Marlborough (/ˈmɔːrlb(ə)rə/ ( listen)
MORL-b(ə-)rə, /ˈmɑːrl-/ MARL-) is a market town and civil
parish in the English county of
Wiltshire on the Old Bath Road, the
old main road from London to Bath. It boasts the second-widest high
street in Britain, after Stockton-on-Tees. The town
is on the River Kennet.
3 Town events
4 Notable buildings
8.1 Church of England
10 Notable people
11 Twin towns
13 Further reading
14 External links
The earliest sign of human habitation is a 62-foot-high (19 m)
prehistoric tumulus in the grounds of Marlborough College. Recent
radiocarbon dating has found it to date from about 2400 BC. It is
of similar age to the larger
Silbury Hill about 5 miles (8.0 km)
west of the town. Legend has it that the Mound is the burial site of
Merlin and that the name of the town, Marlborough comes from
Merlin's Barrow. On John Speed's map of
Wiltshire (1611), the town's
name is recorded as Marlinges boroe. The town's motto is Ubi nunc
sapientis ossa Merlini ("Where now are the bones of wise Merlin").
More plausibly, the town's name probably derives from the medieval
term for chalky ground "marl"—thus, "town on chalk".
Further evidence of human occupation comes from the discovery in St
Margaret's Mead of the Marlborough Bucket, an
Iron Age burial bucket
made of fir wood with three iron hoops, a top bar and two handles; it
also sports bronze bands decorated with human heads and mythical
animals, and is now on display at the
Wiltshire Museum in Devizes.
Roman remains and the large Mildenhall Hoard of coins have been found
two miles to the east of Marlborough, at Mildenhall (Cunetio). A later
Saxon settlement grew up around The Green and two early river
crossings were made at Isbury Lane and Stonebridge Lane.
In 1067 William the Conqueror assumed control of the Marlborough area
and set about building a wooden motte-and-bailey castle, sited on the
prehistoric mound. This was completed in around 1100. Stone was used
to strengthen the castle in around 1175. The first written record of
Marlborough dates from the
Domesday Book in 1087. William also
established a mint in Marlborough, which coined the William I and the
early William II silver pennies. The coins display the name of the
town as Maerlebi or Maerleber.
He also established the neighbouring
Savernake Forest as a favourite
royal hunting ground and Marlborough castle became a Royal
residence. Henry I observed Easter here in 1110. Henry II stayed at
Marlborough castle in talks with the King of Scotland. His son,
Richard I ("Coeur de Lion") gave the castle to his brother John, in
1186. King John was married here and spent time in Marlborough. He
even established a Treasury.
In 1204 King John granted Charter to the Borough which permitted an
annual eight-day fair, commencing on 14 August, the vigil of the Feast
of the Assumption of Our Lady (15 August), in which "all might enjoy
the liberties and quittances customary in the fair at Winchester". He
also established that weekly markets may be held on Wednesdays and
Saturdays. These continue to this day.
Later Henry III was also married here. Henry III held Parliament
here, in 1267, when the
Statute of Marlborough
Statute of Marlborough was passed (this gave
rights and privileges to small land owners and limited the right of
the King to take possession of land). This seven-hundred-year-old law
states that no-one shall seize his neighbour's goods for alleged wrong
without permission of the Court. Apart from Charters, it is the oldest
English law which has not yet been repealed.
St Mary's parish church
The castle fell into disrepair by the end of the 14th century but
remained Crown property. Edward VI then passed it to the Seymour
family, his mother's relatives. In 1498
Thomas Wolsey was ordained
priest in (the now redundant) St Peter's church. He later rose to
become a cardinal and Lord Chancellor.
In 1642 Marlborough's peace was shattered by the English Civil War.
The Seymours held the
Castle for the King but the town was for
Parliament. With his headquarters in nearby Oxford, King Charles had
to deal with Marlborough. "A Town the most notoriously disaffected of
all that Country, otherwise, saving the obstinacy and malice of the
inhabitants, in the situation of it very unfit for a garrison... this
place the King saw would prove quickly an ill neighbour to him, not
only as it was in the heart of a rich County, and so would straighten
him, and even infest his quarters."
