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People have been clinking glasses, breaking bread and swapping gossip here since 1556. The last of the pilgrims to Canterbury had long crossed the River Wey on the ferry at the bottom of St Catherine’s Hill decades before, and the first lot of drunken sailors heading to or from Portsmouth were yet to come. The pub was probably a one-room shack made of wattle and daub and most of its early customers were not travellers but locals. They were farmhands, labourers, craftsmen or workers in Surrey’s then-booming wool trade. As the industry faded in the early 1600s, the pub would have made a great moaning post for any of the 3,000 wool workers in Guildford whose jobs were at risk.

Built as it was between the pilgrims and the seafarers, the pub was born during a relatively quiet phase for Guildford, but turmoil was shaping the monarchy 40 miles away. When the first sips were supped here, Mary Tudor, the Catholic Queen, had two years left on the throne before her half-sister, Elizabeth I, took power. The most famous Tudor to reign, Elizabeth built the navy that beat the Spanish Armada in 1588. England’s prowess as a sea-going nation was confirmed and, with Portsmouth growing in stature, traffic from London swelled. Guildford, a day’s journey from either destination, was an ideal place to break the trip, and while the richer punters stopped in the Angel and other coaching inns of the high street, the budget traveller stayed in places such as The Ship.

The pub witnessed wild times last century when the annual St Catherine’s Hill Fair would get way out of hand. Guildford’s ‘roughs’ would gather on the sides of the road under the hill and pelt passers-by with chestnuts. Such was the boring lot of the Victorian lower-classes – no wonder Guildford become notorious for its Guy Fawkes Night riots. News of the ‘stupid-looking fellows much advanced in beer’ (how things don’t change!) at the fair was written up in The Times in 1863. An old charter allowed pubs in the area to sell beer without a licence at the fair itself, so there was no lack of lubrication for festivities. During the 1920s ‘Ye Olde Ship Inn’ was also a garage and became a Piano Manufacturers and Repairers when E Ruse was the publican.

Ye Olde Ship Inn still sells plenty of good beer, tied as it is to Greene King since 2000. The pub’s big selling point on the food front these days is the pizza oven, which regulars and visitors agree cooks a great pizza. 

Jeremy, Mel and the team will do all they can to ensure you enjoy your visit.


Previous names have been:

THE RED LYON - 1713 
THE SHIP - 1729 & 1800's 
WHITE LYON - 1731 and earlier  

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