Guildford Museum Town Take Over This exhibition explores a selection of objects from our museum collections which connect Guildford as it was, with Guildford today.

Object: noun, a thing that can be seen, held, or touched, usually not a living thing - Cambridge Dictionary

Our objects are a tangible link to Guildford’s stories and history. Some of these stories are widely known, while others are not. The objects included on posters in town and on display at the museum connect Guildford now to events which happened here decades, hundreds, or thousands of years ago.

Our team here at Guildford Heritage Services, has partnered with local businesses, places of work and entertainment, as well as individuals across the town, to bring you these glimpses from the past.

As you walk through our town look for the places that link to the objects we explore here.

Holy Trinity Church and a Bluecoat Uniform

Did you know that there was once a school in the tower of Holy Trinity Church?

In 1579 Thomas Baker built a market house in front of Holy Trinity Church which stands at the top of Guildford High Street. After his death Baker’s Charity was formed using the rents from the market house to pay a master to teach 30 poor men’s sons reading, writing and arithmetic. This prepared them to attend Guildford’s Grammar School or become an apprentice.

Until 1712 the school was probably held in the master’s house. In 1712 two rooms were built onto the market house as a school for both boys and girls. 50 years later, the charity was re-established and became known as the Bluecoat School, named after the colour of the boy’s uniform coat. Girls were no longer taught.

The school was housed in the newly built tower of Holy Trinity Church (1762) until 1855. At that point Baker’s Charity was amalgamated with George Abbot’s Manufacturing Endowment to form Archbishop Abbot’s School in the Old Cloth Hall, for boys aged seven to 14 years. Baker’s Charity provided free places, but other pupils had to pay. The school closed in 1933.

Holy Trinity Church

There has been a church on this site since the 1600s when Guildford was developing into a town. It was rebuilt after the church tower fell down in 1740. A huge sum of money was needed to rebuild it. Nothing was done until 1749, when all the rubble could be cleared and a complete rebuild could start.

Holy Trinity before the tower collapsed in 1740

The church opened to worship in 1763, with the bells added in 1769, an organ in 1780, and the clock in 1790. The church is dedicated to the Holy Trinity: God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The architect of the church was James Horne of London. He usually worked with stone, but Holy Trinity was built using brick as it was cheaper, with only small additions of Portland stone.

Before and after the services the wealthier Guildford residents used the north door, standing on the terrace to be seen and admired. The poorer residents had to use the west door.

In the 1869 two galleries along the sides were removed creating one row of long windows just as they are today. There are no pillars supporting the celling which makes the interior feel bigger and very grand.

You can find out more about the church on the Holy Trinity Church website:


Image: Holy Trinity Church Summer 2019 © Holy Trinity Church

The uniform, one not designed to keep the chill away!

This was the style of uniform worn until about 1825. In the 18th century boys at the school were given a uniform every two years, it included wool jacket and kid (fine leather) breeches and a cap.

This replica was worn for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations in Guildford in 1897. It may even have been made and used a decade earlier. It is recorded that in 1887, two boys wearing replica Bluecoat uniforms went around Guildford ringing bells to advertise the “Fancy Fair” held by Holy Trinity Church that year.

Jubilee Celebrations in Guildford in 1897

According to an account by the Rector of Holy Trinity Church in 1884, the school pupils did not enjoy wearing the uniform on a winter’s morning!

The times of ruling with the ruler….

This cap was worn by GW Downs as part of the Bluecoat School uniform when he was a pupil at the school in the 1840s. It is probably the oldest item of a Bluecoat uniform to survive in the museum’s collection. The donor, EG Downs believed the cap to be the only Guildford Bluecoat cap still in existence.

Mr Thayers, master of the school when GW Downs attended, was apparently rather strict with the boys. It is said that he shook a large stone ink bottle at them, held a ruler aloft and threatened to put it down students’ throats! If that wasn’t enough, he also had the boys collect as many large flint stones so that he could build ‘Laurel Cottage’ on Portsmouth Road.

Did you know that we look after an extensive textile collection?

