Marlborough, Wiltshire

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High Street, Marlborough from St Peter's church roof - - 460662.jpg
High Street
Wiltshire UK location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Location within Wiltshire
Population8,395 (in 2011) [1]
OS grid reference SU1969
Civil parish
  • Marlborough
Unitary authority
Ceremonial county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town Marlborough
Postcode district SN8
Dialling code 01672
Police Wiltshire
Fire Dorset and Wiltshire
Ambulance South Western
UK Parliament
Website Town Council
List of places
51°25′N1°44′W / 51.42°N 1.73°W / 51.42; -1.73 Coordinates: 51°25′N1°44′W / 51.42°N 1.73°W / 51.42; -1.73

Marlborough ( /ˈmɔːlbərə/ ( Loudspeaker.svg listen ) MAWL-bər-ə, [2] /ˈmɑːrl-/ MARL-) [3] 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. The town is on the River Kennet, 24 miles (39 km) north of Salisbury and 10 miles (16 km) southeast of Swindon.



The earliest sign of human habitation is the Marlborough Mound, 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. [4] 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 [5] and that the name of the town comes from Merlin's Barrow. More plausibly, the town's name possibly derives from the medieval term for chalky ground "marl"—thus, "town on chalk". [6] However more recent research, from geographer John Everett-Heath, identifies the original Anglo-Saxon place name as Merleberge, with a derivation from either the personal name of Mærle combined with beorg (hill), or meargealla beorg: hill where gentian grows. [7] 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").

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. [8]

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 [9] 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, where he established a Treasury.

Marlborough Market Marlborough, Wilts - - 44036.jpg
Marlborough Market

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. [10]

Henry III held Parliament here, in 1267, when the 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 statute in English law which has not yet been repealed.

St Mary's parish church Marlborough St Peter.JPG
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 war.

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 [11] to the ground. [12] This event attracted more than local attention; the parish register of Wotton under Edge, in the west of Gloucestershire, records on 9th August 1653 that 18 pounds 17 shillings and six and a half pence had been collected in the parish for the relief of the distressed inhabitants of Marlborough. During the rebuilding of the town after the Great Fire, the high street was widened and is often claimed to be the widest in 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 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". [13]

In 1804 the Marlborough White Horse was cut on a downland slope southwest of the town, by boys from Mr Greasley's Academy in the High Street. [14]

In 1901 and 1934 the boundaries of the borough were extended to include the hamlet of Preshute (which was separated from Preshute civil parish) and the village of Manton, both to the west of the town. [13]

In 2004 Marlborough celebrated 800 years of its Town Charter. Among the celebrations were a street play by the Marlborough Players titled Wheels of Time, and a visit from HRH Prince Charles.


The Marlborough mop fair was originally a market where local goods could be sold or bartered. It later developed into 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. [15]

From 1986 a music festival was held in the town for a number of days in June or July. [16] In 1997 this became the Marlborough International Jazz Festival, which ceased after 2016. [17] [18]

Notable buildings

High Street Marlborough Main Square.JPG
High Street

The parish church of St Mary is Grade I listed.

St George's church in Preshute, adjoining Manton dates from the 12th century and was substantially restored in 1854 by T.H. Wyatt.

The Church of St Peter and St Paul at the west end of the High Street dates from the 15th century and was partly rebuilt by Wyatt in 1862–3. Cardinal Wolsey was ordained priest here in 1498.[ citation needed ]

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, 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. [19]


The local authority is Wiltshire Council, which, since the 2009 local elections, is Conservative controlled. Marlborough lies within the Devizes constituency.

There are two electoral wards (east and west) in the town.


Marlborough College Marlborough College Court.jpg
Marlborough College

Marlborough College, an independent boarding school, is 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. [20] It was formed when the former Marlborough Grammar School and secondary modern school were amalgamated. There is also a primary school, St Mary's. [21]


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, winning all 22 games to secure promotion to the Southern Counties South league. Since 2018 the first XV has competed in South West 1 East. The club has a second XV senior team as well as many junior players.

