Fringe Box



Rediscover Old Guildford: New Exhibitions at Guildford House and Guildford Museum

Published on: 20 Jul, 2023
Updated on: 21 Jul, 2023

Guildford Town Bridge late 19th century, oil painting on board. The bridge, partly medieval, was irreparably damaged in a flood in 1901.

By Gavin Morgan

founder of the Guildford Heritage Forum

The two latest exhibitions at Guildford House and Guildford Museum are well worth visiting if you want to know more about our town’s history. “Town Tales: Guildford’s Iconic Buildings” runs at Guildford House Gallery until the end of October.

The atmospheric period rooms of this fine seventeenth century house are displayed with paintings from the borough art collection. We are used to seeing old photos of the town so it is refreshing to see paintings of how it looked. There are some fascinating glimpses of life in the town such as carters unloading corn outside the Guildhall.

Upstairs Guildford House gallery

It is interesting to see what was there before some well known landmarks appeared on the scene. I particularly liked a mid-nineteenth century view of Millbrook by Henry Pether looking at where the Yvonne Arnaud is now. Where the theatre is now, smoke is billowing out of a chimney in an industrial looking building next to the town mill and you can see the familiar view of the castle on the hill. In front is Millmead lock.

St Mary’s, Guildford, by Henry Pether. Oil painting mid 19th century on display in Guildford House.

Guildford Museum is offering a parallel exhibition called “Weyside Stories: The River Wey in Guildford”. This exhibition contains some fascinating photographs of the river. There is a great collection of postcards and tickets all about people boating on the river.

Stories of major events like the Guildford floods are illustrated along with some rarely seen paintings of town bridges – there is particularly interesting painting on board of the old town bridge in the 19th century.

The exhibition is very well laid out and my only thought was that it is a shame it will all disappear at the end of October when so much of the museum has remained unchanged for decades. Hopefully some of the display panels can be repurposed elsewhere in the museum. The story of the floods at least deserves to be on permanent display.

That said, the museum does look smarter these days and has clearly benefited from the repairs and redecoration completed in 2020. There are trails for children, a scullery for younger visitors and the very child friendly Wild Wey exhibition.

Weyside Stories Exhibition in Guildford Museum

The Gertrude Jekyll room is much more interesting now the glass panels have been removed and there is a display case of old cottage artefacts as well as her gardening boots.

Bearing in mind that Lewis Carroll’s house is visible through the window, it would be good if more could be made of the fascinating artefacts the town owns relating to him. That would certainly give the museum more to advertise.

So if you have not visited Guildford Museum or Guildford House in a while make the effort. They are both intriguing buildings and an added bonus to a trip to Guildford. And the current exhibitions will certainly deepen your appreciation of our historic town.

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