Guildford Castle Great Hall

Guildford Castle Great Hall

Guildford Castle Moat Garden

Guildford Castle Moat Garden

Guildford Castle is in Guildford, Surrey. After the Battle of Hastings in 1066 William led his army to Canterbury and then sacked towns along the Pilgrims' Way, including Guildford. Later William, or one of his barons, built Guildford Castle. There is no record of it in the Domesday Book so construction probably started after 1086. First to be built at the Castle would have been the motte (a mound) around which was a ditch and a bailey protected by a wooden palisade. The Bailey's boundary would have run along Castle Street, South Hill, what is now Racks Close and parallel with Quarry Street (although slightly to the east). If it followed a typical Norman design the bailey would have been divided with a palisade, into two parts the outer and inner bail. The inner bailey would have encompassed the motte on which a wooden keep would have been built as a look-out post for the soldiers stationed there.


Late 11th or early 12th century, a wall made of Bargate stone was built around the top of the motte creating what is known as a shell keep, and then around the 1130s a keep (tower) was added, again made of Bargate stone from nearby Godalming, bonded with hard and durable mortar. The keep may have been built over part of the shell keep and its foundations went down to the chalk bedrock. The general form was quadrangular, its exterior dimensions being 47 feet by 45.5 feet. The walls are about 10 feet thick at the base and tapering towards the top. The keep had a ground and first floor with the entrance located in the first floor to aid in defence. The keep was most likely used as a private apartment for the King. The ground floor was windowless. On the first floor there was a main chamber, a chapel, and wardrobe with latrine. A second floor was added shortly afterwards containing a two-seater latrine. The addition of the second floor made the keep over 70 feet high. The roof of the building was made of lead and the inner walls were covered in plaster and then whitewashed.


In the later 12th century, the tower became the headquarters of the Sheriff and the county gaol for Surrey and Sussex. The king moved to better apartments in the bailey, together with all the other domestic buildings and a chapel. The Great Hall was probably on the site of the two houses at the bottom of Castle Hill. It was stone, with wooden aisle posts painted to look like marble. In the 13th century Henry III made many improvements, which caused the castle to be referred to as a palace. His queen had a new window in her rooms, made as large as possible, with two Purbeck marble columns. The Great Hall was given windows with coloured glass, and wall paintings, including the story of Dives and Lazarus, to remind the king to be charitable. A screen by the passage leading to Henry's private chambers was painted with the legend of Edward the Confessor and St. John. Henry's bedchamber was painted green, with gold and silver stars, and he had a garden surrounded by a cloister with marble columns. In 1254, a fire damaged the hall and other buildings but the improvements continued.


In 1245, Henry bought land to extend the bailey. This was presumably the land along Quarry Street. He built a set of rooms for his son Edward, the heir to the throne, in 1246 when the boy was seven. The ruins at the end of Castle Cliffe Gardens are probably the remains of this. In 1256, the gate on Quarry Street was built. John of Gloucester, the king's master mason, and Alexander the king's carpenter oversaw the work. They were in charge of all royal works south of the Trent. The original gate to the castle must have been on the other side of the bailey, opposite Tunsgate, but there is no trace of it today. The new gate suggests that Henry had altered the whole focus of the castle. He later built more sets of rooms in this area, for his daughter-in-law Eleanor of Castile, and for his Queen's knights.


Although the castle was mainly used as a dwelling, it was strongly defended and was used as a mustering point for troops preparing for Edward I's foreign wars. It was never attacked, though it was strengthened in 1173 - 4 during the rebellion of Henry II's son. The heightening of the great tower may be linked to the civil war of Stephen's reign. In 1216, the castle was given up without a fight to the forces supporting the barons against King John. There was no fighting during Simon de Montfort's rebellion either. However, Edward, Henry III's son, captured a rebel, Adam Gurdon, in single combat at Alton and brought him to Guildford. It is said that Edward's wife, Eleanor of Castile pleaded for Adam's life, and he was spared, to become a loyal servant of the crown.


In the 14th century, Guildford and other inland castles were no longer needed and fell into disrepair. By 1379 everything at Guildford had fallen down except for the king's great chamber. The moated hunting lodge in the royal park was improved from the 1360s, so that royalty could stay there. The park was across the river, and was used for hunting deer for sport, and to provide food for the royal household. There was also a rabbit warren. Horses were bred in the park, and oxen were grazed. The trees provided timber for building and fuel for fires and for limekilns, which produced lime for building work. The Great Tower continued to be used as the county gaol. The Sheriff had a building next to it, probably of timber, from 1247. The gaol was moved to Southwark in the early 16th century and in 1544 John Daborne was made Keeper of the castle garden. His family was involved with the castle for the rest of the 16th century. They put the brick windows and the fireplaces in the tower, may have used it as an official residence.


In 1611, the castle estate was granted to Francis Carter and he, or his son, built the house at Castle Arch soon after this. The tower was unroofed in about 1630, and was used as a cockpit. Parts of the grounds were farmed, and rented out to different people. In 1885, Lord Grantley of Wonersh, who owned a large part of the castle, sold it to Guildford Corporation. The tower and other walls were restored, and the grounds were opened to the public in 1888 as pleasure gardens. In 2003 - 4 the Great Tower was conserved and the original crenellations and other features were discovered. A roof and floor were re-instated at first floor level, and the ground floor now houses a display about the castle. Limited disability access due to the steep castle mound and the number of staircases. They can give Sighted guiding and a descriptive tour. There is a small gift shop on the ground floor of the castle. The Great Tower contains a model of the original castle c1300 and interpretation panels tracing the tower's history to the present day.


