacques Burnel attended the Royal Grammar School. Progressive rock musicians Mike Rutherford, of Genesis and Andrew Latimer of the band Camel, were both born in Guildford, as was jazz saxophonist Iain Ballamy. In more contemporary music, drum and bass producers Cause 4 Concern are from the town, and Sam Sparro lived in Guildford at the turn of the 21st century before moving to the United Statesmarker.

Several actors and actresses live in the area, including: Edward Kelsey, who plays Joe Grundy in The Archers; Stuart Wilson, and Bonnie Langford. Yvonne Arnaud, singer and actress, lived in the town for many years before she died. Terry Jones, the Monty Python writer, went to the Royal Grammar Schoolmarker from 1953-61. Other entertainers born in Guildford include WWE wrestler Paul Burchill and Holly Samos – radio researcher and presenter, and former member of Chris Evans' Zoo Squad.

In sport, Guildford has been home to ChampCar driver Katherine Legge and Allan Wells, gold medallist in the 100 metres at the 1980 Olympics.

Other notable residents include the model Jodie Kidd who was born in the town; mathematician, logician and cryptographer, Alan Turing, whose family home was in Guildford; Michael Buerk, BBC newsreader; Roger Fry, the English artist, critic and member of the Bloomsbury Group who lived in the house (Durbins) he designed and built in the town from 1909 to 1919;.

The fictional Ford Prefect, from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, claimed to be from Guildford, though in fact he was from a planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse.

Guildford and the media

Guildford has been captured on film in Carry on Sergeant, which was filmed at the former Queens Barracks, and The Omen, a scene from which was filmed at Guildford Cathedralmarker. Singer-songwriter Robyn Hitchcock has sung about the town in "No, I Don't Remember Guildford", a song from his 1999 album "Jewels for Sophia". The University Hall on the campus of the University of Surrey was the site of the first ever Led Zeppelin gig on 25 October 1968.


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