Services for Guildford
General Information for Guildford
The City of Guildford derives its name from Gyldeforda (Golden Ford) as it was known by the first settlers in the area around the year 500. The name probably relates to the golden colour of the sand in the river bed, at least at that time. During the 7th century, missionary priests converted the local pagans to Christianity. By the 9th century, the centre of the town was what is now bordered by Friary Street, North Street, Castle Street and St. Marys. Guildford had become the commercial centre of Surrey by the 10th century, marked by the establishment of the Royal Mint in the town. The tower of the church of St. Mary dates back to this time and is the only surviving part of Saxon Guildford.
In the 11th century, with the population of Guildford only around 350, the Norman invasion of Southern England led to the building of Guildford Castle.
The Castle is to be found in Castle Street with the Guildhall and Guildford House Gallery in the High Street.
By the 13th century Guildford had become a prosperous town mainly from the wool trade. With surrounding land used to graze sheep, local villages spun the yarn and wove the cloth, before bringing it into Guildford for the various finishing and dyeing processes.
During the Middle Ages Guildfords population never grew beyond 1000, despite its wealth and the town consisted of essentially the High Street, with some houses towards the Castle and around St. Nicholas.
In the 16th and 17th centuries the town obviously grew with more large buildings emerging. Guildford Grammar School had been established at the beginning of the 16th century and in the 1550s moved to a new building in what is now the Upper High Street.
Probably the most prominent local figure throughout Guildfords history was George Abbot. Born the son of a local worker in 1562, Abbot was educated at the Grammar School, went to Oxford University in 1579 and became University Vice-Chancellor in 1600. Abbot became a Bishop in 1609 and went on to be appointed Archbishop of Canterbury, head of the English Church, in 1611.
In 1619, he began building the Hospital of the Blessed Trinity in the High Street, now referred to as Abbots Hospital, as a home for 20 elderly Guildfordians.
He died in 1633 and is buried in a splendid tomb opposite the Hospital in Holy Trinity Church.
Guildford today is a delightful town retaining much of its historical charm. It has many contrasts and its hilly aspect means the visitor can move from the modern to the past quite suddenly. The closeness of the Castle and the river provide unexpected treasures amongst the activity of a thriving town.