Guildford Memories

A quick blast of nostalgia. I was in Guildford earlier in the week. It’s where I was born and was the centre of my world for twenty something years. In the next couple of days, someone I have known since my teens is making a short vist from the States, another, also now in the US is thinking of a last minute booking so tonight I have been searching for local b&bs. A third friend is between here and emigrating to NZ with her husband. For the first time in decades we may all be together in the same place. But Guildford is where we all met.
We have changed, so has Guildford. I used to have a jawline. And a waist. Happy days.
My grandparents’ house is now a restaurant.

Great Aunt Doll’s pub has such a makeover even the name has changed.

The Bs

The Bs

Lewis Carroll, who had a house in the town, has a mention in the museum now.
Guildford Museum, Lewis Carroll

Guildford Museum, Lewis Carroll

If you grow up in Guildford, as we did, the Georgian buildings of the High Street are something you take for granted. The clock, however, is something everyone knows and notices.
Guildford High Street

Guildford High Street

This was a secondhand bookshop without equal. The hours I spent in Thorpes were precious and happy.


On the corner of Jenner Road and the Epsom Road stood the Odeon. Now it is flats.
Where the Odeon Used to Be

Where the Odeon Used to Be

The Civic Hall was a place where I performed and later where I saw local band Genesis as they made their name, and most memorably, David Bowie. It has been pulled down and rebuilt as G-Live.
Abbot’s Hospital at the top of the High Street adds grace to the town.
Abbot's Hospital

Abbot’s Hospital

Across the road is the Church of the Holy Trinity where my grandparents used to attend.
Holy Trinity

Holy Trinity

My favourite part of Guildford is the Castle and its grounds. I walked it every Saturday with my garndparents’ dog, followed by their cat, but round every corner in Guildford memories lurk. I walk down an alleyway and see my parents, my father choosing cheese in the specialist shop, my mother’s eyes caressing fine china in a window. I see my aunts, my grandparents, my cousins; snatches of early memories of light and weather, colour and temperature; the frilly yellow party dress of a girl whose name I don’t recall; the day I slipped and tore my new trousers in the Castle Grounds, the smell of chlorine and the cold of the basket room in the long demolished Castle Baths; racing down the High Street for the last bus home on a Saturday night, the cottages where we would go at the end of the evening, now desirable residences; so many many memories.


29 thoughts on “Guildford Memories

    • The High Street is quite famous. As to the family homes, I imagine it is a familiar story to anyone whose relatives lived in a town centre. The flat above my father and grandfather’s shop where my parents lived for the first seven years of their marriage, and where my sister was born, is the site of two bollards now!

  1. Guildford looks like a lovely and well-maintained town Isobel. It would seem strange I should think to see what was your grandparents home now a restaurant BUT at least the building is still there. Nice to have some old friends from Guildford visit during the holidays….lots of memories will be shared I’m sure.


    • It is a well-to-do place. At first glance everyone looks well dressed and prosperous, you have look twice to see some people are not so flush. It has a reputation as being part of the stockbroker belt. It was strange watching people walking into the restaurant. In my imagination that door leads into a dark hall, the sitting room leading off to the right, the stairs in front of me and the passage to the kitchen. There was a framed extract of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayam in the hall and a regulator clock with my father and grandfather’s names on the dial.

  2. I loved reading your memories Isobel. Guildford is a sweet looking town, the buildings are beautiful. Your picture of Guildford High Street, the people walking on the pavers?/street, I love that the only traffic is foot traffic. It’s picture perfect, it looks like such a happy place. CH and I are looking for a place just like you photograph, a quaint cozy place that we could live and walk to lunch or dinner. I know you will have a happy visit with your friends!

  3. Yes it is a very attractive town, though the hill of the High Street is very trying when you reach the bottom only to remember you need something from the top. It is on the North Downs, chalk escarpments so there is good walking and great views. The High Street was closed to cars in shop hours on Saturdays from the 70s. Now it is the week round. There’s a good theatre, a cosy museum and easy links to London. You could do worse!

  4. Reading your memories and looking at your pictures of today’s Guilford has been a soothing moment. Thank you , Isobel.
    Oh! And I am all agog to see the Castle!

      • it is just i only here about this big clock when it is about english heritage, never heard about it in somewhere else, not sayying it is not a good idea
        by the way, few days ago i had seen a comment on youtube that english people say brought instead of bought is that true?

        • If you visit cities across Europe you will find big clocks in towns, many far more elaborate and grand than in British towns.
          As for the bought/brought, I am mystified. Bought is the past participle of buy, and used as such, brought the past participle of bring. Both words are used, rather as you would expect!

