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1921 Census Guildford High Street: Who Do You Think They Were?

Published on: 9 Jan, 2022
Updated on: 12 Jan, 2022

By David Rose

The 1921 census for England and Wales has now been made public and has been eagerly awaited by historians and genealogists.

It contains records of 38 million individuals and has taken a team of specialists several years to copy the original documents and digitise the data.

Guildford High Street in the 1920s. Click on images to enlarge in a new window. Picture: David Rose collection.

I have been having a peek, initially my own family’s listings of course, but I have also had a look at who was recorded on the census in Guildford High Street when it was taken on the night of Sunday, June 19, 1921.

It should be noted the numbering of the buildings were different then, with number 1 in today’s upper High Street (north side) where the Royal Grammar School is, then going down numerically the north side of the High Street, over the Town Bridge and then back up the south side to the junction with Epsom and London Roads and then back down the north side to number 1.

Allen House. Image from the collection at the Guildford Institute in it’s amazing Scrapbook A. Many pictures in this scrapbook date from the early 1920s. Click here for details of the Guildford Institute’s library and archives.

Therefore, starting at Allen House, that today is the Royal Grammar School on the north side of the upper High Street, we find George Farley, aged 74, wife Emily, 54, daughter Norah May, 26.

Mr and Mrs Farley were governors of the Royal Grammar School (the old and original building on the south side of the road) and their daughter was the caretaker.

Abbot’s Hospital celebrating its 300th anniversary in 1919. Picture: Guildford Institute.

At Abbot’s Hospital, the master of the almshouse was Philip Griggs, aged 66.

Listed as domestic servants were Emily Palmer, 63, Abigail Livock, 70, and Kate Pickett, 41.

There were 16 residents, actually listed on the census as ‘inmates’, nine females and seven males. Their ages ranged from 68 years to 92 years.

Stent Clarke & Co. Picture: Guildford Institute.

At 32 High Street was Edward Stent, aged 70 and his wife, Eliza, also aged 70, and their domestic servant, Rose Chapman. Mr Stent gave his profession as a retired stationer.

The Bulls Head pub. Picture: Guildford Institute.

At the Bulls Head pub, on the corner with Market Street, was the publican, Charlie Wynn, aged 39, listed as licensed victualler, with his wife Elizabeth Annie, aged 42, and their daughter, Frances Eva Doreen, aged nine.

The Angel Hotel. Picture: Guildford Institute.

The Angel Hotel makes interesting reading as on census day there were seven guests, listed as visitors. Among them was a physician by the name of John Feymour, Guildford’s postmaster Thomas Darby, and rubber planter Charles Webb.

Staff at the hotel (listed as servants) numbered 10. The hotel manager for the Surrey Public House Trust Company was George Warpole, aged 38, and Adele Louisa Blazdell, hotel manageress, 38.

W. E. White & Son. Picture: Guildford Institute.

Drapers W. E. White & Son, at what was then 62, 63 and 64 High Street (currently Marks & Spencer), was once well known for the fact that many of its employees ‘lived in, above the shop’.

Listed on the census as borders while in the employment as shop assists of the firm were nine people, all females, with ages ranging from 17 to 47.

There were two further employees listed as assistants, and perhaps not technically living there, and five domestic servants. No head of the house or other members of the White family appear to have been at home on the day of the census.

The Connaught Hotel during the 1928 floods. Picture: David Rose collection.

Just over the Town Bridge was the Connaught Hotel (demolished in the 1940s, and where the car park next to the George Abbot pub is today). Listed on the 1921 census, the proprietoress was Ellen Hard, aged 48, who was born in Gloucestershire. Her daughter, also called Ellen and aged 25 was there and gave her profession as ‘clerk, unemployed’.

There were eight guests that night at the hotel and among them was a doctor and two commercial travellers.

Guildford High Street (south side) with the junction of Quarry Street on the left. Thomas Adsett, at number 101, is on the far right. Picture: Guildford Institute.

Going back up the south side, at 101 High Street was gun maker Thomas Adsitt (sic), aged 50, born Faversham, Kent, and his mother Ann, 77, who was born in Sussex.

