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Focus on Heritage: Guildford Receives a Historic ‘Royal’ Visit

Published on: 3 Jan, 2017
Updated on: 7 Jan, 2017

Focus on HeritageGavin Morgan, creator of the Guildford Heritage Forum, and campaigner and supporter of the planned Guildford Museum improvements, is here again with his monthly column sharing his observations and expressing his opinion on all matters relating to our town’s heritage.

It is not every day that a member of the royal family visits Guildford, particularly one who has been dead for over 600 years. Nevertheless, just before Christmas (December 18) the Mayor of Guildford proudly welcomed King Edward III back to the town from the steps of Guildford Castle.

‘Edward III’ on the steps of the castle showing off the swan crown “made for him by his loyal Guildford subjects” with a suitably stern Matthew Alexander lookalike, or rather the Sheriff of Guildford, looking on.

It was all part of “Christmas at Guildford Castle” organised by the heritage team at Guildford Borough Council. Edward III, was play by a member of “Past Pleasures Ltd, the UK’s oldest professional costumed historical interpretation company based locally at Godalming. They are a regular feature at the Tower of London, Hampton Court and many other historical sites around the country.

The king with his queen, Philippa of Hainault

Accompanied by Queen Philippa of Hainault, His Majesty started the event with a procession from the High Street. Shortly before midday shoppers were harangued by the King’s “Gong Scourer” who beckoned to them for help form up a procession.

A sizeable crowd gathered outside undercroft. A “gong scourer” was a medieval toilet cleaner, usually a boy, who had to crawl up privies in royal palaces and clean them. Judging from the enthusiasm of this gong scourer he was delighted to have a day off as he almost hopped and bounced around the street engaging with the public.

The procession complete with recruited members of the public, the king and queen (under the canopy), musicians and gong scourer (out of picture) moves off to the castle.

At midday he organised a loud cheer for the King and Queen who joined the procession along with two instrumentalists. Then, to the sound of medieval music the crowd marched to Guildford Castle, led by our “Lord of Misrule” on day release.

One of the enthusiastic re-enacters from Past Pleasures Ltd

It would great to know how many people planned to attend this event and how many were swept up by his infectious enthusiasm.

At the castle, following the greeting from the mayor the royal party went inside for more speeches and medieval music.  There was also storytelling, crafts for children and a number of stalls to look around. It is the first time this has been done and it was a modest production which shows great promise. Let’s hope this excursion into Guildford’s Christmas past is a taste of Christmas’s to come.

The re-enacters seemed pleased to be involved. a spokesperson said: “As a local company Past Pleasures Ltd is thrilled to, once again, bring its talents to Guildford Borough Council.

Cllr Nikki Nelson Smith

“We love the town, its history and traditions and always look forward to bringing them to life for locals and visitors.”

Cllr Nikki Nelson-Smith, lead councillor for heritage and the arts, said: “This was a fantastic, festive event and it was great to see the Castle Grounds come alive at this time of year. We’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who took part and watched – over 2,700 people!”

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Responses to Focus on Heritage: Guildford Receives a Historic ‘Royal’ Visit

  1. Susan Kay-Attwood Reply

    January 3, 2017 at 11:46 pm

    Read about it before and popped up. Presumed we’d missed the royal arrival but hadn’t.

    It was fun to watch. However, a lot of the stalls weren’t really craft or medieval and there weren’t that many of them.

  2. Margaret Jackson Reply

    January 4, 2017 at 2:35 pm

    My view from inside the castle:

    Everyone seemed to enjoy welcoming the “Royals”, joining in with dancing,and hearing the music and jokes. There were lots of comments on how good it was to see Guildford Castle brought to life in this way.

    Parents appreciated a less commercial seasonal event for the Sunday before Christmas.

    The bagpipes could be heard as the procession approached and there was a real sense of expectation, we were not let down, the “royal” party did a splendid job.

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