The Merchant's House
The house (at 132 High Street) was home to 17th Century silk merchant. It provides an insight into the lifestyle and interests of a middle-class family during a century when modern Britain—an outward looking, emerging capitalist country and one with a maturing political life—was coming into being.
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The town's name — formerly Marlebridge or Marleberg — is taken from the marl or chalk hills in the vicinity.
In the grounds of Marlborough College there once stood a castle, first constructed in wood in 1086 or thereabouts. Local folklore asserts that the motte on which the castle's keep was founded (known as the 'Marlborough Mound' and/or 'Merlin's Barrow') is where the bones of Merlin — King Arthur's magician — are buried. Whether that is true or not, samples of charcoal extracted from the Mound prove that it was built around 2004 BC, which makes the Marlborough Mound a prehistoric structure of historical significance.
Marlborough's castle was a royal residence and in 1204 the town was granted a Royal Charter by King John (yes, he of Robin Hood fame) so enabling Marlborough to achieve market town status. By the end of the 14th century however, the castle was in a state of disrepair as it had become militarily outmoded and not sufficiently comfortable for the occasional royal occupant. Although a Crown property, King Edward VI passed ownership of the castle over to the Seymour family — relatives of Edward's mother. The site of the castle is now the property of Marlborough College.
On March 10 1498, Thomas Wolsey — later to become Cardinal Wolsey — was ordained in St Peter's; one of the two churches which stand at either end of Marlborough's wide High Street.
Because the people of Marlborough were against King Charles I, preferring instead to support Parliament, the town was sacked and burned following a fierce battle in 1642. The legacies of the violent historical past can in fact be seen in Marlborough's architecture. Some of the town's buildings (St Mary's church in particular) still bear the scars of the 1642 battle.
In April 1653, The Great Fire of Marlborough burned the Guildhall, St Mary's Church, the town's armoury and many houses to the ground. Devastating fires also swept through Marlborough again in 1679 and in 1690 causing an Act of Parliament to be passed which prohibited the covering of houses and other buildings with thatch in the Town of Marlborough".
This part of the world has many attractions for visitors, not the least of which is Savernake Forest (good Sunday morning walking just a five-minute drive away) established by William the Conqueror as a royal hunting ground — King Henry VIII being the last monarch to use it for that purpose.
The jewel of the town's High Street is the Merchant's House. Built and occupied by a prosperous silk merchant, middle class but with grand ideas, it contains nationally acclaimed wall paintings and decorative features. Humming with activity, it is an outstanding destination for anyone interested in fine old buildings and the craftsmanship needed to create and restore them.
If you're feeling a little more adventurous, then motor west on the A4 for 20 minutes or so. And low and behold you find yourself in front of, or close to, a couple of World Heritage sites — Avebury Henge and Silbury Hill. Avebury's stone circle is a prehistoric and massively atmospheric monument of unknown purpose; Silbury is Europe's largest prehistoric man-made mound, but again, why is it there and who built it? Literally over the road from Silbury Hill is West Kennet Longbarrow — a burial chamber that dates back to 3700 BC and one of the biggest of its kind in Britain. All strange stuff!
And whilst on the mysteries of the very dim and distant past, due south of Marlborough are the 780 km2 of Salisbury Plain famous principally for a landmark that's known the world over — Stonehenge. (Some feel that Stonehenge doesn't quite have the character of Avebury henge though...)
Or if you simply enjoy beautiful English countryside, the Vale Of Pewsey is just 20 minutes away. The only problem is, how are you going to find the time to pack it all in? The simple answer — stay for a week.
And when you contact any of the attractions on this website, please mention that you found them through www.marlboroughwiltshire.co.uk. Thank you.
(There isn't a Tourist Information Centre in Marlborough, but you should be able to find all you need to know about the town on this website.)
Welcome to Marlborough!
Images courtesy of: Brian Marshall, Peter Banyard, Angus Kirk, Derek Harper, Jim Champion
Pino's at 13 New Road, is an authentic, family-run Italian restaurant (established 2003). 01672 512969
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