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A tour of Guidford Museum

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Guildford Museum is situated in Quarry Street and is a short walk from the High Street. It backs onto the Castle Grounds. It is situated in a 17th century house which is an interesting house in its own right.

The main gallery is a 1911 extension used for temporary exhibitions. It was built with money from a Councillor to house the rural life collection donated by the internationally famous garden designer Gertrude Jekyll

Entrance is free Monday to Saturday 11am - 5pm

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The Musem backs on to the Castle grounds with its dramatic Norman keep. It is part of a heritage hub - a group of  historic buildings around the castle. This offers opportunties for the future which are currently being explored. There are plans to open up the entrance to the Castle Grounds and add a new gallery and cafe.

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Further into the museum there is a small display case about the medieval Friary. This was a big excavation in the 1970s and I am sure a lot more could be made of it. There must be plenty of people in the town who remember the old Friary Meux pub at the bottom of North Street and many others who remember peering at the excavations through the hoardings. There will be other people who actually took part. Archaeology is not just about what is discovered but the act of

Saxon origins

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Inside the museum, the displays need updating. In fact the overall design of the museum has been the same for at least 50 years. The entrance hall had a makeover in the 1990s and some fine archaeological displays were created  but they were removed in the last decade to create a temporary exhbition space.

There are, however, some great objects in the museum. The origins of Guildford were revealled in an excavation on Guildown in 1927. One case shows the jewellery and some glass beakers. A recreation of a burial is also on display.

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From the main hall you walk up a staircase to the main upstairs gallery. You are now in the seventeenth century house and there is a fine fireplace. There are displays on ironwork, tiles and Surrey transport. This room would be perfect as a seventeenth century gallery

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From this room you enter smaller rooms. There is a fine collection of shepherd's smocks and needlework.

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There is also a room dedicated to toys, mostly from the nineteenth century. Old toys are often a good way of illustrating life in the past. The rich collection of farm figures are currently displayed as toys but could be used in connection with farming  implements to illustrate the farming life of communities around the town.

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There are also good examples of peep shows, a theatre and optical toys. These were the gaming industry of the past. People are often saying that Guilldford Museum should have more on its gaming industry but history is about putting life in perspective. A modern games console alongside Victorian toys would be a very good way of doing this. Victorian optical toys also illustrate clearly some of the basic principles behind modern entertainment. Modern video games, films and television would be never exist without an understanding of optics and persistance of vision which fasinated Victorians. 

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One of the most important parts of the collection is the donation of artefacts relating to Surrey life by the garden designer Gertrude Jekyll. She grew up locally and when she saw how rapidly this old life was changing she decided to collect everything to do with Surrey rural life. She published her observations along with 300 photos from her collection in a book "Old West Surrey" in 1904. It is a fascinating book full of details about lighting, needlework, cooking and even local dialect and expressions. In 1911 she donated her collection to the Surrey Archaeology and the main gallery of the museum was built to house it.