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Farewell to the Robin Hood Pub and its Once Merry Band of Drinkers!

Published on: 25 Oct, 2023
Updated on: 26 Oct, 2023

Demolition of the Robin Hood pub in Sydenham Road, Guildford. Picture: Fiona Giles.

By David Rose

The Robin Hood pub in Sydenham Road, Guildford, is no more.

It was demolished last week (October 13) and the site will be redeveloped with apartments.

All gone, just about! Ray Slack took this photo, among others, of the demolition of the Robin Hood pub. Picture previously featured on the Facebook page Guildford Past & Present.

The land on which the pub stood was transferred in 1863 by Dr Thomas Jenner Sells, the developer of Charlotteville (and who named all the streets after famous doctors), to a William Pimm and a John Engall. They built the pub and presumably employed a landlord, the first recorded occupant being a James Balchin.

The Robin Hood pub as seen in about the late 1860s. Picture from the book Vintage Guildford by Matthew Alexander, published by Hendon Publishing co Ltd, 1981.

In 1883 the pub was being leased to Guildford’s Friary Brewery, who bought it outright in 1896 for £1,200. By then Friary had bought out other breweries and had become Friary, Holroyd & Healy’s Brewery. A merger in 1956 created Friary Meux.

The Robin Hood pub in 2016. Picture by David Rose and published in his book Guildford Pubs, Amberley publishing 2016.

In more recent times the pub has been more of an independent establishment, and as I wrote in my book Guildford Pubs (published by Amberley in 2016): “As it’s an independent pub, beers are offered from a wide range of breweries on a rotation basis. These include those from local brewers such as the Hog’s Back, Dorking, Tillingbourne, Little Beer Corporation, and Surrey Hills breweries. It was voted Pub of the Year 2015 by the Real Ale Touring Society. On the food front, it’s getting a good reputation for its burgers and steaks.”

Interior of the Robin Hood pub in 2016. Picture by David Rose and published in his book Guildford Pubs, Amberley publishing 2016.

However, in the last couple of years, it struggled to be a viable concern and shut its doors last year.

The UK has seen a lot of pubs close in recent years, as trends for eating and drinking change and other types of establishments take over. In reality, pubs closing is nothing new, and Guildford is no exception.

As Guildford grew in the 19th century from what had been a tiny town, with more housing and population came more pubs. Over time, many of the pubs disappeared as they were no longer needed.

For example, in Castle Street near its junction with Chapel Street, there was once the Rose and Crown that closed in 1916 and nearly opposite the Elephant and Castle. Into Sydenham Road, and the section that was once called South Street, stood the Queens Head. It’s where the Castle multi-storey car park is today.

Further into Charlotteville there was the Forresters, which for a time was called the Pig and Tater, now converted into flats.

Architectural historian Charles Brooking.

However, not all of the Robin Hood pub that was raised to ground has been lost. Architectural historian Charles Brooking visited prior to demolition and retrieved several features for his collection.

He said: “The Buchanan property developing family allowed me access which enabled me to retrieve several architectural details of interest.

“These included a small bedroom hob-grate with bold rococo decoration, typical of the mid-Victorian period, dating from the construction of the building in about 1864.

“The unusual aspect of this grate is the fact that the separate cast-iron components are held together with split-pins rather than the usual nuts and bolts.

“I also recovered window sashes, one of which is an early example of mechanised joinery methods. Interestingly, both hand-made and part machine-made mouldings were used in the construction of the sash windows, which is unusual for the date.

“The ground-floor sash window facing what was originally Bright Hill was a re-used window of about 1840-45, and obviously one that the builder had held in his yard.

“I managed to date the window, not only by the difference in the construction methods, but also by carefully observing the screws which are a very good indicator of date, along with the types of sash-pulleys and sash-weights used.”


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Responses to Farewell to the Robin Hood Pub and its Once Merry Band of Drinkers!

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    October 25, 2023 at 12:39 pm

    All I can say is another nail in the coffin of Guildford Town Centre.

    • John Sym Reply

      November 5, 2023 at 10:50 am

      And there is already an automatic nail-gun firing at full pelt in the never-ending pursuit to out Woking, Woking!

  2. Ian Blyth Reply

    October 25, 2023 at 1:12 pm

    The first pub I went to after moving to Guildford, it was like drinking in somebody’s front room.

    The Robin Hood, The Royal Oak and The Keep, my wife said it was it was like the Bermuda Triangle, because I seemed to get lost there so often.

  3. Harry Elson Reply

    October 25, 2023 at 10:20 pm

    Spent some good lunch times and Christmas drinks in the Robin Hood when I worked at Biddles.

    Also, The Bull in the High Street and the The Surrey Arms and the Horse and Groom both in North Street.

    Great memories of pubs the like of which we will never see again.

  4. Dave Middleton Reply

    October 26, 2023 at 4:09 pm

    Sad to see another pub go, but unless people go to them and spend money in them, they’re just not going to be viable. Regrettably, when a pint in a pub costs as much as, or even more than, four pints from a supermarket, more and more pubs are going to go under.

  5. Paul Spooner Reply

    October 26, 2023 at 4:57 pm

    One of my favourite Guildford pubs. I do hope the developer finds a way of recognising this area of their site for its history of hospitality. Thanks to David Rose for his insight.

  6. Barry Williams Reply

    October 27, 2023 at 4:43 pm

    So what happens to the old pub site? Will this be an independent development of apartments or maybe we can hope for some joined-up thinking and that the new owners will work in co-operation with GBC who have long voiced their hopes for building low cost, social housing on the adjoining Bright Hill car park. A larger combined site offers greater potential, what Guildford cannot afford is yet more piece-meal planning as has happened in Walnut Tree Close

    • Gina Redpath Reply

      October 28, 2023 at 6:18 pm

      I noticed Addison Glass is relocating from Walnut Tree Close to The Pines Industrial Estate.

  7. Aubrey Leahy Reply

    November 5, 2023 at 5:32 pm

    In my youth Guildford had a population of 56,000 people and 56 licensed premises. Any idea of what the ratio is today?

    From my class at Northmead of, I think, 32 boys, at least nine have run a pub at some time or other (and to the best of my knowledge, five at least have been guests of her majesty!). Suspect such opportunities for the 11+ failures in days of yore are much rarer today.

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