Guildford And Farnham: Hospitals And Almshouses

Hospital and Alms Houses on the High Street in Guildford

In the last post I mentioned Guildford and the buildings on the High Street. And here is the Three Pigeons public house, and next to it is the Hospital and Alms Houses built in 1619 by Bishop Abbot, who went on to become Archbishop of Canterbury.

The sign outside the Abbot’s Hospital reads:

George Abbot, born in Guildford, became Archbishop of Canterbury, and founded this almshouse in 1619.
For around 400 years it has given homes to local residents aged over 60 and of modest means.
When the doors are open, do look from the archway at this fine building, still serving the purpose for which it was built so long ago.

Almshouse In Farnham

And here is a shot of the almshouses in Farnham, a smaller town just a few miles from Guildford, I didn’t shoot it to get all of the row of properties in the shot, but to see the sign above the door.


The online etymological dictionary describes the origin and use of the word ‘impotent’, and states that by the mid 15th century there was already the meaning of lacking in sexual power.

So even when the almshouses were built, anyone who could read and who lived there would know that they were seen as physically weak, enfeebled, crippled, and completely lacking in sexual power. How hurtful. And engraved in stone.

Here is the entry for the word ‘impotent’ from the online etymological dictionary:

late 14c., “physically weak, enfeebled, crippled,” from Old French impotent “powerless, weak, incapable of doing,” from Latin imponentem (nominative impotens) “lacking control, powerless, feeble; lacking self-control,”

Meaning “having no power to accomplish anything” is from mid-15c.; that of “completely lacking in sexual power” (of males) is from mid-15c. Middle English also had a native term for this: Cuntbeaten (mid-15c.). The figurative sense in Latin was “without self-control, headstrong, violent, ungovernable, lacking self-restraint,” which sometimes is found in English (OED cites examples from Spenser, Massinger, Dryden, and Pope).

If you are not familiar with almshouses, they are generally built in a row and are small houses, noticeably small. They have survived because of their charitable status when many, many buildings from the period have not survived.

almshouses in Farnham

Street Near The River In Guildford

You could get the idea from what I have written, that Guildford is cutesy. And it is impressively old on the High Street, But beyond that it is just an English town struggling with empty shops.

Leading off the lower end of the High Street in Guildford there are a few streets that are nice to look at, like this one:

cute street near the bottom of the high street in Guildford

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