Sunday, 5 June 2011

Guildford Castle

Today it's raining.  Hooray!  This has been an incredibly dry year so far, with more than a hint of 1976 about it.  The soil at the allotment is little more than dry dust these days, which is just blowing away in the strong winds we've also been having.  So all told, I'm quite happy that it's more than a bit damp.

I digress.  Sort of.  It may be raining today but yesterday was lovely.  Warm, blue skies, fairly breezy and just lovely, really.  TLH suggested that we popped into Guildford for the morning, mostly to get out of the house but also because he had a new phone that does contactless payments that he wanted to play with and I quite fancied visiting the wool shop and getting some balls of Rowan Kidsilk Aura (I hear the sighs of 'oohs' and 'aahs' from fellow knitters/crocheters) to start making a shawl in a particular Japanese flower pattern.  This won't mean a damn thing to those of you not of the yarny persuasion but let me just tell you that Kidsilk Aura is made from 70% kid goat mohair and 30% silk, and is as soft as the belly fur of a long-haired cat.  And because it's mohair, there's a kind of haze around it which makes it even more fluffy.  The particular Japanese flower design to be crocheted took the intertubes by storm a few months ago but it's taken me until now to get myself sorted.

I'm going to make something that looks a bit like this, but in different colours (the ones I've chosen are plum, a pale sugary pink and a more vibrant pink):

And the shawl will eventually be this size:


I digress again.  Well, it's Sunday, it's raining and there's nothing but 'Carry On Cabby' on the telly so my brain's wandering a bit.  Anyway, it's a nice shawl, innit?

So, to get back to yesterday, we puttered off in the Little Car to Guildford and I went to the wool shop, then we wandered down to the Apple Store and stroked the lovely, shiny Macbooks and iPads.  TLH used his phone to successfully pay for something small from Pret a Manger (hooray!  It works!) and then we decided to go for a coffee in Tunsgate Square.  For once we decided to sit outside the square and while I was waiting for TLH to return with my latte and one of the cafe's yummy chocolate croissants, I took this photo on my phone:

It's perhaps not terribly clear but in the centre right of the picture there's a tree with yellow leaves, yeah?  You see that?  Right.  Well, behind that and slightly to the right of it you can see part of a tall building with what looks like a cage on top? Got that?  That's Guildford Castle, that is.

When TLH returned and we'd drunk our coffee and nommed our croissants, I said to him, 'Do you know, I've lived in this area for 44 years now and I've never been in Guildford Castle'.  'Neither have I', he replied.  I told him the Castle was set in some nice parkland with old-style municipal flower beds and we should just nip over there and have a look.


So we did.  Sadly, the beds hadn't been fully planted up yet so I didn't bother taking any photos but as we were wandering around, we decided that, as we happened to be there, and it was a nice day, and as we hadn't anything pressing to do, we might as well actually go inside the Castle itself.

If you're not fussed about history/archaeology, then you can skip this part.


The Castle was originally built by William the Conqueror (or possibly his brother, Odo) not long after 1066.  It's a traditional square keep, built on top of a motte (a mound) and surrounded by a bailey (grounds around the motte enclosed by a wall).  The keep had a ground and first floor with the entrance located in the first floor to aid in defence. It was most likely used as a private apartment for the King. On the first floor there was a main chamber, a chapel, and wardrobe with latrine. A second floor was added shortly afterwards containing a two-seater latrine (so you chat to a mate while both having a poo!  Classy....). The roof of the building was made of lead and the inner walls were covered in plaster and then whitewashed.  It was built on the lower slope of what is now Pewley Hill and is quite close to the River, which it would have overlooked at the time.

Various Kings of England were involved with the castle, both in living in it and fortifying it from time to time, but it was never attacked.  If you want to read more about it, you can check out its Wikipedia entry.


The ground floor has a small information area with display boards telling the history and models showing what it used to look like.  There's an outdoor staircase that goes up to the first floor and the main entrance to the little Castle.  It's basically just a large single room with high ceilings with three teeny, tiny rooms leading off.  One is thought to have been the King's bedroom but, honestly, it was so small there was barely enough room for a full grown man to lie down.  Then there was a large inglenook-style fireplace that had another small room leading off which may have been a wardrobe with the loo (i.e., a shute to the outside) inside.  The third very small room was the chapel which may have been used as a jail cell at some point.  The prisoners carved graffiti into the walls (click on any picture to make it bigger):


From this chamber on the first floor there's an incredibly narrow metal spiral staircase that takes you up to the roof.  This is the metal cage that you could see from my first photo.  The views over the town are pretty good but, for some reason, I didn't take any pictures of it.  To be honest, I wasn't thinking of doing a blog post about the castle at this point so didn't consider that other people might like to see.  Sorry. But I found one on the intertubes:


(That's Guildford Cathedral on the hill in the distance. Yes, the same one that caused Damien the young Anti-Christ to freak out in the original film of 'The Omen'.  It'll do that.)

These, however, are my pictures of the view looking the other way, towards the Surrey Hills in the distance:


From up on the roof we could see down into the Castle grounds and spotted what looked like an interesting sculpture tucked away in a corner of the gardens, so we went back down the spiral staircase, through the main chamber and back outside.

To get to the sculpture, it looked like we needed to pass along an open tunnel that connected the Castle grounds to the bowling green:

(Not my photo but shows entrance to the passageway)

(This one is mine, though - further along the passageway)

The passageway goes up slightly and when you emerge at the other end, you find yourself in the gardens where we had seen the sculpture from the top of the Keep.  Turns out it is a representation of Alice Through The Looking Glass:




Guildford has a strong connection with Lewis Carroll/Rev. Charles Dodgson because he rented a large house which butted up to the Castle grounds for his sisters.  Although he never actually lived in Guildford himself, he visited his sisters frequently, and this is, apparently, enough of a connection for the worthies of Guildford to lay some sort of claim to him.  To be honest, they haven't made much of a song-and-dance about this - as far as I can see there's just this sculpture in the Castle grounds and another down by the river that looks like this:


It was a really nice, impromptu little trip out, just being a tourist in my own town!

2 comments:

Alienne said...

It's funny how you rarely go and see the things that are closest to you. I used to work next door to St Paul's Cathedral, and never set foot in it once. Although, to disprove my theory, I grew up in the Medway towns and have been to Rochester Castle dozens of times!

A Woman Of No Importance said...

I love the rabbit and girls sculpture especially! p.s. I have lived next door (practically) to Cragside for almost 10 years and last visited it around 18 years ago! Love the new shawl idea, and your colours - Keep up the good, inspirational, work! ;) x