George Abbot (1562-1633) is arguably Guildford’s most famous son. He was born and educated in the town, became Archbishop of Canterbury of translator of the King James I Authorised Version of the Bible in 1611. Note only did he achieve success and fame but he left his mark on the town in the form of the distinctive Abbott’s Hospital at the top of the High Street. He is also buried opposite in the Holy Trinity Church.
He was born by the River Wey in a timber framed cottage that survived until the nineteenth century. His father, Maurice Abbot (died 1606) was a cloth-worker. According to legend his when Abbot’s mother was pregnant with him she had a dream in which she was told that if she ate a pike her child would be a son and rise to great prominence. Some time afterwards she accidentally caught a pike while fetching water from the River Wey and it “being reported to some gentlemen in the neighbourhood, they offered to stand sponsors for the child, and afterwards shewed him many marks of favour. He was taught at the Royal Grammar School in the High Street, studied at Oxford, became Master of University College Oxford in 1597 and Dean of Winchester in 1600. He took a leading part in the translation of the Bible for the Kings James I version published in 1611. This became the official version of the Bible used in all churches until the advent of modern translations in the 20th century.
In 1611 he became Archbishop of Canterbury serving King James I until is last days. He performed the coronation ceremony for Charles I but fell out with the King and was live his last years in the background. He founded the Abbot’s Hospital in Guildford High Street in 1619