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Guildford Cathedral - the angel on the hill 50 years on

PUBLISHED: 19:19 10 May 2011 | UPDATED: 10:18 27 June 2014

Guildford Cathedral - the angel on the hill 50 years on

Guildford Cathedral - the angel on the hill 50 years on

Celebrating its golden anniversary, Guildford Cathedral was consecrated by the Queen exactly 50 years ago. A comparatively modern cathedral, the Second World War brought a halt to proceedings and necessitated a ‘buy a brick’ campaign before it was finally completed. Dominating over the town from its perch on Stag Hill, we spoke to some of its regular visitors to discover what makes it so special

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine April 2011

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A lifelong bond
“As a young child, I lived at the bottom of Stag Hill and watched the cathedral grow in the 1940s/50s. I attended Sunday School in a wooden hut run by a lady called Miss Jerome. My dad learnt to drive round the cathedral green and I attended the service on the day after its consecration in 1961. I still attend and am a Guildford Cathedral Singer. It is wonderful.”
Pauline Read

The beat is irrelevant
“Guildford Cathedral has been the focus for my Christian worship since I joined the choir as a lay clerk in June 1961. Amusing stories are legion, but perhaps the most significant of these is recounted by Simon Carpenter, a former chorister in the Cathedral Choir, in his booklet The Beat Is Irrelevant, which records a history of the early years of the choir under Barry Rose. As an orchestral instrument player as well as a singer, I was used to the more orthodox and precise traditional style of beat used by conductors of larger forces. Now Barry, whom I admire tremendously, has – shall I say – a rather idiosyncratic and ‘non-conformist’ form of beat, and on this occasion I was having a little difficulty in interpreting the pulse of the music. So I asked him whether he was beating in two or four time. To which Barry’s immortal reply was: “The beat is irrelevant.”
John Burrows-Watson

Another brick in the wall
“Although not an Anglican myself, Guildford Cathedral is so much part of the community and belongs to all of us. The sense of belonging is deepened by the signed bricks that so many people bought in the 1950s during construction – 6d a week at primary school and then a coach trip to the cathedral to sign the bricks!”
Alan Steele

A marriage made in heaven 
“Being so close to the university, Guildford Cathedral initially began as a convenient place to worship whilst I was a student but, since then, it’s become my regular place of worship, where I enjoy getting involved in community life. It also recently provided a very special venue for our wedding. It was beautiful and, with a space that large, we were so lucky to be able to include so many friends and family in our special day, too.”
Helen Warren

Architecturally appealing
“I love the high soaring arches and the sense of space of the cathedral. People who say it is ugly must be referring to the outside, and only because they are not used to a cathedral being built of red brick. I remember driving along the A3 back in the 1960s before the consecration, seeing the building with scaffolding on top, and wondering – what on earth is that? We’ve got to move on and appreciate the building as it is now. Here’s to the next 50 years.”
Shelagh Godwin


  • Guildford Cathedral, Stag Hill, Guildford, Surrey GU2 7UP: 01483 547860. Guildford Cathedral was consecrated in the presence of the Queen on May 17 1961.

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