Our needlework dates from the 13th century to the present. It includes clothing, patchwork and carefully stitched samplers! Read more on our blog.


Facing the Face Jug

Who was she?

This face jug was found in a rubbish pit in an area now known as the Tunsgate Quarter of Guildford, a shopping area leading off the High Street. It is part of a large collection of pottery and glass excavated in 1970 at 16 Tunsgate. They were probably dumped in the pit in 1714 when the site was occupied by an inn.

Inside the Tunsgate Quarter © Tunsgate Quarter

This collection is very important, because it shows what objects were in use in Guildford at that time. The collection may be the result of a clear-out of the inn’s contents. It included animal bones providing evidence of the food served, and the distinctive clay pipes of the period emphasising the part that smoking played in social life.

The inn was pulled down in 1818 to build the cornmarket, which now forms Tunsgate Arch from the High Street.

Tunsgate Arch (technically the Cornmarket)

The face on our jug has plaits, and a full skirt. Dresses warn at the time were straighter, but this design meant that the jug could hold more liquid. Plaits and braids were extremely popular with women of all ages during the medieval period. Medieval workers usually had two braids crossed over and tided up as this was more comfortable when carrying out manual work.

This found object is an example of medieval Surrey whiteware. This takes its name from the white clay our local potteries used. They were a major supplier of kitchen and quality tableware for London.

This jug was expensive and may have been used for serving wine. The wine probably came from Bordeaux, sent to Southampton and on to London and other places. We know there were wine merchants in Guildford too.

We don't know what the decoration means on these jugs, but the Museum of London suggests they were “a medieval joke or caricature that has been forgotten over time”.

Today, many designer outlets and souvenir shops have adopted the idea of creating mugs or pots with anthropomorphic (having human characteristics) and zoomorphic (representing animal forms or gods of animal form) details. In the past few years, they have increased in popularity and are making an appearance in our hands and on our tables once again.

Did you know that archaeology (human related material recovered from the ground) makes up the largest part of our collection with over 65,000 objects?

Read more about this part of our collection here:


Tunsgate Quarter - a story of change

Did you know that ‘gate’ was the name used in Guildford for the alleyways that led off the High Street? Tunsgate was one of those narrow alleys. It took its name from The Three Tuns Inn on the High Street.

The Three Tuns Inn on the right

The Three Tuns was demolished in 1818 to build a corn market, with a frontage like a Roman temple.

The area has been home to Jeffery’s motorcycle shop, Quittenton Umbrellas and Boxer’s - a bohemian coffee bar popular with young people in the 1950s and 60s. The 20th century saw further changes with Tunsgate Square just off the “gate” opening in 1971. Now the area newly developed is known as the Tunsgate Quarter.

Money, money, money….. Guildford’s Banks and Banknotes

Guildford's connection with money goes back to at least 975 CE, when there was a mint here licensed by the king to make silver pennies.

Coins from Guildford have been found as far away as Scandinavia, perhaps payments made to Vikings.

Paper bank notes came into common use in the 1600's as they were more convenient and safer than carrying gold or silver coins. Issued by many banks, the notes were handwritten, and for any amount. They were a promise to pay the bearer the value in gold. Banknotes today still carry ‘the promise’ but since the 1930s you cannot exchange them for gold, only for the note's value in legal tender, which could be another note.

In 1765 William Haydon established one of the first banks in Guildford at 29 High Street (renumbered as 147 in the early 1960s). He was a draper dealing in expensive, imported fabrics at his shop on this site. When he built a strong room to keep his valuable stock safe other traders asked if he could keep their money safe in it too. Haydon realised he could invest this money and generate more profit than through the drapery business. Haydon’s Bank was born.

Haydon's Bank, now Lloyds

Haydon's bank notes were trusted as far away as Chichester in West Sussex. It was last run by Dodsworth Haydon, who used to 'lean over the counter on Saturdays to talk to customers in a friendly fashion'. Haydon’s bank was taken over by the Capital and Counties Bank in 1883. Lloyds Bank now occupies the former site of Haydon’s Bank.

