Guildford Castle Gardens, commonly referred to as Castle Grounds, are in Guildford, Surrey, in the southwest of the United Kingdom. The magnificent and vast Castle Grounds are the city’s most popular public park. From the majestic Guildford Castle standing in the gardens to the various recreational activities available for visitors of all ages, Guildford Castle Gardens is a must-add destination to your Surrey bucket list.
Let’s roam around the Castle Grounds, dive into the Guildford Castle history and learn all the fun things you can do there. Then, we’ll add more exciting things to do in and around Guildford.
Guildford Castle Gardens: The Castle before the Gardens
The mid-11th century in Guildford witnessed the erection of the mighty Guildford Castle. The time-defying castle is said to have been built by William I, known as William the Conqueror, or one of his various barons, after sacking Guildford alongside most of the towns on the same trail. Guildford Castle’s motte and bailey were the first two structures to be built at the fortification, which history shows didn’t follow the traditional Norman design of castles.
By the end of the century and beginning of the 12th century, both the shell keep and the keep tower were made of Bargate stone. The King supposedly stayed in his private accommodation in the keep before moving to a newer and more comfortable apartment in the bailey in the 12th century, where the great hall was before the 1254 fire destroyed it. The King’s and Queen’s chambres and the great hall were refurbished during the 13th century with magnificent colours and designs.
Throughout history, Guildford Castle wasn’t a player in any significant wars, even though it was fortified several times. This led to abandoning the castle and many inland castles for better and refurbished abodes. From 1379 to 1487, Guildford was the local goal before the prisoners were moved elsewhere. Afterwards, the castle moved from one owner to another, but none restored it until the Guildford Corporation bought it in 1885 and began restoration works on the tower and walls.
After that, the gardens were decorated with a colourful array of different flowers and plants, which Queen Victoria decreed to open to the public in 1888. This date marked one year after the Queen’s golden jubilee. The magnificent gardens in Surrey, hug Guildford Castle and are home to numerous interesting attractions. These attractions include a bandstand for concerts, Guildford’s war memorial, a bowling green, and you might even spot Alice Through the Looking Glass statue in the garden.
What to do at Guildford Castle Gardens
The castle’s bailey is now the castle’s gardens, and this colourful carpet of flowers and vegetation attracts tourists from all over the UK and abroad. The Castle Grounds represent the yearly venue for Guildford’s annual Guildford Fringe Festival. This festival began in 2013 as a multi-arts festival and has become the town’s biggest and most popular arts festival over the years.
Families are welcome to bring picnic gear and join the festival’s audience every year. You are going to enjoy a wide array of performing arts, such as singing, comedy, exhibitions, music, theatre, workshops, visual arts and children’s shows. The festival runs over the span of three weeks and will take place from 29 June to 20 July 2024. Other than attending the Guildford Fringe Festival, you can enjoy a relaxing picnic any time during the year; the gardens are a magnificent backdrop of photoshoots and, if you’re up for it, visit the visitors’ centre in the castle and enjoy wandering about its abandoned rooms.
Things to do in and around Guildford
A visit to Guildford Castle Gardens is but one of the unlimited number of things you can do in this western Surrey town. The town is full of wonderful historical and cultural landmarks to visit and enjoy.
The Cathedral Church of the Holy Spirit in Guildford was built in the first half of the 20th century. As it stands in an admirable Art Deco architectural style, the cathedral is the town’s Anglican cathedral. After Cosmo Lang laid the foundation stone of the building in 1936, construction came to a halt three years later due to WWII. Many stumbling blocks arose in the years after the war, which meant construction was postponed time after time.
A smart campaign by the secretary of the Cathedral’s Committee called “Buy-a-Brick” assisted the committee in raising the needed funds to finish building the cathedral. The campaign finished by 1961 and construction resumed and the cathedral was completed four years later, in 1965. There are bricks inside the cathedral that bear the names of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, as well as numerous royal family members.
Yvonne Arnaud Theatre
If you’re up for a night of unmatched artistry and fun, you should check the calendar for Yvonne Arnaud Theatre. The mid-20th-century theatre is an incredible venue for performing arts, such as theatre, ballet, pantomime and opera. Named after French-born actress and singer Yvonne Arnaud, the theatre replaced the former theatre in town after a fire destroyed it in 1963. The construction plan for the theatre included the performing chambres and a café to welcome non-theatre goers; construction began in 1962 and finished three years later.
Today, the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre is Guildford’s main performing arts theatre. You can follow the theatre’s busy calendar to attend comedic shows, monologues and heart-yearning operas. The Mill Studio, the third part of the theatre, besides the performing chambres and the café, is home to the different artistic activities which youth can engage in and enjoy to introduce them to the world of theatre. Yvonne Arnaud Theatre has a busy and changing calendar; make sure to check their website to book your tickets and stay up to date with any date changes.
