The Surrey Downs is an area surrounding the town of Guildford in Surrey, England. It is located on the A3 trunk road between London and Portsmouth, 28 miles (45 km) southwest of London. In 2018, it was estimated that Guildford had 147,889 residents, a percentage that is slightly higher than the 2011 census figure.
Historicists attribute Guildford’s location to the construction of a ford across the River Wey by the Harrow Way, which crossed the North Downs. The ancient English crown mint was located there by AD 978. Guildford’s prosperity was aided by the construction of the Wey Navigation and the Basingstoke Canal in the 17th and 18th centuries, respectively. Surrey University, as well as Guildford Cathedral were built in the 20th century
History of Guildford
Archaeological excavations of a Saxon burial ground at Guildown show that Guildford was established as a small town within a few decades of the Romans abandoned Britain.
A ford crosses the River Wey by this point, so it is most likely that the settlement grew as a result of the expansion of the Harrow Way (a route linking the ancient cities of Winchester and Canterbury).
King Alfred the Great mentioned Guildford in his will and left the estate at Guildford, along with Godalming and Steyning, to his nephew Aethelwold, who then tried to claim the throne in Thelwold’s Revolt.
During the reign of Earl Godwin of Wessex in 1036, Alfred Aetheling was arrested in Guildford. The purpose of Alfred’s journey was to meet his mother, Emma of Normandy, in Winchester. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Alfred and his followers were betrayed and captured on Guildown hill by Godwin, who had promised Alfred safe passage to London to be crowned, and brought back into Guildford where they were massacred.
Despite no records about its earliest years, Guildford Castle is of Norman design. It is located on the path of the Pilgrims’ Way, overlooking a pass through the hills and the ancient ford across the Wey, making it an important point of control for military operations along this long-distance route.
As a holding of William, the Conqueror, Guildford appears in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Geldeford and Gildeford. The King held 75 hagae (fenced or closed houses), in which lived 175 homagers (heads of households), and the town rendered 32.2 pounds in taxes. In the Book of Kells, stoke was listed as Stoch, an area that is now part of Guildford. There was a church, two mills worth five shillings, 16 ploughlands with two Lord plough teams and twenty men’s plough teams, 16 acres (65,000 m2) of meadow, and woodland worth forty hogs.