Guildford in 1842
Guildford is in Woking hundred, chiefly on the right bank of the Wey, and in that depression of the North Downs through which the river passes ; 30 miles from the General Post-office, London, by Kingston, or 31 by Leatherhead. The area of the old borough was 210 acres. The present parliamentary and municipal limits, as determined by the Boundary and Municipal Reform acts, comprehend a much larger area. Guildford is mentioned first in the will of Alfred the Great, by whom, as being a royal demesne, it was bequeathed to his nephew Ethelwald, on whose rebellion or death a few years after it reverted to the crown. It was here that Alfred, the son of Ethelred II, was treacherously seized in the reign of Harold I (A.D. 1036), and here his Norman attendants were massacred to the number of nearly six hundred. In Domesday the town is called Gildeford. It belonged to the king, who had seventy-five messuages or tenements (hagae), from which and other data Manning (History of Surrey) conjectures the population to have been about 700.
There are the remains of an old castle here of uncertain date, but it is probably later than the Domesday survey, as it is not noticed there. It was taken by Louis of France and the insurgent barons in the reign of John, A.D. 1216. It was alienated from the crown in the time of James I The ruin stands on an eminence on the south side of the town, and not far from the east bank of the river. There are some remains of the outer walls. The shell of the keep is standing : it is a square tower, about 44 feet square outside, with walls ten feet thick in the lower story. The original entrance was through a stone arch in the west front, so high that it must have been approached by an outside staircase. This opening, which now commonly passes for a window, has a pointed arch, which, as the general character of the keep is Norman, was probably altered at a period subsequent to the erection. There was a circular staircase in one corner, and there were galleries in the walls as at Rochester.
The town is on a declivity, and the High-street, which runs down to the bridge over the Wey, is steep. The town is well paved, and lighted with gas ; and from the well built and substantial houses which it contains has a thriving and respectable appearance.
St. Mary’s church, on a declivity to the south of the High-street, is a curious edifice, chiefly of chalk, very ancient, and rudely built. Some parts are of early English, and others of later date. It consists of a nave with two aisles, and a chancel with a chapel on each side, forming an extension of the aisles, and originally communicating with the chancel by arches which are now stopped up. These chapels do not extend the length of the chancel, and are round at the east end. There is a small embattled tower in the centre of the building. Trinity church is near the eastern entrance of the town on the south side of the High-street. It was rebuilt of brick about the middle of the last century, with an embattled tower of the same material 90 feet high. St. Nicholas is on the west side of the Wey. It is an ancient structure, rudely built of chalk and flints, with an intermixture of stone ; and is of various dates and styles. It has a low embattled western tower entirely of stone, and some good lancet windows.
On the north side of High-street, nearly opposite Trinity church, is Abbots Hospital, or Trinity Hospital (erected and endowed by Archbishop Abbot, a native of Guildford), a building in the Elizabethan style, of imposing appearance, built round a quadrangular court. The gateway tower is square, with octangular turrets at the corner, surmounted with pinnacles. There is a grammar-school, an ancient and spacious building. The old town-hall, or guild-hall, is a large building, surmounted by a turret, and having a clock projecting into the street ; and there are a new corn-market and court-house of neat and handsome appearance, and a neat theatre. The county house of correction is a brick building, well situated, about a quarter of a mile from the town ; and there are extensive barracks on the site of an ancient Dominican friary. Half a mile south of the town, on a hill to the left of the Godalming road, are the picturesque ruins of St. Catherine’s Chapel. There are meeting-houses for several bodies of Dissenters.
The population of the old borough is 1831 was 3,924, of the borough as subsequently extended probably about 4,833. There is no important branch of manufacture carried on at Guildford. There are some paper and corn mills, breweries, and an iron-foundry. There are markets on Wednesday and Saturday, the latter a good corn-market. There is a weekly lamb-fair or market on Tuesday, from about Easter to Whitsuntide ; and there are two yearly fairs for cattle and horses. There are two banking establishments. The Midsummer quarter-sessions for the county are held here, and the summer assizes alternately with Croydon. The court of election for members of parliament for the western division of the county is also held here.
The town was early incorporated, but the time is unknown : the earliest known charter is of Edward II. Quarter-sessions for the borough are held, and petty sessions as occasion requires. The town has, under the Municipal Reform Act, a commission of the peace, 4 aldermen, and 12 councillors. Guildford has sent two members to parliament ever since 23 Edward I. The number of voters on the register for 1835-6 was 430 : for 1839-40, 495.
The livings of Trinity and St. Mary’s are rectories, united, of the joint clear yearly value of £171, with a glebe-house. St. Nicholas’s is a rectory, of the clear yearly value of £437, with a glebe-house. They are all in the rural deanery of Stoke, the archdeaconry of Surrey, and the diocese of Winchester.
There were in the old borough, in 1833, an infant-school with 123 children, 76 boys and 47 girls ; the grammar school with 74 boys, 6 on the foundation ; an endowed blue-coat school with 56 boys, 26 of them on the foundation ; two national schools, with 64 boys and 76 girls ; a Lancasterian school, with 96 girls ; and ten other day-schools with 231 children, viz. 105 boys and 102 girls, and 24 children of sex not stated. There were also two Sunday-schools with 352 children, viz. 158 boys and 194 girls ; besides which 44 boys from one of the national schools attended on Sunday.