Many famous people have been associated with Guildford. Medieval kings stayed here. Samuel Pepys visited here. But to be a famous Guildfordian a person must surely have been born here, or at least lived here or perhaps had a major impact on the town. Based on this reasoning, four key names have been chosen here.
George Abbot (1562-1633) was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1611 and ticks all the boxes. Whilst few outside the town (and some inside) are aware of his name, we are all impacted by his work on the translation of the Authorised Version of the Bible under King James I. It was “the Bible” used in every church for 400 years and we all use phrases from it whether we are “going the extra mile” or performing a “labour of love”. George Abbot was born in Guildford, was educated at the Grammar School, died here and has a monument in Holy Trinity Church. He also built one of the most distinctive buildings in the town – the Abbots Hospital. Today amongst young Guildfordians he is probably best known from the local secondary school named after him and a local pub.
Next on our hall of fame must be the Dennis Brothers due to the impact they made on the town. They originated from Devon but set up a bike shop which evolved into one of the largest commercial vehical industries in the country. The Dennis name appeared on the front of buses and dust carts but it was fire engines that were most famous for. At one time they supplied about 50% of all fire engines in the uk (about 100 a year). In 1919 factory was built on the outskirts of town and housing built for workers became known as Dennisville. To firemen they were the best because they were designed as fire engines from top to bottom. Other makes simply added components onto general chassis. However, the profitability of buses, a takeover and the restructuring of purchasing within fire services brought about their decline. In 1991 the Woodbridge Road site closed and became a business park. Manufacturing of chassis was moved to Slyfield Green but the operation ceased in 2020. The original 1903 Dennis factory in Bridge Street still survives and was one of the earliest factories in the world to have a production line.
The author of Alice in Wonderland is next on our list mainly because he is buried in the town and the house he bought for his sisters still exists. He was a regular visitor to the town, preached at St Mary’s Church and was involve in many aspects of the town’s life
If this were a national list of fame there Alan Turing would be far above the others. Arguably the founder of modern computing, his work on the decoding of the German Enigma machines shortened the Second World War. Research by local historian, Paul Backhouse, has revealed the extend to Turing’s association with Guildford. His parents moved here when he was 15 and several of his relatives lived here. Although his work lay elsewhere Guildford was very much part of his life and it is very proud of its association with him. A statue by John M Mills was unveiled at the University of Surrey in 2004 which prides itself in technological achievements.
John Russell was portrait painter to many famous and notable people in the late eighteenth century. His biography by the Guildford historian GC Williamson is available online (click here). Born in Guildford he was christened in the ruins of Holy Trinity Church and as a young boy was caught climbing up the tower of the new church. He attended the Royal Grammar School but was sent to London to study portraiture. He kept a diary which reveals much about his own life and the period in which he lived. Click here for more details
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Other famous Guildfordians include the Many of Guildford’s famous residents were educated at the Royal Grammar School and a list of famous old Guildfordians is available on Wikipedea
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