Wiltshire Tourist Guide

Marlborough Wiltshire England

Marlborough Wiltshire England lies on the old coaching route now the A4 highway between London and Bristol.

The town, population just under 9000, is halfway between Calne in Wiltshire and Hungerford in Berkshire and set amongst the chalk downs overlooking the Vale of Pewsey.

The first sign of early settlement is a prehistoric mound (tumulus) known as The Mound or Mount in the grounds of the college. Such mounds were usually burial chambers and although its purpose is unknown this mound is probably of similar age to that of the more famous Silbury Hill which is 5 miles (8km) to the west of the town.
More tangible evidence of Iron Age occupation of the town comes from a burial bucket with decorations of human heads and animals on sheet bronze found in the area.

During the Roman occupation of England an important site was Cunetio about 2 miles (3km) east of the town close to the village of Mildenhall, not to be confused with the village of the same name in the county of Suffolk

A Saxon settlement grew up around the Green and in 1067 following the Norman Conquest of England, William I (William the Conqueror) built a castle, initially of wood but later stone, on a mound surrounded by a ditch or moat. He later transferred a mint from nearby Great Bedwyn to make William I silver coinage which incidentally showed the town as Maerleber or Maerlebi.

The ancient Savernake Forest (now designated an Area of Outstanding Beauty) was established by William I as his local hunting grounds when staying at the castle and lies about 1 mile (2km) to the southeast of the town. The Forest has many Royal connections. King Henry VIII met Jane Seymour on one of his hunting visits. Today large areas of the forest are accessible to the public but this is not a legal right.

A Charter was granted in 1204 for markets each Wednesday and Saturday and an annual fair. The markets continue today on the central reservation of the broad road that runs through the centre of the town as does the annual Mop Fair which has evolved into a funfair.

The castle was an important residence for the king. Richard I also known as Richard the Lionheart passed it to his brother John in 1186. King John and later Henry III were married there. A Parliament (an early forerunner of the Westminster Parliaments) was held in 1267 when the Statute of Marlborough was passed. This was a set of laws which included rights and privileges to small landowners in the area and is the oldest piece of English Law still in existence today.

Royal and religious patronage continued to dominate the town for several centuries but the town was affected by the English Civil War of 1642. This was between the Cavaliers, the nobility and barons on the side of the King Charles I, and the Roundheads, mainly the disenchanted English middle class landowners on the side of the Parliamentarians who resented the power of the monarch, This simmering resentment came to a head in 1641 some 10 years or more after Charles I had dissolved Parliament and taken absolute power.

The Seymour family held the castle for the King but the townspeople were for Parliament. The King sent Lord Digby who after some resistance the Royalist troops captured the town. The town was later abandoned by the King and took no further part in the War.

The next major event was a The Great Fire of 1653 which destroyed most of the town. There were further destructive fires in 1679 and again in 1690. After this date roof thatch construction was banned in the town by an Act of Parliament.

Marlborough Wiltshire England lies on the old coaching route from London to Bath and the horse drawn coaches stopped at the Castle and Ball. This hotel has been a coaching inn since the 15th Century and some of the original beams were salvaged from ships of the Spanish Armada which set out unsuccessfully to conquer England and claim the throne from Elizabeth I in 1588.

The High Street has a mixture of medieval and Georgian buildings. Merchant’s House, originally the property of a silk merchant, is presently being restored. The house was built following the Great Fire of 1653. Part of the house is open to the public Fridays and Saturdays during the summer months.

At the end of the 19th century the town had its own north-south railway from Swindon to Andover in Hampshire which provided a link between Cheltenham and Southampton. Following amalgamations of the railway companies it became known as the Midland and Southwest Junction Railway. This link finally closed during the early sixties. Today part of the section of the route is now a cycleway.

The town has good road links to many varied places of interest. There is the nearby Kennet and Avon Canal with its flight of 29 locks at Caen Hill, the Wilton Windmill, the Crofton pumping station. Avebury Stone Circle is within easy reach as is the ancient Savernake Forest which is close to the town. No visit to Wiltshire is complete without experiencing this beautiful and historic area.

Marlborough Wiltshire England