The King sent Lord Digby to take the town who left Oxford, the head of
four hundred horses, 24 November 1642. When he arrived, he chose to
parley first, thus giving the inhabitants a chance to prepare defences
and to recruit troops. They mustered about seven hundred poorly armed
men. At this point, the town issued a reply to Digby: "The King's
Majesty, providing he were attended in Royal and not in war like wise,
should be as welcome to that town as ever was Prince to People; but as
to delivering up the good Town of Marlborough to such a traitor as
Lord Digby ... they would sooner die". After some early skirmishes,
Royalist troops infiltrated the town down its small alleyways. The
town was captured and looted and many buildings were set ablaze. One
hundred and twenty prisoners were marched in chains to Oxford. The
town was later abandoned by the King and took no further part in the
On 28 April 1653 the Great Fire of Marlborough started in a tanner's
yard and spread quickly, eventually after four hours burning the
Guildhall, St Mary’s Church, the County Armoury, and 244 houses
to the ground. During the rebuilding of the town after the Great
Fire, the high street was widened and is often claimed to be the
England though the actual widest is in Stockton-on-Tees.
This wide street allows ample space for the local market. Fire swept
through the Town again in 1679 and again in 1690. This time, an Act of
Parliament was passed "to prohibit the covering of houses and other
buildings with thatch in the Town of Marlborough".
In 1804 the
Marlborough White Horse
Marlborough White Horse was cut by boys from Mr Greasley's
Academy in the High Street.
In 1901 and 1934 the boundaries of the borough were extended to
include the hamlet of
Preshute and the village of Manton, both to the
west of the town.
In 2004 Marlborough celebrated 800 years of its Town Charter. Among
the celebrations was a street play by the Marlborough Players entitled
"Wheels of Time" and a visit from HRH Prince Charles.
Marlborough has an oceanic climate somewhat influenced by its inland
position and at 124 metres' elevation is more prone to frost than
southern coastal areas.
Climate data for Marlborough, elevation 124m, 1981–2010
Average high °C (°F)
Average low °C (°F)
Average precipitation mm (inches)
Mean monthly sunshine hours
Source: Met Office
Every summer the town holds a jazz festival with local pubs, clubs,
hotels and various other venues playing host to live jazz music over
the course of a weekend. The Marlborough mop fair was originally a
hiring fair for agricultural workers seeking employment, but now has
become a travelling funfair. It takes place over two weekends in
October, as the "big mop" and "little mop" fairs. In 2014 these were
set for 3–4 and 17–18 October.
On the north side of the high street is the Merchant's House, which is
currently under restoration but part of which is open to the public
for guided tours on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from April to
October. The house was built following the Great Fire of 1653. It was
the property of a silk merchant and, rarely for a house of this type
in a town centre, still retains its original room pattern. Notable are
the wall paintings recently uncovered, which are undergoing
conservation. One room painted in a striped pattern, copying silk
hangings, is perhaps unique in Great Britain.
The local authority is
Wiltshire Council, which, after the 2009 local
elections, is Conservative controlled. Marlborough lies within the
There are two electoral wards (east and west) in the town. Their area
and population are identical to that quoted above.
Marlborough College, an independent boarding school, is located on the
west side of the town.
The town's local authority secondary school, St John's Academy had
been considered an above average school and sixth form college by
Ofsted, and in the June 2014 report it was considered outstanding.
It was formed when the former Marlborough
Grammar School and secondary
modern school were amalgamated. There is also a primary school, St
Marlborough is home to Marlborough Rugby Club, who completed their
most successful season in recent history in the 2009–10 South West
Division Dorset & Wilts 1 North League. Marlborough won all 22
games to secure promotion to the Southern Counties South league. The
club has a second XV senior team as well as over 220 juniors from U6
to U15. Marlborough Town F.C. play their home games at Elcot Lane, to
the east of the town, and are current members of the
There is a cricket team whose 1st X1 compete in the WEPL Wiltshire
Church of England
St Peter's former parish church
The town is at the heart of the Church of
England Marlborough deanery
in the diocese of
Salisbury in the province of Canterbury. The rural
dean has responsibility for the benefices of Marlborough, Ridgeway,
Upper Kennet and Whitton which in total comprise 16 parishes. Of the
town's two Church of
England parish churches, St Peter's has been made
redundant and converted into an arts centre. St Mary's remains in use
The late renowned jockey Sir
Gordon Richards is buried in the new
cemetery on Marlborough common, the second of two such cemeteries to
be opened after the two old churchyards stopped being used for
Although once served by two railway lines (the Great Western Railway
and the Midland and South Western Junction Railway) the town no longer
has any direct rail access. The nearest stations are Pewsey
(6.7 m), Bedwyn (6.9 m), and
Swindon (12.7 m). Marlborough is well
connected by road with the A4 from
Hungerford to Calne, A346 from
Swindon and A345 from
Salisbury meeting there.
