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Guildford has long been the county town of Surrey. Situated about 46 km south-west of London, it lies in a valley which the river Wey once cut through a chain of hills, the North Downs. Guildford is a busy centre of shopping, trade and education as well as the administrative centre of Guildford District with its 126 000 inhabitants.
The name "Guildford" is of Anglo-Saxon origin and probably once meant The Golden Ford. Its first documentary record dates back to 1036 when Guildford is mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. The spire of St Mary's church is an outstanding example of the Anglo-Saxon architecture of the time. Guildford was a prosperous city during the middle ages. The Norman castle, of which only the main tower still remains, served as a royal seat until the 15th century. The city's wealth in the late middle ages was largely due to a thriving wool industry. It produced the blue Kersey cloth which gained an international reputation because of its high quality. In the 17th century, the lower reaches of the Wey were equipped with locks and canals and thus made navigable for larger barges. For around two hundred years these waterways favoured the development of trade in the area and brought Guildford economic growth and prosperity.
There is a rich cultural life in Guildford with its three theatres - the Yvonne Arnaud, the Guildford Civic and the Electric Theatre -, its philharmonic orchestra, a concert hall, an art gallery and a large exhibition centre. Guildford Museum recounts the history of the county of Surrey. Every year, Guildford is host to numerous well-known festivals such as the International Music Festival, the Summer Spectacle, the Rock, Pop and Blues Festival and the Book Festival. Guildford Spectrum is Britain's biggest and most modern sports park, and it offers sports activities enjoyed by 1.8 million visitors every year.
Economy and Tourism
Guildford's economic development has largely been shaped by the service industry which today employs 75% of all employees. Well-known technology companies such as Canon or Ericsson have branches in Guildford. Many of those companies are based in the Surrey Research Park which was founded in 1983 and today houses over 150 companies. The park is also the location of the Surrey Technology Centre which forms part of the University of Surrey and offers conference rooms, and other business facilities to all companies in the park.
Guildford has a lot to offer visitors. Among the most outstanding historical monuments are the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit built in the 20th century, the Hospital of the Blessed Trinity, the town hall Guildhall and the remains of the Norman castle. Other tourist attractions include Guildford's stately homes, such as Clandon House, Sutton Place and Loseley House, and its beautiful parks. Among them Wisley Gardens is one of the prettiest, especially in May when it charms visitors with its abundance of flowering rhododendron.
Guildford University was founded in 1966 and enjoys an international reputation. It is one of Britain's most technology oriented universities. In addition, there are numerous other research and educational institutions which provide highly qualified young people for industry and economy.