Marlborough Town F.C. play their home games at Elcot Lane, to the east of the town, and are members of the Wiltshire League. There is a youth football club, Marlborough Youth FC, with over 350 players that play in the North Wiltshire Youth Football League. There is a cricket team whose 1st X1 compete in the WEPL Wiltshire Premier Division.

Marlborough Hockey Club play at Marlborough College. [22] A parkrun takes place on Marlborough Common every Saturday. [23]


Church of England

St Peter's former parish church Marlborough St Mary.JPG
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, a Grade I listed building, remains in use for worship.

The 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 burials.


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 [24] [25] are Pewsey (6.7 miles), Bedwyn (6.9 miles), and Swindon (12.7 miles). Marlborough is well connected by road with the A4 from Hungerford to Calne, A346 from Tidworth to Swindon and A345 from Salisbury meeting there.

The long-distance National Trail, the Wessex Ridgeway, runs from Marlborough to Lyme Regis in Dorset.

Notable people

The Savernake Cottage Hospital, opened on London Road, Marlborough, in 1866 Savernake Cottage Hospital, Marlborough, Wiltshire; facade a Wellcome V0014470.jpg
The Savernake Cottage Hospital, opened on London Road, Marlborough, in 1866

Twin towns

Marlborough is twinned with:


Marlborough has an oceanic climate somewhat influenced by its inland position and at 407 feet (124 m) elevation is more prone to frost than southern coastal areas. For example, in 1909, the town reported the equal lowest temperature in the UK at a station below 1,600 feet (500 m) for that year, with a temperature of −17.8 °C (0.0 °F) on 3 March. [26]

Climate data for Marlborough, elevation 124m, 1981–2010
Average high °C (°F)7.3
Average low °C (°F)1.2
Average precipitation mm (inches)83.0
Mean monthly sunshine hours 52.773.2108.3162.5189.2191.0204.1192.1144.8102.464.246.51,531
Source: Met Office [27]

Related Research Articles

Wiltshire County of England

Wiltshire is a county in South West England with an area of 3,485 km2. It is landlocked and borders the counties of Dorset, Somerset, Hampshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire. The county town was originally Wilton, after which the county is named, but Wiltshire Council is now based in the county town of Trowbridge. Within the county's boundary are two unitary authority areas, Wiltshire and Swindon, governed respectively by Wiltshire Council and Swindon Borough Council.

Hungerford Human settlement in England

Hungerford is a historic market town and civil parish in Berkshire, England, 8 miles (13 km) west of Newbury, 9 miles (14 km) east of Marlborough, 27 miles (43 km) northeast of Salisbury and 60 miles west of London. The Kennet and Avon Canal passes through the town from the west alongside the River Dun, a major tributary of the River Kennet. The confluence with the Kennet is to the north of the centre whence canal and river both continue east. Amenities include schools, shops, cafés, restaurants, and facilities for the main national sports. The railway station is a minor stop on the London to Exeter Line.

Devizes Town in Wiltshire, England

Devizes is a market town and civil parish in Wiltshire, England. It developed around Devizes Castle, an 11th-century Norman castle, and received a charter in 1141. The castle was besieged during the Anarchy, a 12th-century civil war between Stephen of England and Empress Matilda, and again during the English Civil War when the Cavaliers lifted the siege at the Battle of Roundway Down. Devizes remained under Royalist control until 1645, when Oliver Cromwell attacked and forced the Royalists to surrender. The castle was destroyed in 1648 on the orders of Parliament, and today little remains of it.

Wroughton Human settlement in England

Wroughton is a large village and civil parish in northeast Wiltshire, England. It is part of the Borough of Swindon and lies along the A4361 road between Swindon and Avebury; the road into Swindon crosses the M4 motorway between junctions 15 and 16. The village is about 2.2 miles (3.5 km) south of Swindon town centre on the edge of the Marlborough Downs, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The town of Marlborough is about 11 miles (18 km) to the south via the B4005 at Chiseldon and the A346 road. The World Heritage Site at Avebury is about 7 miles (11.3 km) to the south.

