Built in 1660, Guildford House Gallery occupies a site in the heart of Guildford, on the High Street paved with granite sets which leads down to the river Wey. The four-storey property was built as a wealthy merchant's house and still has many of its original features, including a beautifully carved staircase, moulded plaster ceilings and oak and pine panelling.
The Gallery occupies the whole of the first floor and part of the ground floor and hosts a changing series of temporary exhibitions. The building is owned and managed by Guildford Borough Council.
The collection comprises more than 550 pieces, spans more than 250 years and includes a plethora of media – oil paintings, watercolours, pastels, etchings, engravings, prints, textiles, ceramics, sculpture and glass. Many of the works are by local artists and those with a strong Guildford connection. Other pieces have associations with the Guildford area and Surrey. Guildford House Gallery is well known for the many works it owns by Guildford's most famous son John Russell (1745–1806), RA. He was pastel painter to George III and his son, the Prince of Wales (later George IV).
The collection has been built up through gift, bequest and purchase over the past 50 years, and many of its historically most significant works have been acquired with assistance from national and local grant aid. New works are added to the collection every year. The collection is not on continuous display. Instead, the works are integrated carefully into the Gallery's varied exhibition programme.