Guildford Museum

Guildford Museum

Castle Arch in the 19th Century

Castle Arch - 19th Century

Guildford Museum

Guildford Museum is the main museum is in the town of Guildford. The museum is on Quarry Street, a narrow road lined by pre-1900 cottages running just off the pedestrianised High Street. This main site of the museum forms the gatehouse and annex of Guildford Castle. The Museum's collection originally grew from the collections of the Surrey Archaeological Society, founded in 1854. From the outset the Society collected objects from excavations and private donations, as well as accepting loans from private individuals. These artefacts were first stored with the societies various Honorary Secretaries in a number of locations in London. In 1871 it was suggested that the Society's collections be moved to a more permanent base in Croydon (then Surrey, now a part of Greater London) and housed by the Croydon Literary and Scientific Institute. Part of the attraction of the move was that the Institute offered free accommodation for the collection, provided glass cases for display and offered to produce a catalogue of the collection. These terms were described as "very advantageous" by the Society's committee.


However, the Institute failed to live up to its promise to provide adequate care for the collections, and when the Honorary Secretary, Mr. Mill Stephenson, visited the collection in 1892 he found it in a "deplorable condition". Glass cases were smashed, locks were broken and objects were damaged or even missing. The Secretary remonstrated with the Institute's librarian/curator and seems to have been unsurprised when the Society was asked to vacate the premises. The Society now had to look for new premises for their collection, and this was duly offered by Guildford Borough Council, who in 1885 had purchased Guildford Castle and its grounds, and opened them up as a public park and bowling green. The grounds included a row of cottages built on the site of the castle's old gatehouse. These cottages were offered to the Archaeological Society in 1898 (once the original tenants have moved out) for a new museum and library, with an annual rent of £12 pa. As part of the arrangement the Society agreed to open the museum to the public on at least one afternoon a week. In 1903 Mr Fredrick H. Elsley was appointed joint Librarian and Curator of the Society's collection of books, manuscripts and artefacts. He was offered an annual honorarium of £5 per year, which by the time of his death in 1944 had risen to £25 per year.


Guildford Museum cares for over 75,000 objects, dating from c.500,000 BC (the Lower Palaeolithic) to the modern day. The Museum's collection contains objects either from, or in some way related to, Guildford, and to a lesser extent Surrey. The collections can be sub-divided into three sections plus art : Archaeology. The Museum's archaeology collection dates back to 1854, when the Surrey Archaeological Society was founded and began collecting objects, although few have in fact been in the collection for more than 100 years. Many of the objects in the collections remain on near-permanent loan from the Society. Highlights include sceptre handles and religious headdresses’ from the Romano-British temple site at Wanborough, a large collection of Mesolithic handaxes from Farnham, and the full excavation assemblage from the Tudor site of Farnborough Hill Convent, which was published by the Museum under the title Pots and Potters in Tudor Hampshire. A minority of the 6,705 coins of the Reigate hoard are here found in 1990 at which time it was the largest post-1351 medieval coin hoard on record. This was entirely silver, bar 138 gold coins and dated from 1272 to 1455 (as did the 1972 Reigate hoard) and contained gold nobles, half-nobles and quarters and silver groats, half-groats and pennies, some Scottish and French coins, and a few of eight other countries. Local History. The local history collection dates from 1905 when the Museum began to collect social history objects. In 1907 it accepted a donation from Gertrude Jekyll, the celebrated garden designer, of her entire collection of objects relating to "Old Surrey". Much of this donation is still on display. Highlights include a napkin featuring an embroidered portrait of Queen Elizabeth I (believed to have been used by her), fragments of a Zeppelin bomb dropped on the St Catherine’s area of Guildford in World War I, and a green velvet suit purchased in Carnaby Street, London, in the 1970s. Needlework. The Museum also cares for a specialist needlework collection, highlights of which include 18th and 19th century samplers, a "lending quilt" from a local parish church and a wide selection of Surrey Smocks (smocks worn by farm labourers in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries).


The Museum also has a site in St Mary's Church, the oldest building in Guildford (c.1000). In addition the museum manages the adjacent Victorian Schoolroom (which offers a Victorian teaching experience for school children aged 6 – 12) and the medieval undercroft on Guildford High Street, as well as the medieval Great Barn at Wanborough. Visitors who are blue badge holders can park at the metered parking almost opposite the Museum in Quarry Street. A dropped kerb is at the junction with Castle Street. The museum has a portable ramp if required for nearer kerb access. A fixed induction loop is provided at the reception/shop desk. A portable induction loop is available for meetings or talks in other areas. The temporary exhibition gallery is on the ground floor. Access around the galleries is via steps and there are currently only stairs within the historic buildings. The main flights have a handrail on one side, the short flights do not. Seating is available. There is a slightly larger than standard toilet on the ground floor. Assistance dogs are welcome


Location :Guildford Museum, Castle Arch, Guildford, Surrey GU1 3SX

Transport : Guildford (National Rail) then 10 minutes. Bus Routes : 24, 32, 53, 63, 125, 503, 545, 599, PT2, PT3 and PT4 stop very close by.

Opening Times Castle : March, October - Saturday + Sunday 11:00 to 16:00;   April through September - Daily 10:00 to 17:00

Opening Times Museum : Monday - Saturday 11:00 to 17:00

Tickets Castle: Adults £3.20;   Children/Concessions £1.60

Tickets Museum: Free

Tel. : 01483 444751