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Guildford House Gallery exterior

A beautiful Grade I listed town house, dating from 1660, Guildford House Gallery is mainly a traditional timber framed construction.

OutsideGardenRoomwindowsmal  Some of the timbers, especially among the floor beams, are massive and appear to have been secondhand when Guildford House was built.

As frequently happens with this form of construction, the upper floors are cantilevered out beyond the ground floor. This happens in the front overlooking the High Street and on the east side overlooking the Courtyard.

Layout

The plan of the house was simple, the main rooms at the front filling the width of the site with a small wing on the east side originally tucked in behind the Castle Inn. A second wing, built in the mid-19th century, and a stone staircase leading down from the Garden Room have been demolished.

Frontage

When it was built, the front of the house would have been in striking contrast to anything else in the High Street. Four giant pilasters run up through two floors and support an entablature with a bold bracketed cornice.

Guildford-House-Shop-Front

This style owes much to Inigo Jones. He was the Court Architect and Surveyor General to James I and Charles I and was the person who introduced the full Renaissance Classical Style to England.

The fact that some of the oak framing comes through to the surface, indicates that the oak framing may have been in existence before the classical front was applied.

The carving around the main entrance door and the panels under the windows is very vigorous. It was encrusted with grime, but has been cleaned and the carvings in the natural wood now show clearly.

The balcony

With access from the Powell Room on the first floor, the balcony is a prominent feature of the High Street frontage. The seventeenth-century wrought ironwork includes decorative motifs of high quality workmanship.

Courtyard and rear

The walls facing the courtyard are covered with traditional tile hanging. Those of the north rooms, overlooking the courtyard, are faced with 'Mathematical Tiles', which simulate bricks.

Brew-House-and-Courtyard

These tiles are hung on battens, as with plain tile hanging, but are specially moulded so that they interlock and, when the joints are pointed, look like brickwork.

Guildford-House-rear-1957

Mathematical tiles were a Georgian invention and their use was confined to the south and southeast of England (Surrey, Sussex, Kent and Hampshire). They could cover half-timbered walls and give them a more elegant appearance.

This effect is achieved successfully at Guildford House where they are indistinguishable from finely laid brick. It is difficult to say when these tiles were applied to the building, but it could have been in the 1730s when the Martyr family bought the house.

The view of the house from the garden is greatly enhanced by the charming oriel windows, which overlook the garden and the courtyard with their decorated plaster ornament.

Windows

Visitorsbookdetailsmall  The windows are leaded lights glazed in small squares surrounded by lead kames. The frames of the opening lights are made of wrought iron.
Many of the opening windows, including those in the Pine Room, the oriel window of the Garden Room and on first floor landing, have very elaborate wrought iron casement fasteners and bolts.

On the outside there were spring quadrant stays, many of which have perished. These casements are a very interesting and precious feature of Guildford House. There is a drawing of one of the fasteners by Sir Reginald Blomfield in his book on Renaissance architecture in England. He dates it to about 1680.