Melksham Human settlement in England

Melksham is a town on the River Avon in Wiltshire, England, about 4.5 miles (7 km) northeast of Trowbridge and 6 miles (10 km) south of Chippenham. At the 2011 census, it had a population of 19,357, making it Wiltshire's fifth-largest settlement after Swindon, Salisbury, Chippenham and Trowbridge.

Great Bedwyn Human settlement in England

Great Bedwyn is a village and civil parish in east Wiltshire, England. The village is on the River Dun about 4.5 miles (7.2 km) southwest of Hungerford, 14 miles (23 km) southeast of Swindon and 6 miles (9.7 km) southeast of Marlborough.

Aldbourne Village in Wiltshire, England

Aldbourne is a village and civil parish about 6 miles (10 km) north-east of Marlborough, Wiltshire, England, in a valley on the south slope of the Lambourn Downs – part of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. From here an unnamed winterbourne flows south to join the River Kennet 4 miles (6 km) away near Ramsbury. The 2011 Census recorded the parish population as 1,833. The parish includes the hamlets of Upper Upham and Woodsend and part of the hamlet of Preston, which straddles the boundary with Ramsbury. The village of Snap became deserted in the early 20th century.

Broad Hinton Human settlement in England

Broad Hinton is a village and civil parish in Wiltshire, England, about 5 miles (8 km) southwest of Swindon. The parish includes the hamlets of Uffcott and The Weir.

Cricklade Human settlement in England

Cricklade is a small town and civil parish on the River Thames in north Wiltshire, England, midway between Swindon and Cirencester. It is the first downstream town on the Thames. The parish population at the 2011 census was 4,227.

Ramsbury Human settlement in England

Ramsbury is a village and civil parish in the English county of Wiltshire. The village is in the Kennet Valley near the Berkshire boundary. The nearest towns are Hungerford about 4.5 miles (7.2 km) east and Marlborough about 5.5 miles (8.9 km) west. The much larger town of Swindon is about 12 miles (19 km) to the north.

History of Wiltshire

Wiltshire is a historic county located in the South West England region. Wiltshire is landlocked and is in the east of the region.

Mildenhall, Wiltshire Human settlement in England

Mildenhall is a village and civil parish in the Kennet Valley in Wiltshire, England, about 1 mile (1.6 km) east of the market town of Marlborough. The parish contains three communities – the village of Mildenhall, and the hamlets of Poulton and Stitchcombe.

Ludgershall, Wiltshire Human settlement in England

Ludgershall is a town and civil parish 16 miles (26 km) north east of Salisbury, Wiltshire, England. It is on the A342 road between Devizes and Andover. The parish includes the Faberstown housing estate which is contiguous with Ludgershall, and the hamlet of Biddesden which is 1.5 miles (2.4 km) to the east on the border with Hampshire.

Highworth Human settlement in England

Highworth is a market town and civil parish in the Borough of Swindon, England, about 6 miles (10 km) northeast of Swindon town centre. The 2011 Census recorded a population of 8,151. The town is notable for its Queen Anne and Georgian buildings, dating from its pre-eminence in the 18th century. It also has a 13th-century church, St. Michael's.

Manton, Wiltshire Village in Wiltshire, England

Manton is a small village in Wiltshire, England, on the western outskirts of Marlborough just off the A4 Bath Road.

History of Swindon

Swindon is a town in Wiltshire in the South West of England. People have lived in the town since the Bronze Age and the town's location, being approximately halfway between Bristol and London, made it an ideal location for the Locomotive Factories of the Great Western Railway in the 19th century.