  5. Nice shots Isobel

    We lived in Guidlford off the Farnham Road for 3 years and your pictures bring back nothing but nice memories, the walks on the Mount and the Downs should be mentioned also. We are in Sydney Australia now, the sun is shining and the living is good, but we know in our hearts we will most likely end up back in Guildford sometime in the future.

  6. Hi. Happened across this site whilst feeling nostalgic for Guildford. I was born in St Luke’s in 1964, lived first on the Portsmouth Road, then from aged 2 to 24 towards the bottom of Farnham Road I.e. not the posh bit! Very occasionally return now as live up in Cambridgeshire but do feel the need to go back and visit past haunts. Like you I loved the Castle Grounds, with the big chess boards and the little alleys. I just about recall the baths. I recognise the pub as the Two brewers, it used to be my brother”s local. Saw a few bands at the Civic Hall and lots of films at the Odeon, sad to see that neither are there anymore. I could go on for ages! When I’ve got more time I” ll jot down some more memories, it”s quite therapeutic 🙂

    • Hi, nice to meet you. I blog occasionally about Guildford. If you write the name of the town in the search box on my page they will come up. Most are family memories. The Two Brewers, known as the Bs in my family, has a string of family connections being run first by my great aunt and then by my aunt. Depending when your brother drank there, he may well remember Madeleine, or maybe my cousins. It is also where my parents met. I went to school on the Farnham Road, the County Grammar for Girls. You may remember us in our red hats streaming down the road into twin at four o’clock.

      • Hi, stumbled across your blog while looking for a picture of Cranks in Guildford and then found you not only had a family connection there but also to the Two Brewers, which was my regular watering hole throughout the 70s, until I moved up to Yorkshire. I have very fond memories of Madeleine and Mike, also Jeanette: they ran a really terrific pub and I still miss the atmosphere there nearly 40 years on! Do you have any news of how, or what, they’re doing now? I was born in Guildford and spent my first 33 years there: I’ve been in Harrogate longer, but the south is still, and always will be, home to me!

        • Hi Graham, Cranks was next door to my grandparents’ cottage. When I was a young child it was Mills the Printers and we used to get given lots of paper by them. Madeleine was my aunt, my father’s younger sister. She died several years ago. She and Michael had long been separated and I don’t know where he is now. Jeannette, my cousin, died in March this year. Her half-brother, my cousin Russell, and I are spending the day together this coming Tuesday. The Bs as it was called in my family is where my parents met, though on the other side of the bar when my mother then working as a district nurse, was called on to attend my Great Great Aunt Alice. My grandmother took a shine to her and very determinedly engineered an introduction to my father, newly demobbed from the RMC. He proposed a fortnight later. If you went to the pub in the 70s we probably saw each other, I cleaned the bars in university holidays and when I went in as a customer would be put to work collecting glasses. Do you remember the dogs Miguel and Rupert? And Simon the Siamese cat who worked the bar at lunch time?

  7. Hi just had to reply I grew up in castle street in 1960’s. I remember well the 2 brewers opposite ( did it really have a tunnel into the castle as my father told me ) and the Baths and holy trinity school and Cranks the health food shop

    • Amazing! Whereabouts on Castle Street? You must remember the cinema too.
      No tunnels alas. Sorry to squash that myth. 🙂
      Cranks used to be in the Upper High Street, not far from the Odeon. Then it moved into Mills the Printers old premises on the corner of Castle Street. Mills used to give us old paper for drawing.

      • No 18 opposite the car park for the cinema ( Boxing Day the hunt gathered to ride up Pewley hill) I had no garden so lived in the castle grounds as a child, very strong memories of the demolishing of our old house( we got moved ) to bell fields. The cinema was. The Astor.

        • I spent an unnatural amount f my time in the Castle Grounds as a child too. If you remember a girl with a long ginger plait walking a black Labrador accompanied by a grey tabby, I was that girl!

    • Thanks so much for your reply, Isobel – very sorry to hear about Madeleine and, especially, Jeannette who can’t have been very old. I remember Russell as a young lad coming in from playing football, or some such, ducking under the bar-flap and tearing upstairs. Also remember Rupert the Old English Sheepdog very clearly! It’s not easy to forget him, huge and shaggy, putting his paws up on my shoulders, licking my face and nearly knocking me back out into Castle Street. You’re right, we probably did see each other back then, as I was in the pub most nights with my best mate Clive and various characters. I still get down to Guildford every year and a bunch of us meet up for a reunion and gossip about ‘old times’.

      • Jeannette died just one week short of her 66th birthday. We were all shocked. But somehow I can’t imagine her as a very elderly woman. Russell is now a sculptor. I’ve blogged about his work on this site. He’s very talented and passionate about green issues. We’re going to be going through photos and I’ll show him where our great grandparents lived. Rupert used to attack the vacuum cletwhen I cleaned the bar. Regulars used to call h Brains. He wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer!

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