Guildford Life - the case for city status

PUBLISHED: 16:03 09 December 2011 | UPDATED: 12:01 28 February 2013

Guildford Life - the case for city status

Guildford Life - the case for city status

In 2012, one new British city will be named by the Queen. While there's no confirmation that Guildford will apply, Matthew Williams puts forward the case as to why, as the county town of a city-less state, perhaps they should

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine April 2011

In 2012, one new British city will be named by the Queen. While theres no confirmation that Guildford will apply, Matthew Williams puts forward the case as to why, as the county town of a city-less state, perhaps they should

Share your Guildford photos

Lets get this straight from the outset: Guildford, despite many claims to the contrary in publications, marketing spiel and folklore, is definitively not a city.

But its got a university and a cathedral, so it must be, come the cries. Alas, neither has any bearing on our county towns status.

As long ago as 1902, a meeting of the forerunner of the Guildford Chamber of Commerce had a strikingly familiar item on its agenda. It read: Why is Guildford not a city?

The question still stands today, and while Surrey remains city-less will undoubtedly continue to do so.

A hundred years later, in 2002, William Hill released figures that showed Guildford as the 7-2 favourite, but the eventual honour that time went to Preston, which doesnt even have a cathedral.

It has to be said, the upgrade is purely honorific, and although many new cities do experience a boost to their economies (a recent report by the Local Strategic Partnership gave a rosy outlook of raised profiles and with it accounts), the cost of the road sign and letterhead changing admin cannot be ignored when belts are tight.

If Guildford does apply, the final decision will rest in the hands of the the Queen: to mark the diamond jubilee next year at least one new city will be named but the deadline for entrants is already coming up fast on Friday May 27.

While there are no concrete criteria, there are some guidelines set by the government, so here we take a look at Guildfords case for city status.

The Mesolithic era (or Middle Stone Age) of 10,000-5,000 BC saw the first signs of life in the Guildford area, with concentrations of flint flakes found on the sandhills of St Catherines and St Marthas. Things really took off though as a Saxon village by a ford (guilden (golden) ford). The village of Guildford turned into a town in the early 10th century. George Abbot, one of the key figures behind the King James Bible, which is celebrating its 400th anniversary this year, is one of the towns most famous historic sons and the striking Abbots Hospital still stands as a reminder.

Distinct identity
Retaining its cobbled High Street and many of its key historic features the town clock, the castle, Guildford House Gallery, the aforementioned Abbots Hospital and more the town has also become a creative centre with the University of Surrey and the ACM music college both nationally renowned and bringing a younger population to the area. Surrounded by beautiful countryside and with the River Wey running through its heart, Guildford is a picturesque and productive hub that is a bubbling base for a huge number of state of the art technology companies including Surrey Satellite Technology and many gaming companies.

Projections by the Office of National Statistics for 2006 had 2011s borough population (city status is granted to the whole area) at just under 140,000, with 21 per cent over 60 (a slowly rising figure just below the national and Surrey average of 23 per cent).

Famous residents
The towns most famous connection is probably with Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll), who died on January 14, 1898, at the Chestnuts, near Guildford Castle, andwas buried nearby at the Mount Cemetery, where a cross erected for him by his sisters can be seen to this day. His most famous character, Alice, is still present in Guildford, for those who know where to look: in the form of two statues.

Royal associations
In the 13th Century, Henry III made many improvements to Guildford Castle, which led it to be referred to as a palace, though only the keep remains today. His wife, Queen Eleanor of Provence, founded a house of Dominican friars at Guildford after his death, a little to the north of the High Street. Kings regularly lodged at the friary and Henry VIII built himself a hunting lodge within its precincts. Fifty years ago, the Queen was at the consecration of Guildford Cathedral.

Tourist attractions
Everything from the River Wey to the castle grounds via the museum, galleries, literary links, history, theatres and the stunning surrounding countryside and villages.

Visitor accommodation
The 60 million luxury Radisson Edwardian hotel joins the independent Mandolay, Asperion and The Angel Posting House & Livery, as well as most of the regular branded hostelries.

Shopping centres
As well as the Friary, White Lion Walk and Tunsgate Square shopping centres, there lies a labyrinth of bustling side alleys packed full of independent boutiques, national brands and cafs.

Public green spaces
Home to theSurrey County Show and GuilFest, Stoke Park provides a multipurpose 70-acre green centre to the town. Supported by the stunning castle grounds and with the likes of St Catherines Hill (and the ruin of the 13th century St Catherines Chapel, which it is home to), along with many smaller parks dotted around the area, theres plenty of escape on offer from pounding the concrete.

Sport and leisure facilities
While theres no professional football team of note (although Guildford City (!) FC could always put in a Crawley-esque cup run next season), there are several other top sports teams, such as the Harlequins rugby union, Surrey Storm netball team and Guildford Heat basketball team, among others, mostly based at the new multi-million pound Surrey Sports Park. Last years Womens Rugby World Cup was held there, too. There is also the Guildford Spectrum and Lido. On the cultural side of things, the Yvonne Arnaud and Electric Theatre will soon be joined by the 26 million G Live entertainment venue, meaning the town is set to increase its standing as a cultural hub. Many small independent theatre groups and music venues also operate in the town.

Major events
Guildford Summer Festival, GuilFest, Heritage Open Days (Guildford was rated sixth in English Heritages top ten towns and cities last year, in terms of the number of events and activities organised), Guildford International Music Festival, Guildford Book Festival, Surrey County Show and much, much more.

Does Guildford have what it takes?
Would you like to see Guildford granted city status or do you feel there are more important priorities to concentrate on first? What do you most love about the town? Get in touch at with all your news and views.

Latest from the Surrey