Fringe Box



Guildford Remembrancer Captured

Published on: 3 Jul, 2014
Updated on: 4 Jul, 2014
Matthew Alexander - a new portrait by Monica Bowen

Matthew Alexander – a new portrait by Monica Bowen

Guildford’s Honorary Remembrancer Matthew Alexander, former curator of Guildford Museum, has had his likeness captured in a new line drawing by Monica Bowen, one of his local history students.

Monica said: “When attending the History of Guildford course, which Matthew Alexander ran this year, I plucked up the courage to ask him if he would sit for his portrait in his rmembrancer robes for the Friday group of the Guildford Art Society. He kindly agreed.”

The pen and ink portrait, which was completed in just two and a half hours, is currently being displayed in Surrey Artists Open Studios at Aquarius framers, Farncombe.

Matthew Alexander in his Remembrancer robes during the Judiciary Procession October 2013.

Matthew Alexander in his remembrancer robes during the Judiciary Procession, October 2013.

The role of an honorary remembrancer for Guildford goes back to the 1930s. It was created especially for Dr G.C.Williamson, an antiquarian and art expert, in “recognition of his services in investigating and recording the town’s history.” It made him, in effect, the town’s official local historian. Williamson designed his own robes and a badge with the borough arms surrounded by leaves of rosemary – for remembrance.

One of the first tasks was to see whether Guildford might obtain city status. When the Diocese of Guildford was formed in 1927, and Holy Trinity became a pro-cathedral, most people assumed that this automatically made Guildford a city. (Guildford United football club did, and changed their name to Guildford City). In fact, “letters patent” from the Queen are needed. Subsequently, several attempts have been made to obtain city status, but all unsuccessfully, so Guildford remains, as it has been for a thousand years, a borough.

Following Williamson’s death in 1942, it was assumed that, despite being a personal creation for him, the post of honorary remembrancer would continue, and his successors were elected at each mayor making.

Until the 1970s remembrancers were people with a record of research and publication in local history. It then became the practice to offer the post to a long-serving councillor, usually an alderman but with Matthew Alexander’s appointment there was been a reversion to the original concept and he presents a report on the years events in the town to each outgoing mayor as a record of their year in office.



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