Marlborough is a charming old English market town with a unique broad High Street, which is partly arcaded and hosts a diverse range of small independent shops, bookshops, antique emporiums and eateries. The town straddles the former stagecoach route from London to Bath, and lies alongside the River Kennet. The lack of major road and rail links has allowed this elegant Georgian market town to retain much of its original character and heritage.
The high street is lined with 16th to early 19th-century houses and old coaching inns, with a Perpendicular church standing proudly at each end - St Mary's, where a curfew bell still sounds each evening and St Peter's, with its impressive Norman doorway. Behind the High Street lies a labyrinth of alleyways filled with half-timbered cottages, and on the north side are many interesting colonnades. Regular street markets are held on Wednesdays and Saturdays and there is a good range of hotels, inns and B&Bs for those looking to stay.
Fierce fighting took place in the town during the Civil War and the north face of St Mary's Church tower still bares the scars. In 1653 a great fire broke out and destroyed hundreds of buildings. Oliver Cromwell (Lord Protector of England at this time), was horrified by the damage caused and ordered subscriptions for rebuilding to be raised all over the country. Unfortunately more devastating fires broke out again in 1679 and 1690, after which it was specifically forbidden to use thatch for roofing in the town.
In the oldest part of the town (to the west) is the famous Marlborough College, established in 1843. The college stands beside Castle Mound, where Stone Age and Roman remains have been found. Legend claims that Merlin (King Author's wizard), is buried under the mound.
Tourist Information Centre:
|There is no official TIC in the town but local information can be obtain from the Library (01672 512663) or from St Peter's Church (01672 511453).|
A restored 17th-c silk merchant's house, owned by Thomas Bayly. An elegant timber-frame and brick building with a tiled frontage and oriel windows. Built in 1653, following the great fire of Marlborough.
The interior remains virtually unchanged since the days of Cromwell, and is slowly being restored over time, revealing the property's long-lost secrets as restoration proceeds. Contains many period rooms complete with authentic furnishings. On the ground floor is a magnificent oak panelled chamber, a study and a traditional 17th century kitchen. A fine oak staircase leads to the bed chambers and Garrets (areas where servants lived). At the rear of the house is a restored 17th-c award winning garden, with a formal herb garden and orchard, authentically planted with specimens from the era.
Opening times: Easter to Sept, Fri and Sat, 11am to 4pm. Admission Charge
Location: 132 High Street, Marlborough, Wiltshire SN8 1HN - Tel: 01672 511491 Website
Facilities: Gift shop, parking nearby (charged).
To the southeast of the town is Savernake Forest, an ancient royal hunting forests much favoured by Norman kings. Although the land is private property, anyone can wonder through this SSSI protected native woodland. The forest has had many royal connections over the centuries. It is believed that Henry VIII met Jane Seymour while hunting here. In a more recent connection, Thomas Bruce, the 2nd Earl of Ailesbury, built a large monument to King George III (in the south-east corner of the forest), after the king recovered of from his illness. Read more...
Opening times: any reasonable time, Free Entry
Location: Savernake Forest, Marlborough, Wilts, SN8 3HP - Tel: 01672 512161 Website
On the down lands around Marlborough are many prehistoric remains, including the hill-fort of Barbury Castle (4 miles northwest).
One mile southwest of Marlborough, beside the A4, is the White Horse, which was cut in the chalk downs in 1804, by some of the local schoolboys.
The Ridgeway passes north-west of the town and The Inkpen Way follows the downs to north of the town.