Lloyds Bank in Guildford 2020

Bank notes and banks of Guildford

There were many different banks in Guildford. The Guildford Bank, formed by Messrs Sparkes and Lee in Bank House at 53 High Street, is now the Boots store. William Sparkes was Mayor of Guildford several times and a significant figure in the town. He drowned himself in the River Wey in 1840. The bank went into liquidation a month after his death.

Guildford Bank, (Sparkes and Lee), M&S in the photo, now Boots store. Image: Guildford Photographic Society
Boots store former Guildford Bank

West Surrey Bank was at 49 High Street, near where Superdrug is today. Run by Mangles, Keen and Co., it seems they may have moved into Bank House after the Guildford Bank closed. James Mangles' daughter married Sir James Stirling, who founded the town of Guildford in Western Australia, now a suburb of Perth.

Ordinary banks would only take deposits of over £10, so there was a need for somewhere for people to save smaller amounts. Savings banks opened in the 19th century to do this. The Guildford Savings Bank operated from 1816 - 1926, in the building over the Undercroft at what was No.115 High Street, now Liz Earle, a beauty and spa business.

Guildford Savings Bank

There was also the National Provincial Bank, Now NatWest

National Provincial Bank, now NatWest. Image: Guildford Photographic Society

Did you know that the Bank of England has very high value notes called 'Giants'? worth £1 million, and 'Titans' worth £100 million? For obvious reasons, these notes never leave the vaults of the Bank of England!

Thank you to our volunteer Malcolm for his research and knowledge on this subject. Fancy more? Read Malcolm’s blog :


Staging the Performance: The Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

The Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

The theatre, named after the famous actress and Guildford resident, opened on 2 June 1965. Although there had been live theatre in Guildford before there had never been a purpose-built theatre in the town.

Guildford had a playhouse on Market Street during the 18th century, and the Theatre Royal was on North Street from 1912. In 1946 the Guildford Theatre Club was opened in the old Borough Hall, on the corner of Leapale Road and North Street. But on 24 April 1963 a fire broke out and destroyed it.

Theatre Royal on North Street
Theatre Royal tickets

The Yvonne Arnaud Theatre Trust had already formed in 1961. The loss of Guildford Theatre Club gave added support for a plan to build a great new theatre in Guildford. A public appeal was launched, and fundraising committees set up locally. There were even committees in London and benefit nights were organised by stars of stage, screen, and TV.

The Yvonne Arnaud theatre took two years to build on its site next to the River Wey, with almost 70% of the costs being donated by local theatre lovers. John Brownrigg designed the auditorium to be comfortable, stylish and intimate. His plan was that all 573 seats would have an excellent view of the stage and the acoustics would be as perfect as possible. The focus was on the 95ft stage, one of the largest provincial stages in the country.

Yvonne Arnaud Theatre artistic impression (c) Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Background: Yvonne Arnaud Theatre 1965, view from the river. Photograph taken by Thomas A Wilkie FRPS AIBP

Yvonne Arnaud autograph and programme book, 1966-1972

This autograph book was put together by an avid theatre goer. It contains the programmes from performances at the Yvonne Arnaud alongside autographs of the performers in each show.

The theatre’s opening festival presented three plays directed by Sir Michael Redgrave. The first was Ivan Turgenev’s ‘A Month in the Country’, staring international stars Ingrid Bergman and Michael Redgrave. ‘A Month in the Country’ moved on to the West End where it had a long run. This was the forerunner of many plays that transferred from Guildford to the capital.

Many famous stars of the day attended the festival including, Faith Brook, Fay Compton, Rachel Kempson, Max Adrian, Daniel Masson, Peter Gale and Geoffrey Charter.

Actor Dirk Bogarde spoke the first words delivering a prologue for the festival written by Christopher Fry,

“…Come unto these yellow sands and then take hands for here has been created an island theatre named and dedicated to a spirit of no common rate. Yvonne Arnaud, to woman’s grace and wit: a theatre, charming as a country favour, lying between the mill, stream and the river…”

Yvonne Arnould Theatre 20th anniversary souvenir programme

The Lady Behind the Name

The Yvonne Arnaud theatre is named after the actress who, for nearly half a century, was a star of English theatre. Yvonne Arnaud (1892 – 1958) was born in France. She began her career as a concert pianist in 1905. At 16 she visited Britain for the first time to perform at the Queens Hall in London.

