Fringe Box



Pic from the Past: Civic Hall Booking Office 1985

Published on: 18 Apr, 2016
Updated on: 18 Apr, 2016
Civic Hall Ticket Office/Tourist Information Centre 1985

Civic Hall Ticket Office/Tourist Information Centre 1985. Click to enlarge.

By Martin Giles

My wife was sorting some old photos yesterday, you know real photographs, printed on paper, and among them was this one.

It is of the Civic Hall Booking Office & Tourist Information Centre in 1985 with Violet Biddles on the left and the senior assistant, whose name I cannot recall, just visible on the right who was a former Bunny Girl. It seems frighteningly dated but I suppose it was 30 years ago.

I had just left the army and needed some temporary work while waiting for other applications to be processed. Within a couple of hours of visiting the Job Centre, then next door to the public library, I had a call from Guildford Borough Council who needed a temporary assistant at the Civic Hall.

Either the same or the following day I was interviewed by the manager, Mr Bloss, who Violet called behind his back “Old Blossom”. He was a former Royal Engineer who after a few questions said: “Can you start now?”

I replied: “You mean tomorrow?”

He said, “No, right now.” So started an interesting and amusing five months.

Violet, or “Vi”, told me her maiden name was Pink. She used to chuckle: “‘Violet Pink,’ I was called. What were my parents thinking?”

As well as selling tickets for the Civic Hall events we were Guildford’s Tourist Information Centre (TIC). Of course, we were so far out of the way of the town centre that I often felt anyone who could find us probably didn’t need our help.

Some visitors having struggled to locate us would understandably expect us to speak other European languages. No chance I am afraid.

I could ask for a beer in German and probably order a meal in French, which made me the linguist of the team, but: “Je m’excuse. Je ne comprend pas,” and a less polite “Nicht verstehen,” was about all that I could offer.

Speaking to some customers became so amusing that we occasionally got a fit of the giggles. The drill was then to say: “Excuse me, I’ll just hand over to my colleague,” and retreat to the stationery cupboard.

One hilarious day all three of us ended up in there at the same time! Goodness knows how we got out of that one.

It all seems much more professional in Guildford’s TIC these days, located in Guildford House, on the High Street.

Guildford Civic Hall.

Guildford Civic Hall.

Do you have any “Pics from the Past”, old pictures of Guildford or anywhere within the borough that either have a story attached, which you think others might find interesting, or perhaps raise some questions: where? who? why? when? etc.

If so, please send them in, attached to an email to, with any accompanying stories for us all to share and enjoy.

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Responses to Pic from the Past: Civic Hall Booking Office 1985

  1. Bernard Parke Reply

    April 18, 2016 at 8:30 pm

    The Civic Hall, or “Guildford’s Shoe Box” as locals called it because of its box like design, was built in 1961.

    The foundation stone was laid by Princess Alexandra who arrived by helicopter landing on the site which was to become the first of eight proposed multi-story car parks in Sydenham Road (by the way, the cost of parking then was 6d per day! Motorists paid this sum just to drive to the top on the car park just to see the view.

    It was back in the 1930s when my Grandfather was an independent councillor, in the days of the old municipal borough, that talk was made to to build a Civic Hall. It was to be the similar, in function, to a village hall, a place for Guildfordians to congregate.

    Unfortunately, the concept was lost when the it was was pulled down.

    In those days, when it was being planned, GBC never believed in spending money on expensive civic buildings, of any kind, so as to keep the rates at a reasonable level.

    The sixties was a time when the national press rated Guildford as a boom town, and the then Alderman Hardy stated that High Street shop frontages were worth one thousand pounds per foot. He was the local school outfitter who like many such Guildford businessmen gave up their leisure hours to serve the community without payment of any kind.

  2. D Reddick Reply

    April 20, 2016 at 5:34 pm

    I may be on my own, but I preferred the old Guildford Civic Hall.

    They could have improved the exterior and land around it instead of that thing there now.

    Also, who books the events for G Live? It is the same stuff that was playing the civic in 1980.

  3. Clair Richardson Reply

    November 5, 2016 at 9:44 am

    My dear Mum – Violet Biddles, was Violet Malins back in 1985, and liked to be called Vi, and the former Bunny Girl was Sarah Francis.

    Many thanks Clair. Is my memory wrong about “Violet Pink”? Apologies if so. Anyway I really liked your dear mother and enjoyed working with her. Ed.

  4. Clair Richardson Reply

    November 6, 2016 at 6:25 pm

    You are right, my mum was born Violet Pink.

    She certainly did used to chuckle about her name!

    I found your article only yesterday. Lots of people had been commenting on the old Civic Hall on the Guildford Past & Present Facebook group. I was looking for old pictures. Thanks

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