The Spike Heritage Centre (Guildford)

RESEARCH VOLUNTEER - updated 30.03.2022

Spike Lives Family History Project researchers: The Spike is the community centre and the preserved casual ward of the former Guildford Union Workhouse in Charlotteville, Guildford. Spike Lives is a heritage research project that is chronicling the lives of inmates living in the Guildford Union Workhouse during the 1881 census - and those lives are fascinating!

247 individuals, aged from one month to 96 years. Vagrants, criminals, labourers, gardeners, domestics, laundresses, unemployed or unemployable, schoolchildren, ill, incapacitated...

How had they ended up there? Why had they fallen on hard times? What’s their backstory? What happened next?

The Spike is welcoming volunteers to help complete its project. All it asks is that you have experience of family history research with access to the Surrey History Centre and / or to Ancestry or Find My Past, etc, and can write a good story.

The Spike is putting a website ( to record the findings and tell the stories of these people and the lives they led. . 

Mission Statement

The Spike Heritage Centre is one of the few buildings remaining from Guildford's Workhouse in the Poor Law era, which housed the forgotten classes of Victorian England.  The Vagrants and Casual Ward, known as The Spike was built in 1906 to house vagrants and low paid workers.  After the Poor Laws ended in 1929, it continued as a night hostel until the mid 1960s. The NHS took over the site becoming St Lukes Hospital, operational until the mid 1990s when the new Royal Surrey hospital was opened.  The majority of the workhouse site was redeveloped, but due to the efforts of local campaigners, the Casual Ward was saved and remains as a historic building with lots of stories to tell. Individual visitors and groups are welcome to explore this unique building with guides providing the insight about how the poor were treated in a bygone age.