Guildford, Surrey

Historical Description

Guildford, a town and a municipal borough of West Surrey, and the capital of the county. There is a junction station of the L. & S.W.R. from Waterloo and Woking to Portsmouth, the Leatherhead extension, and the Southampton, Alton, and Farnham branches of the same railway, and also branches of the S.E.R. and L.B. & S.C.R. The town stands on the river Wey, the Arun and Wey Canal, and is 30 miles SW of London. The Arun and Wey navigation connects it northward with the Thames and southward with Godalming and the sea. It possibly was the site of a very early settlement, perhaps one of the primitive Saxon marks; but it first appears on record in the will of King Alfred, and is there called Guldford or Gyldeford. It was given by Alfred to his nephew Ethelwald; and after the death of Hardicanute it was the scene of the massacre of Etheldred II.'s son Alfred and his Norman followers. It belonged to the Crown in the time of the Confessor, and all or part of the manor continued to be held by the kings of England till the time of James I.; was afterwards given to the Earls of Annandale, and passed to the Onslows of Clandon. A royal castle was built in the town; is alleged by some writers to have been a residence of the old English princes; appears, however, to have been not of earlier date than at least the time of the Conqueror; was taken in 1216 by Louis, the dauphin; seems to have undergone enlargement and embellishment at subsequent periods; had for constable Sir Simond Burleigh in 1377; went into neglect before the time of James I.; was then given to Francis Carter, mayor of Guildford; passed about 1810 to the late Duke of Norfolk, and belongs now to the Corporation of Guildford, who have expended a considerable sum in laying out the estate as public pleasure-grounds. The chief parts of the pile occupied a considerable eminence to the south of High Street, and there commanded the river; and the courts and out-buildings occupied a surrounding space of several acres. Only a few shattered walls and shapeless fragments now remain to show the precincts; but the square keep or central tower still stands, soaring above all circumjacent buildings, and forming a prominent object in the town's landscape. The keep is of Late Norman character; was cased with chalk, flint, sandstone, and rag-stone, with herring-bone or fern-leaf work; was divided internally into three storeys; is at present about 70 feet high; and has walls 10 feet thick at the basement, and decreasing gradually upward. A royal palace is said to have existed in the town, but what is called so was really a part of the castle. Orders are on record, in the time of Henry III., for the repair of the great hall, the decorating of the king's bed, and the arranging of the queen's herbary. Henry II., John, and Henry III. frequently resided here; Prince Edward brought hither to his father, Henry III., the outlaw prisoner Gordon; and Edward III. was here in 1336, 1340, and 1347.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient County Surrey
Hundred Woking
Poor Law union Guildford

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Church Records, in association with Surrey History Centre, have images of the Parish Registers for Surrey online.

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Guildford from the following:

Land and Property

The Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Surrey is available to browse.

Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following Surrey papers online:

Visitations Heraldic

The Visitation of Surrey, 1662-1668 is available on the Heraldry page.

RegionSouth East
Postal districtGU1
Post TownGuildford