The Savernake Cottage Hospital, opened on London Road, Marlborough, in
David Brudenell-Bruce, Earl of Cardigan, 31st hereditary warden of
William Golding, Nobel Prize winner; author of Lord of the Flies; grew
up in the town; lived in a house on the green and educated at the
former Marlborough Grammar School, where his father was a science
Time Team archaeologist, educated in the town
Eglantyne Jebb, founder of
Save the Children
Save the Children Fund; taught at St.
Peter's Junior School then located at the western end of the High
Street (now the Town Library); said to have been inspired to action by
the rural poverty she saw amongst her pupils
Edward Thompson, second Chief Mechanical Engineer of the London and
Northeastern Railway or L.N.E.R.
Marlborough is twinned with:
Gunjur, the Gambia, since 1982
Margency, France, since 2002
Wiltshire Community History – Census".
Retrieved 9 March 2015.
^ Wells, John (6 January 2010). "Marlborough". John Wells's phonetic
blog. Retrieved 5 March 2010.
^ "Marlborough". Collins Dictionary. n.d. Retrieved 26 September
^ "Marlborough Mound: 'Merlin's burial place' built in 2400 BC" BBC
News, 31 May 2011
Wiltshire Community History.
Retrieved 9 March 2015.
^ Pevsner & Cherry 1975, p. 347.
^ History of Marlborough Archived 3 September 2009 at the Wayback
^ Borough of Marlborough Charter of 1204[permanent dead link]
^ History of Marlborough[permanent dead link]
^ Lund, Ian. "(1) Fire Damage at Marlborough High Street". Institute
of Historic Building Conservation.
^ Porter, Stephen (1996). The Great Fire of London. Stroud: Alan
Sutton Publishing. p. 3. ISBN 978-0750907781.
^ a b Crowley et al. 1983, pp. 199–229.
^ "Climate Normals 1981–2010". MetOffice. Retrieved 6 June
^ "Marlborough's Mop Fairs 2014" (PDF). Marlborough Town
^ Merchant's House – Dining Room web page
^ "St John's Marlborough". Inspection reports. Ofsted. 9 June
^ Turnbull, Stacey (7 September 2017). "New Marlborough Primary School
opens doors to pupils". The
Wiltshire Gazette and Herald. Retrieved 8
^ Bus services Marlborough-Bedwyn-London Archived 4 March 2016 at the
Wayback Machine. on wiltshire.gov.uk
^ List of main bus routes maps in Wiltshire. The link "Stagecoach map
of routes to Swindon" opens a map showing the n° 80 bus route
Pewsey-Marlborough-Swindon. Schedules for all travel operators on this
service can be found by typing "80" for "Bus Service Number" in
Traveline search page.
Aston, Michael; Bond, James (1976). The Landscape of Towns.
Archaeology in the Field Series. London:
J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd.
p. 60. ISBN 0-460-04194-0.
Crowley, D.A. (ed.); Baggs, A.P.; Freeman, Jane; Stevenson, Janet H.
(1983). A History of the County of Wiltshire. Victoria County History.
12: Ramsbury and Selkey hundreds; the Borough of Marlborough. London:
Oxford University Press for the Institute of Historical Research.
pp. 199–229. ISBN 978-0197227596. CS1 maint: Extra
text: authors list (link)
Pevsner, Nikolaus; Cherry, Bridget (1975) . Wiltshire. The
England (revised ed.). Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.
pp. 333–341. ISBN 0 14 071026 4.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Marlborough.
Marlborough Town Council
Wiltshire at Curlie (based on DMOZ)
Historic Marlborough photos at BBC Wiltshire
Day Out: Avebury and Marlborough – a 30-minute BBC TV programme made
in 1982 of a day spent exploring Avebury and Marlborough at BBC
Wiltshire Community History – includes a wealth of historical
"Marlborough" by A. G. Bradley in Macmillan's Magazine, Vol. LII, May
to Oct., 1885, pp. 188–198
Marlborough website – visitor information, history and local images.
Ceremonial county of Wiltshire
Bradford on Avon
Royal Wootton Bassett
See also: List of civil parishes in Wiltshire
Population of major settlements
Grade I listed buildings
Grade II* listed buildings