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Guildford House Gallery interior

Discover the charm and beauty of this carefully restored Seventeenth Century building.

GHG interior banner image showing staircase

The Garden Room

This charming room on the ground floor has a fine plaster ceiling divided into five panels by deep beams. The centre panel, which spans the room, has an oval garland of bay leaves.

Small panels of oak and pine line the room. Two splendid oriel windows overlook the inner courtyard and the garden. This was probably the original dining room with access to the kitchen by a spiral staircase from one corner. A cupboard has now replaced the staircase.

At one time there was a door in the north side of the room, with a stone staircase leading down into the courtyard, but this was removed in the 1958/9 renovation of the building. The wooden door can still be seen as a panel on the inside of the room.

The kitchen

Owing to the fall of the land on the site, the kitchen is on the floor level below that entered from the High Street, but on ground level if approached from the courtyard. It is now used as the Gallery Café.

The old kitchen fireplace has been converted into storage cupboards, as has the entrance to the spiral staircase, which ran from the kitchen to the landing on the first floor.

There were many other larders and storerooms under the front of the house and at least two cellars beneath the paving stones of the rear courtyard at a depth of about sixteen feet.

The Pine Room

At the back of the house on the first floor, this finely proportioned room is lined with pine panels about three feet wide. It is the only room in the house that retains its original mantelpiece with a charming carved ornament of fruit and flowers at the sides.

Unusually, the windows have shutters, which can be pulled out from recesses in the panelling each side, sliding together in grooves in the windowsills.

It is likely that this was originally the main bedroom. Children and personal servants were accommodated on the second floor.

The Powell Room

Architecturally speaking, this is the most important room in the house, having the classic proportions of the half cube. It measures 20 x 20 feet (about 6 x 6 metres) and is 10 feet (3 metres) high. These classical proportions recall the influence of Inigo Jones, who was probably the first to introduce the cube and double cube into English Architecture.

Powell Room

The fine moulded panelling dates from the early 18th century. The finely decorated plaster ceiling dates to around 1660.

It has nine panels, divided by deep beams covered with Renaissance motifs of flower tendrils, leaves and pineapples, etc. interspersed with leaves. There are four panels around it decorated with bay garlands and heads of winged Cupids.

The four square corner panels each have a sunflower motif and 'masks' of female heads with exotic hairstyles and headdresses. The whole ceiling is one of the finest in Southern England and one of the reasons why Guildford House is a Listed Building.

This room used to be called 'The Sheriff's Parlour'. This was because the High Sheriff and his party would withdraw to this room in the 18th and 19th centuries when the Assize Courts were held, first in the Assembly Room behind the Red Lion Hotel on the corner of Market Street and later in the newly built Corn Exchange.

It was renamed 'The Powell Room' after restoration in 1959. This was in honour of Alderman Lawrence Powell, MC, MA, JP, and Chairman of the Libraries, Museum and Arts Committee from 1944-1957. He was keenly interested in the arts and was instrumental in the Borough's decision to buy the building.

Second floor rooms

Due to health and safety restrictions the attic rooms are only open to visitors as part of special events such as the annual Heritage Open Days.

The Attic Rooms

When Mr and Mrs Childe lived in the house, the attic rooms were probably used as the female servants' quarters. In the 1680s, the attic may have been just one room, open to the rafters. It may be that it was in the 1730s that the attic was divided into two small rooms, with a lath and plaster partition, and a half ceiling added.

The current arrangement was created in the 1950s when the partition was stripped back to reveal the timber framing.

There is a fireplace in the attic. Heating would have been a luxury in a servants' chamber. The fireplace may have been intended for an iron hob-grate to burn coals, which were rapidly replacing wood as a domestic fuel. In fact, most servants would have been used to sleeping in small and overcrowded areas and often in the kitchen on straw under the kitchen table. By comparison, this arrangement would have been very comfortable indeed.

There is a small closet to the right hand side of the fireplace, which would have probably been used to store clothes and possibly the chamber pot!

During the time that Guildford House was Nutthall's restaurant, the attic rooms were where the waitresses changed into and out of their brown uniforms.

Painted Closet

The Painted Closet leads off the front room on the second floor of Guildford House. It dates to the Seventeenth Century and was not painted until after the shelves had been fitted.

The blocked window on the wall facing the door at one time opened over the roof of the Castle Inn next door to Guildford House in the High Street. Further storeys have since been added to the site of the inn.

Major conservation of the Painted Closet was carried out in 1993-4. In areas where sections of lath and plaster were missing, the laths were replaced with sound old (around Seventeenth Century) oak laths, secured with brass panel pins. These areas were covered with a mortar using goat's hair.

The paint was flaking badly in some areas, particularly on the timbers. Once the painted areas had been cleaned and stabilized, they were retouched in a tone of similar colour and strength as the original. The use of watercolours for retouching has left the restoration readily removable with water.