Pub Bombings at Guildford – October 1974

The 5th October 2014 marks the anniversary of the Guildford Pub bombings in 1974. I was just five years old, but I do remember the fear and emotional turmoil of Guildford even at that young age. As I got older and started working in both Guildford and London, I grew up with the political instability involving the “Irish Situation” and the terrorist threat.

Taken by J Goucher 28th September 2014
Just opposite one of the sites where the bombings happened, and next to Guildford Library is a spot known as Quakers’ Acre. There sits a memorial plaque to those that lost their lives that day.

The victims were two men from the military barracks at Pirbright, two female military personnel from the female barracks at Stoughton Guildford and a civilian, who lived out of the County. They are all commemorated on the plaque here. A further 65 people experienced physical injuries and of course live with the emotional scaring that will have surely followed from such an experience.

The first explosion occurred at the Horse and Groom public house in North Street. The second occurred at the Seven Stars public house a little after 9pm, with no causalities because it had already been evacuated after the first incident. The sites chosen because they were popular with the military personnel when allowed out of barracks.

Image courtesy of Get Surrey

I remember the damage at the Horse and Groom, of course being only 5 years old I had no concept of what a pub was, why there was this damage, but could sense there was a degree of sensitivity and anger around what had happened.

The bombings were believed to be the work of the IRA. Four individuals, given the name of the Guildford Four, comprising of three men and a women were arrested, tried and found guilty.

The verdict over turned 15 years later, in 1989 when it was established that there were severe issues with how the case had been conducted and how admissions of guilt were obtained by Surrey Police. Surrey Police were of course pressured into bringing the matter to a swift conclusion, and this pressure without a doubt affected the integrity of the investigation. The culprits of the bombing remain unpunished to this day.

Since then, several books have been published, copies of which reside in my Guildford Collection

  • Proved Innocent by Gerry Conlon
  • Stolen Years by Paul Hill
  • Trial and Error by Robert Kee
  • I remember the verdict being overturned, the admittance that there had been a severe miscarriage of justice and of course the publicity as each book was published, each telling a personal story.

    Whilst this is politically sensitive, for the families of those killed, for those (and their families) who were wrongfully imprisoned it is important that we acknowledge the historical event as it stands. We can, no matter how unpleasant something is simply ignore the fact that this event happened. The event is an integral part of the history of Guildford.

    Edited – Added the link to an hour long recording made by BBC Surrey about the Guildford bombings. <>

    The final Government report can be read at

    Links checked 26th November 2014

    About Julie Goucher

    Genealogist, Author, Presenter, native Guildfordian, avid note taker and journal writer. Lover of Books, Stationery & History; Surnames, Butcher & Orlando One-Name Studies. Pharos Tutor for all One-Name Studies/surname courses as well as Researching Ancestors from Continental Europe.
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