Spike Heritage Centre
During the height of the winter season, in December and January, The Spike becomes a chilling place to visit. This chill mirrors the chilling history residing inside. At a time when the poor suffered the worst in their own country, they were literally tossed from one place to another for being unable to afford a place to live. These strife circumstances were the result of several drafted laws against poor people in opposition to their occupation of the streets.
The New Poor Laws and the Vagrancy Acts of 1824 were some of the hardest laws drafted against the poor. These laws punished the poor for their inability to find a proper abode for the night, which is unjustifiably unfair. Even though the Spike was built in 1824, this injustice continued way beyond the first quarter of the 20th century. Until that time, and for nearly a century, under the Poor Law Union, you’d be spared if you could afford to do some labour work or if you were lucky enough to get a few cents from begging.
What do you say about stepping back in time to the Tudors’ era of English history? The mid-16th century house known as Loseley Park was built and furnished using pieces from some of England’s majestic abbeys, houses and royal residences. Waverley Abbey provided the stones to build Loseley Park, while some of the panelling of Nonsuch House was used in the manor’s great hall, just to name a few.
The manor house south-west of Guildford was built for Sir William More, and his successors remain the owners of the manor today. The manor’s garden contains several specialised gardens, such as the Rose Garden, the White Garden, the Herb Garden and even an organic Vegetable Garden. Loseley Park is a world-renowned filming location, where shows and films such as The Legacy, Sense and Sensibility (miniseries), and The Crown shot several scenes there.
Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village, Compton
George Frederic Watts, the Symbolist painter and sculptor, wished to build a museum to showcase his work in Compton after he moved there. He and his wife, Mary Fraser, worked together on the museum, which they completed, unfortunately, right before George’s death. The museum’s unique design utilised natural light to allow Watts’ works to shine bright in natural light so the visitors can truly immerse themselves in the experience.
G. F. Watts’ works inside the museum are on permanent display, including more than a hundred works of art, such as paintings, portraits and landscapes. The museum is divided into several galleries as well, such as the Sculpture Gallery and Livanos Gallery. To create the Artists’ Village, the gallery opened the painter’s and his wife’s house and working studio to the public in 2016.
Watts Cemetery Chapel, Compton
An interesting take on the Gothic Revival architectural style, with Celtic, Romanesque, Egyptian and art nouveau effects, Watts Cemetery Chapel is a wonderful chapel in Compton. The chapel is the result of cooperation between all the village’s residents, which strengthens their sense of community. For two years, from 1896 to 1898, George Frederic Watts, his wife, Mary Fraser-Tytler, and all the village constructed the unique chapel and decorated its interior with Celtic and art nouveau-inspired paintings.
The chapel’s interesting design and red bricks, which seem to include quarter circles in each corner, is a reflection of Mary Fraser’s vision. Besides The Wattses, several renowned families are also buried in the cemetery, such as The Huxley Family. The chapel is free to visit, and the nearby Watts Gallery manages its visits.
AirHop Trampoline Park
To finish off our time in and around Guildford, we recommend bouncing your worries away at the AirHop Trampoline Park. Have you ever felt like trampolines are only for kids? Well, this trampoline park has some exciting trampolines for all kids, including the small kids inside us. With exhilarating light settings and different difficulty levels, you can hop to happiness at just £14.50 for sixty minutes.
FAQs about Visiting Guildford Castle Gardens
After bringing you all the exciting and interesting places to visit and activities to participate in at and around Guildford Castle Gardens, we bring you the answers to some of your FAQs on the internet about this incredible landmark.
Is Guildford Castle free to visit?
Yes and no!
Yes, to enter the castle grounds, the gardens and spend your day there.
No, to entering Guildford Castle itself. There’s an entry fee that changes from children four years, and under are free to enter, over four years can enter for £2.00, adults can enter for £3.50, while families can enter for a total fee of £10.00.
What happened to Guildford Castle?
After a luxurious abode was built across from the castle, the royal family began to prefer this new residence to spend their time visiting the town. Over time, Guildford Castle fell into disrepair, and the King’s chambers were the only ones with remaining vibrant colours. Several new owners bought the castle from each other, and some added a few modifications, such as wooden windows and doors. A full restorative campaign of the castle took place only close to the end of the 19th century.
Who owns Guildford Castle?
Guildford Borough Council owned Guildford Castle since 1888.
What type of castle is Guildford Castle?
Guildford Castle is a Motte and Bailey Castle. This structure of castles depends on the building, or a fortification, built on a raised area, or motte. The bailey part of the castle is the walled yard surrounding the motte.
We hope you enjoyed our brief trip around Guildford Castle Gardens, its surroundings and the numerous things you can do and visit in Guildford. Have a great visit!
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