Marlborough Castle

Marlborough Castle, locally known and recorded in historical documents as The Mound, was an 11th-century royal castle located in the civil parish of Marlborough, a market town in the English county of Wiltshire, on the Old Bath Road, the old main road from London to Bath. The barrow on which the fortification was built, perhaps the "barrow of Maerla", seems to be a prehistoric earthwork which formed the motte of the Norman Marlborough Castle. It survives as a tree-covered mound known as Marlborough Mound, within the site of Marlborough College.

Lydiard Tregoze Human settlement in England

Lydiard Tregoze is a small village and civil parish on the western edge of Swindon in the county of Wiltshire, in the south west of England. It has in the past been spelt as Liddiard Tregooze and in many other ways.

Preshute Civil parish in Wiltshire, England

Preshute is a civil parish immediately west and northwest of Marlborough in Wiltshire, England. Unusually for a Wiltshire parish, it does not take its name from any town or village. The population at the 2011 census was 193.

Marlborough Mound

Marlborough Mound is a Neolithic monument in the town of Marlborough in the English county of Wiltshire. Standing 19 metres tall, it is second only to the nearby Silbury Hill in terms of height for such a monument. Modern study situates the construction date around 2400BC. It was first listed as a Scheduled Monument in 1951.


  1. "Wiltshire Community History – Census". Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 9 March 2015.
  2. Wells, John (6 January 2010). "Marlborough". John Wells's phonetic blog. Retrieved 5 March 2010.
  3. "Marlborough". Collins Dictionary. n.d. Retrieved 26 September 2014.
  4. "Marlborough Mound: 'Merlin's burial place' built in 2400 BC". BBC News. 31 May 2011.
  5. "Marlborough". Wiltshire Community History. Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 4 April 2021.
  6. Rees, Abraham (1819). "Marlborough". The Cyclopædia: Or, Universal Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and Literature. London: Longman.
  7. Everett-Heath, John (2000). "Marlborough". The Concise Dictionary of World Place Names (3 ed.). ISBN   9780191751394.
  8. Pevsner & Cherry 1975, p. 347.
  9. "History of Marlborough". Archived from the original on 3 September 2009.
  10. "Borough of Marlborough Charter of 1204".
  11. Lund, Ian. "(1) Fire Damage at Marlborough High Street". Institute of Historic Building Conservation.
  12. Porter, Stephen (1996). The Great Fire of London. Stroud: Alan Sutton Publishing. p. 3. ISBN   978-0750907781.
  13. 1 2 Crowley et al. 1983, pp. 199–229.
  14. The Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine, vol. 98 (2005), p. 91: "Following the cutting of Marlborough White Horse in 1804 by pupils of the High Street Academy, scouring with revels took place every year for approximately 30 years but halted upon the headmaster's death." – via Internet Archive
  15. "Marlborough's Mop Fairs 2014" (PDF). Marlborough Town Council.
  16. Mauremootoo, Anna (30 December 2013). "Marlborough jazz festival founder is made an MBE". The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald. Retrieved 19 June 2019.
  17. Collier, James (1 August 2005). "Marlborough Jazz Festival" . The Times. ISSN   0140-0460 . Retrieved 19 June 2019.
  18. Corbett, Julia (8 November 2017). "Music festival 'Marlborough Rising' set to replace Jazz Fest in 2018". The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald. Retrieved 19 June 2019.
  19. "The House - The Merchants House Marlborough".
  20. "St John's Marlborough". Inspection reports. Ofsted. 9 June 2014.
  21. Turnbull, Stacey (7 September 2017). "New Marlborough Primary School opens doors to pupils". The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald. Retrieved 8 September 2017.
  22. "Marlborough Hockey Club" . Retrieved 13 November 2020.
  23. "Marlborough Common parkrun". Retrieved 18 October 2019.
  24. Bus services Marlborough-Bedwyn-London Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine on
  25. List of main bus routes maps in Wiltshire. The link "Stagecoach map of routes to Swindon" opens a map showing the no. 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.
  26. "Coldest day of each year from 1900".
  27. "Climate Normals 1981–2010". MetOffice. Retrieved 6 June 2017.

Further reading