Guildford, in Surrey, holds many memories for me as it is the town in which I grew up. Last week I had a lovely visit there, which brought back memories.
A relaxing boat trip on the river Wey from the National Trust site of Dapdune Wharf www.nationaltrust.org.uk/river-wey-and-godalming-navigations-and-dapdune-wharf took us into the heart of Guildford. The Crown Court stands where the cattle market once was. I remember my Dad taking me to the cattle market and getting a badge with a David Brown tractor on it! I think the old Employment Exchange was nearby, and I have the impression of a horse chestnut tree near the bus stop there. Further along the road was a row of large terraced houses, one of which was our doctor’s surgery, before it moved into its current premises in Wharf Road. The large Methodist Church which stood on the corner of that road has just been demolished, to make way for more luxury flats I believe.
We passed the Odeon cinema on the boat. On that site there was previously a sports centre, long before the Spectrum was built. I remember it opening, and we went there for swimming lessons from school.
Our very knowledgeable skipper on the boat informed us that a building just past the odeon used to be the R Whites factory. I have to say that I did not know that drinks such as lemonade had been bottled in Guildford before the company’s merger with Britvic.
A little further along was the site of the twin bus stations – one either side of the river. My bus home from school arrived at one bus station (where the Electric Theatre is now) and I then had to race over the footbridge in time to catch the Alder Valley bus in the other bus station (now a car park). Oh the times when you saw the bus pulling out while you were still racing down the steps!
The original ford of the river was apparently around about where the old town bridge now stands at the bottom of the High Street. Some sculptures on the river bank now commemorate Lewis Carroll’s association with the town (the house he lived in is near the castle).
Few shops still occupy the same premises. Boots is in the same place, though. I bought my first record there: Tchaikovsky’s 4th symphony!! I bought that because they used some of the music for a TV series called ‘The Last of the Mohicans’ and I knew my Dad liked the music. Boots is almost on the corner of Swan Lane, and along there was the shoe shop where Mr Leakey who lived across the road from us was the manager. Further along was the Doll’s Hospital, an amazing toy shop and THE place to go to spend birthday money. At the other end of Swan Lane, on the corner with North Street, was a fish shop, and Mum used to buy some coley there to take home for a treat for our cat Whiskey!
Just past Debenhams is the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, where I have been many times. I don’t know whether or not it is still there, but there used to be a marker on the wall of the alleyway nearby that marked the height of the floodwater in 1968. I do remember that flood. I was 6. I remember being taken down to the area called Weyside, near where PC World is today, to see the flood. And I remember photographic negatives hanging up to dry in our garage at home, being what Dad had managed to salvage from the flood waters at his work: British Aerospace at Brooklands. I’ve found a link to some great photos of the flood taken by Alan Edwards on flickr at https://www.flickr.com/photos/routebus62/sets/72157624408181762/
In those days all the buses also had a bus conductor, who wore a ticket machine across one shoulder and a leather money bag across the other. They called out the names of the stops (such as “Weyside”) as you approached them, and rang the bell to signal to the driver to stop. How times have changed. I’ve just downloaded an app to my phone, to enable me to buy a bus ticket in Brighton next week!
Well it was a lovely, relaxing boat trip and a trip down memory lane too.