Anyone looking at the 1921 census and the transcript versions of the listings will soon find there are many discrepancies of the spellings of names, occupations, etc. From the 1935 edition of Lasham’s Directory of Greater Guildford, the same gunmaker is listed as Thomas Adsett, and that is the correct spelling.

On the corner with Chapel Street was the Jolly Butcher. It’s listed on the 1921 census as ‘Jolly Ratecher’. But don’t be too hard on the National Archives as digitising the records of millions of people has taken three years and overall it’s well worth it.

The Jolly Butcher pub. Picture: Guildford Institute.

At the Jolly Butcher on the day of the census was publican Lewis Sharmer, aged 49, born Epping, Essex; his wife Charlotte, 43, born Reading, Berkshire; son Lewis, 21, born Guildford and working as a chauffeur for Messers Baker & Crawford, motor garage Guildford; and daughter Catherine, born Guildford and aged 10.

Read & Co butchers. It’s the building where the second floor window is false – in case you didn’t know already! Picture: Guildford Institute.

Butchers Read & Company was a little further up at 122, while living above the shop was Arthur Grove, aged 30, who owned an electrical and mechanical / motor engineering firm in Swan Lane. Arthur was born in Guildford, while his wife Ethel, aged 27, was born in Southend-on-Sea, Essex. Living with them was George Martin (brother-in-law), aged 22, and working for Arthur.

Jeffery & Son’s shop pictured in 1913. Picture: Guildford Institute.

As listed in Lasham’s Guildford directory of 1935, at 137 High Street was the well known business of S. R. Jeffery & Sons, gun makers, motor and cycle agents.

And of course members of the Jeffery family were living there. On the 1921 census head of the household is listed as Harold Vivian Jeffery, age 38, born Guildford; his sister Alice Mary, 41, born Guildford; and Harold’s aunt, Alice Vivian, 71, born Plymouth, Devon.

Staff at Sainsbury’s Guildford in the 1920.

Where Sainsbury’s is today was 143 High Street, and on the census it had employees living above the shop.

The head of the household was Kezia Braud, aged 54, born Spalding, Lincolnshire, occupation house keeper for ‘grocery and provision merchants Mr J. Sainsbury’.

There follows names of four of Sainsbury’s employees: Alice Cooper, aged 33, born Weybridge, clerk; and shop assistants Alfred Worsell, 16, born Hounslow, Middlesex; Reginald Johnson, born Guildford; and Thomas Fare, 16, born Longridge, Lancashire.

With the Royal Grammar School on the right, just beyond is Somerset House, the town house with the Dutch gable. It was built for the 6th Duke of Somerset in about 1700. This photo dates to the late 1910s. David Rose collection.

Living at 165 High Street, better known as Somerset House, was A. E. Smith (head of household), aged 72, born Bramley, Surrey, no occupation listed.

Also there was his sister E. Smith, 65, also born Bramley; plus their female servant, Francis (sic) Patrick, 22, transcribed as born Normanby, Yorkshire. However, looking at the original record, it’s clearly Normandy, Surrey.

Quite an interesting snapshot of who do you think they were!

David Rose will be a guest of BBC Surrey radio on its breakfast show hosted by James Cannon each morning from Monday to Friday this week (January 10 to 14), looking at the 1921 census and revealing more listings of Surrey people – from the great and the good in their posh homes to impoverished Gypsies living in tents. Remember to set your alarm clocks and tune it at 7.20am each day.

The 1921 censes can accessed via the genealogy website Findmypast There is a charge of £2.50 for every record transcript and £3.50 for every original record image viewed – current subscribers to Findmypast will also have to pay although there will be a 10% discount for 12-month pro-subscribers.

It can be viewed for free at the National Archives at Kew, at Manchester Central Library and at the National Library of Wales.

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Responses to 1921 Census Guildford High Street: Who Do You Think They Were?

  1. Ken Everden Reply

    January 10, 2022 at 1:14 pm

    Thank you for that. What a pretty place Guildford used to be, it’s such a shame that the current council (and most of their predecessors ) show little interest in keeping it so.

    I’m amazed and bemused by the amount of hedges that are being grubbed up and allowed to be replaced by ugly 6ft fences, just so the new owner doesn’t have to maintain them.

    Apart from their removal being very ungreen, it also takes away nesting places for many birds.

    I think the people who give permission for such fences ought to be ashamed of themselves.

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