It was when visiting the theatre in London to see ‘The Count of Luxembourg’, that she decided she could become an actress. She was unimpressed by the performance commenting, ‘I could do that – it’s all rhythm. I shall go on the stage’.

Yvonne Arnaud. Bain News Service, publisher. Public domain

After being employed as an understudy for ‘The Quaker Girl’ in the West End, Yvonne became a star overnight when she appeared in ‘The Girl in the Taxi.’ She was so popular that playwrights competed to create roles for her. Her unique style of comedy and depth of sensitivity meant that whatever she chose was guaranteed at least a 12 month run in the West End.

In 1937 she moved with her husband, Hugh McLellan, to a farm near Effingham Common. Later she lived on Guildford’s London Road. Yvonne became a Founder Director and devoted supporter of the Guildford Theatre Club as well as a hugely popular Guildford resident.

Treasures from the grave: Saxon Beakers and Guildown

Cone-beakers Early Saxon, 401-540 CE

On loan from Surrey Archaeological Society

These fine glass beakers were found in the Guildown Saxon cemetery buried with two men. Glass vessels like this were probably imported from France, Belgium or Germany and were expensive. This suggests that the men the beakers were buried with were wealthy.

In the living world, such prized beakers would have been used at feasts filled with alcohol such as beer, cider, wine or mead, a drink made from honey. Their cone shape meant the beakers could not be put down until the contents were finished.

Glass is extremely fragile, and items of this age are seldom found complete. It is amazing that these beakers have survived.

Saxon Beakers and Guildown

In 1929 the discovery of 5th and 6th century Saxon graves in a garden on the Mount, provided evidence of the earliest Saxons in Guildford.

The earliest Saxon settlers in Guildford were pagans. They believed in an after-life and buried their dead with items useful for the next life. The Guildford cemetery contained men, women and children buried with a variety of grave goods. These complete Saxon beakers were found amongst the graves.

Some of the grave goods included iron spears, but most of the objects found were domestic and personal. Several skeletons had iron knives at their waists which were probably originally in a sheath hung from a belt. Some bodies were buried with pots which may have contained food or drink. Many people were buried wearing brooches or beads. Three wore finger rings and one girl had silvered bronze rings on her clothes, perhaps for fastening them. The site may have been deliberately chosen to mark the territory of the local people.

Each grave was cleared by hand. The objects were removed for cleaning in Guildford Museum and the skeletons taken out bone by bone and sent to the Royal College of Surgeons, London. The College was bombed during the Second World War and most of the skeletons were destroyed. The ones that did survive are now preserved in the Natural History Museum, London.

The Guildford Jack-daw – the story of a boy and his bird

The Book

We believe that Thomas Russell (Rector of West Clandon in the 1770s) wrote this book and published it around 1795. It instructs children on how they should behave through the story of a boy called Jack and a bird, the Guildford Jackdaw.

The story is Illustrated with printed pictures which may have been created by Thomas’s artist brother, John Russell. He became a famous portrait artist appointed painter to King George III in 1789. John went to Guildford’s Grammar School and so it seems likely that Thomas was there too.

The boys’ father, also John, was a bookseller, publisher and five times mayor of Guildford. J Russell, named as publisher on the frontispiece of this book, could well be Thomas and John’s father. The Russell family shop in Guildford High Street stood where the dress shop Hobbs is today.

A jackdaw is a black bird belonging to the crow family. It is found across Europe, Western Asia and North Africa. They are considered to be very intelligent. We guess this is why the bird was chosen for this story which features a bird attending school.

