Aside from the Castle, the most archaeologically interesting and visually impressive standing building is Abbot’s Hospital, also known as Trinity Hospital, which was founded in 1619 by George Abbot, who was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1611 until his death in 1633.
The hospital obtained a charter of incorporation in 1622. Its statutes were completed in 1629 and were largely modelled on those of Whitgift’s Hospital in Croydon. The foundation was intended to provide a home for the elderly and infirm who were no longer able to earn a living. Provision was made for a community of paupers, consisting of twelve men and eight women, all of whom were required to be over 60 years old, unmarried and natives of Guildford or residents for at least twenty years.
The records for the hospital from 1622 to 1881 largely take the form of five Ledger Books, which are held at Surrey History Centre, Woking. These record that the community was governed by a master, who was required to make adequate material provision for the members of the house, as well as to ensure that they behaved in a respectable and morally upright manner. Cases of discipline provide some of the more entertaining anecdotes found in the records. On 8 February 1730, for example, John Hayden , one of the brethren of the house, was admonished for abusing the Master,
‘giving him most opprobrious and scurrilous language, by giving him the name of fool, and bid him to kiss his arse, and asking him who made him Master? The Devil, he said it was’.
These vagaries aside, Abbot’s Hospital continued in its caring tradition and today provides sheltered housing for elderly and impoverished inhabitants of Guildford. A portrait of the founder, in oils, dating from 1623, hangs in the hospital and a 20th century statue commemorating the founder stands at the top of the High Street and is shown in the image below.
‘The borough of Guildford: Introduction and castle’, Victoria County History: Surrey (4 volumes, 1902-12), III, pp. 547-560.
K Fincham, Abbot, George (1562-1633), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (Oxford, 2004).
R A Christophers, George Abbot, archbishop of Canterbury, 1562-1633: a bibliography (1966).