It is not every day that a member of the royal family visits Guildford, particularly one who has been dead for over 600 years. Nevertheless, on Sunday 18th December the Mayor of Guildford proudly welcomed King Edward III back to the town from the steps of Guildford Castle.
It was all part of “Christmas at Guildford Castle” organised by the Heritage Team at Guildford Borough Council. Edward III, was play by a member of “Past Pleasures Ltd, the UK's oldest professional costumed historical interpretation company based locally at Godalming. They are a regular feature at the Tower of London, Hampton Court and many other historical sites around the country.
King Edward III, accompanied by Queen Philippa of Hainault, started the event with a procession from the High Street. Shortly before midday shoppers were harangued by the Kings “Gong Scourer” who beckoned to them for help form up a procession.
A “gong scourer” was a medieval toilet cleaner, usually a boy who had to crawl up privies in royal palaces and clean them. Judging from the enthusiasm of this gong scourer he was delighted to have a day off as he seemed to hop and bounce around the street engaging with the public.
At midday he organised a loud cheer for the King and Queen who joined the procession along with two instrumentalists. A sizeable crowd had gathered outside the Undercroft and to the sound of medieval music the crowd marched to Guildford Castle, led by our “Lord of Misrule” on day release. It would great to know how many people planned to attend this event and how many were swept up by his infectious enthusiasm.
At the castle, following the greeting from the Mayor, the royal party went inside for more speeches and medieval music. There was also storytelling, crafts for children and a number of stalls to look around. It is the first time this has been done but it was a production which shows great promise. Let’s hope this excursion into Guildford’s Christmas past is a taste of Christmas's to come.