Today we are unfamiliar with books printed before the 19th century. We might be confused by the use of the letter 'f' in the text, instead of the letter ‘s'. Words like story appear as ftory. In fact, this 'f' is a long ‘s’, pronounced no differently from the short ‘s’. It was often used in the middle of words up until the 19th century, when it fell out of favour, probably because it looked confusingly like an ‘s’ anyway!

Did you know that Guildford Library has a specialist books and collections section. It covers the arts, reminiscence, local history and documents that you are free to look at or borrow.

Guildford Library

Copper printing-plate

We think this plate was designed by John Russell RA. It was used to print the picture on the frontispiece of the Guildford Jack-daw. It shows how the artist imagined Jack and his daw would look.

John Russell, self-portrait c. 1780, National Portrait Gallery. Public Domain.

The printing technique used here is called intaglio. The artist cut an image into a surface, in this case copper, which is filled with ink. They then pressed the copper plate onto paper to print the image. It is the opposite to the relief print, where the parts of the block raised above the surface are covered with ink.

For over 400 years, from around 1550, intaglio techniques dominated most types of printing, including artistic printmaking and mass-printing of materials such as banknotes, newspapers, books, maps and magazines, fabrics and wallpapers.

Did you know that John Russell was one of our most famous pastellists? He set up studio in London at the age of 22. Russell was a friend of Joshua Reynolds, renowned artist and founder of the Royal Academy. Read more on our blog:


Guildford Library 1960s

Guildford Library was originally temporarily housed in Upper High Street, before moving to the new building in this painting, in 1962. The new library site backs onto Guildford House, and is where the stables originally stood.

The external appearance of Guildford Library has remained largely unchanged over the years.

Graeme Highet (1905-1966) was an architect with a London practice from before coming to Guildford in 1952. He ran a local practice here until his death.

Highet designed several local buildings including the Crematorium and assisted with the restoration of Guildford House which was bought by the Borough in 1957. It opened in 1959, and was at that time Surrey's largest public art gallery.

Image: Guildford Library by Graeme Highet (c) the artist.

A railway line and a mammoth’s tooth

Guildford’s Mammoth

This mammoth’s tooth was probably found near Guildford’s London Road railway cutting in 1922, during railway repair works.

Entrance to Station Approach Road leading to London Road Station.

A mammoth was a large type of elephant with lots of hair and extremely large tusks. They were last known to have existed in Britain around 14,000 years ago.

The railway came to Guildford in 1845. The New Guildford railway line arrived in 1885 and a second Guildford station was opened at London Road to serve it.

Guildford Train Station 1945

This mammoth lay buried here for some time while the world changed and Guildford grew over and around it. Experts are still not sure if the extinction of mammoths was caused by over-hunting or environmental changes.

Mammoth tooth 990,000 – 12,000 BCE

Mammoths had special teeth with ridges to help them chomp through the raw and tough plant material they lived on. Mammoths grew five or six sets of teeth in a lifetime. Mammoths also got through a lot of food. An adult weighing six tonnes needed to eat 180kg of grass, herbs and shrubs each day.

Mammoths also had massive tusks. Female tusks grew to be 150 – 180cm (5 - 6 ft) and male tusks grew to 240 – 275cm (8 - 9 ft). Palaeontologists, who study the remains, or fossils of plants and animals, have found that the inner surface of one tusk tends to be more worn than the other. This could mean that mammoths were “right-tusked” or “left-tusked”, just like we are left or right-handed!

Did you know that there is a chance a mammoth-like animal may live again? Scientists have recovered genetic material from frozen mammoth remains in Siberia. There are now projects taking place to insert parts of mammoth genome into elephant cells to produce elephants with some mammoth features.

Discover more about this object on our website:


Don't forget that you can see all the objects featured here and more at Guildford Museum.

Thank you to all our project partners, who not only welcomed our idea for this project, but helped with the research and content for this exhibition. Our thanks go to the teams at Guildford Library, Holly Trinity Church, Tunsgate Quarter and the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre.

Our special thanks go to Mary Alexander, Malcolm Watson and Rebeca Smith for sharing their knowledge and expertise with us.

‘All images are from Guildford Heritage Service collection unless otherwise stated’