The original Guildford Mechanics Institute merged with the Literary and Scientific Institution for Mechanics and Others.
In the same year, a library extension with classrooms on the upper floors were added. The Library and the well-stocked and used Reading Room for newspapers and periodicals gave the Institute an important status in the town.
Although not the oldest club in the country, it is believed to be the longest running chess club to have met continuously at the same venue.
Members included 370 ladies, 72 shop assistants and 532 artisans
The Institute’s journal, now published twice-yearly and received by members.
During the First World War refugees coming into the town queued up to join and membership rose to 1,800.
Borrowers were then allowed to enter the Library and pick out their own books instead of having them handed over personally by the Librarian.
To commemorate this anniversary a plaque was unveiled which read “For 100 years this Institute has provided opportunity for reading and study for the inhabitants for this borough.”
The Institute suffered a decline and membership numbers began to fall. Commercial lending libraries, cinemas and radio broadcasting also contributed to loss of users.
The meetings showed that there was a strong will to keep the Institute going in spite of the difficulties.
The future of the Institute was assured by a merger with the University of Surrey which became a Trustee of the building. The University assisted in managing the Institute and ran many of its part-time courses in the building.
Jean Bridger (member of The Guildford Institute) alongside two friends, had the idea of opening Guildford’s only vegetarian restaurant.
This resulted in the loss of support from services such as Estates & Buildings Management, Human Resources, Accounts and IT. All the GI staff who were employees of the University were made redundant.
The Board shared a wealth of academic and administrative experience as well as business acumen. They devised a strategy for the future, including plans for the redevelopment of the building.
Volunteers manned the Reception desk, and helped out with various administrative tasks. The Library also became run by a volunteer team.
Generous donations, grants and loans allowed huge improvements to the building, including moving the office to a more visible location, improving library and kitchen facilities and a more modern entrance way. The building was also made more accessible with the installation of a lift and ground floor toilet.
After 36 years of serving home-made vegetarian food, the current owners retire and the restaurant closes.
Nick Humble and Ian Ioffel carry on the long legacy of producing freshly-cooked vegetarian and vegan food in The Guildford Institute’s historic Assembly room.