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Things to do in Marlborough, Wiltshire

Marlborough is a historic town in Wiltshire, midway between Calne and Hungerford. It is in a delightful location, set in the chalk downs with views across the Vale of Pewsey.

Busy market day © David Oakley-Hill
Busy market day © David Oakley-Hill

It is situated on the old A4 which runs from London to Bath and is said to have one of the widest high streets in Britain.

Marlborough's charming High Street has some interesting buildings, many dating back to the rebuilding after the Great Fire of 1653.

The Merchant's House is the most noteworthy and was owned by a silk merchant. It still has the original room pattern and wall paintings are currently being restored.

The town has several schools of repute including Marlborough College boarding school and St John's Community College which has a noted Technology College and Language College.

St Peter's Church is now an Arts Centre and St Mary's Church is the centre for local worship. Sir Gordon Richards, jockey, is buried in the churchyard.

Other famous residents include author William Golding and Eglantyne Jebb, founder of the charity Save the Children Fund.

Things to Do in Marlborough

Marlborough has a number of annual events including the jazz festival when most pubs and venues host live jazz events.

Historic architecture © David Oakley-Hill
Historic architecture © David Oakley-Hill

In October the High Street hosts the Marlborough Mop Fair, originally when agricultural workers were hired but nowadays a modern funfair.

The Marlborough White Horse was cut in the chalk hillside in 1804 by the boys attending Mr Greasley's Academy on the High Street. This local landmark is 62 feet long and is well worth walking up to see.

The Savernake Forest is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and has public access. Avebury Stone Circle is also nearby.

History of Marlborough

One of the oldest traces of human settlement in the area is the prehistoric tumulus or burial ground which can be seen in Marlborough College grounds.

Local legend has it that the barrow is the tomb of Merlin and the name of Marlborough is derived from "Merlin's Barrow".

Another historic relic is the Marlborough Bucket, a bronze burial bucket decorated with images of animals and humans.

Roman coins have been unearthed nearby and it is known that there was a Saxon settlement at the crossing of the River Kennet at Stonebridge Lane.

Town Hall © David Oakley-Hill
Town Hall © David Oakley-Hill

William the Conqueror built a motte and bailey castle at Marlborough in the 11th century which was rebuilt in stone in 1175. He established a mint and the silver pennies produced were marked William I and Maerlebi, or Marlborough.

He made the castle his royal residence and hunted in the Savernake Forest.

The castle passed down through the royal lineage to King John who granted a charter to the borough in 1204. The markets are still held on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

The Statute of Marlborough was passed by Parliament in 1267 and remains the oldest stature in English law. During the English Civil War, the castle was owned by the Seymours who were Royalist supporters in this Parliamentarian town.

In 1653 the Great Fire of Marlborough burnt 250 houses. After further fires in 1679 and 1690, an act of Parliament prohibited thatched roofs in Marlborough.

When the High Street was rebuilt, it was made extra wide to accommodate the market.

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