Marlborough, Wiltshire

Coordinates: 51°25′N 1°44′W / 51.42°N 1.73°W / 51.42; -1.73
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

High Street
Marlborough is located in Wiltshire
Location within Wiltshire
Population9,129 (2021 Census)[1]
OS grid referenceSU1969
Civil parish
  • Marlborough
Unitary authority
Ceremonial county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townMarlborough
Postcode districtSN8
Dialling code01672
FireDorset and Wiltshire
AmbulanceSouth Western
UK Parliament
WebsiteTown Council
List of places
51°25′N 1°44′W / 51.42°N 1.73°W / 51.42; -1.73

Marlborough (/ˈmɔːlbərə/ 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 1086. 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.

Marlborough Town Hall

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 in the High Street
High Street c. 1900

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 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.

A Jewish community lived in the town from the 1230s, near Silver Street (now Silverless Street) and established a synagogue. In January 1275, Eleanor of Provence expelled Jews from all of the towns within her dower lands, and the Jews of Marlborough relocated to Devizes.[11]

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 who left Oxford to take the town at the head of four hundred horse on 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.

Act of Parliament
Long titleAn Act to prohibit the covering of Houses and other Buildings with Thatch or Straw, in the Town of Marleborough, in the County of Wilts.
Citation2 Will. & Mar. Sess. 2. c. 3
Royal assent18 November 1690

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[12] to the ground.[13] This event attracted more than local attention; the parish register of Wotton-under-Edge, in the west of Gloucestershire, records on 9 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".[14]

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.[15]

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.[14] Marlborough Town Hall was completed in 1902.[16]

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 the Prince of Wales.[17]


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.[18]

From 1986 a music festival was held in the town for a number of days in June or July.[19] In 1997 this became the Marlborough International Jazz Festival, which ceased after 2016.[20][21]

Notable buildings[edit]

The parish church of St Mary is Grade I listed building.[22]

St George's church in Preshute, adjoining Manton dates from the 12th century and was substantially restored in 1854 by T.H. Wyatt. It is Grade II* listed.[23]

The Church of St Peter and St Paul at the west end of the High Street is Grade II* listed. It dates from the 15th century and was partly rebuilt by T.H. Wyatt in 1862–3. Cardinal Wolsey was ordained priest here in 1498.[24]

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.[25]


Marlborough is within the county of Wiltshire, and the administrative district of the same name. For local government purposes, it is administered by the Wiltshire Council unitary authority. Since the local boundary review of 2020, the parish has two wards for both parish and council elections – Marlborough East and Marlborough West.[26] Marlborough and Manton collectively form a civil parish with a parish council known as the Marlborough Town Council, which has 16 councillors.[27]

Prior to 2009, Wiltshire was part of the now abolished non-metropolitan county of Wiltshire. It was governed by Wiltshire County Council at the county level and the Kennet District Council.

Marlborough is part of the Devizes constituency, represented in the House of Commons since 2019 by Danny Kruger, a Conservative.[n 1] Its representative has been a Conservative since 1924.


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.[28] It was formed when the former Marlborough Grammar School and secondary modern school were amalgamated. There is also a primary school, St Mary's.[29]


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.[30] In 2018, the first XV has competed in South West 1 East and in 2023, they were Regional 2 South East champions,[31] winning promotion to tier 5 for the first time. The club has a second XV senior team as well as many junior players.[32]

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.[33] A parkrun takes place on Marlborough Common every Saturday.[34]


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.


Local TV services are provided by BBC West and ITV West Country, via the Mendip transmitter and a local relay.[35] Radio stations for the area are BBC Radio Wiltshire on 104.9 FM and Heart West on 96.5 FM. The local newspaper for the area is the Gazette and Herald.


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[36][37] 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[edit]

The Savernake Cottage Hospital, opened on London Road, Marlborough, in 1866

Twin towns[edit]

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.[48]

Climate data for Marlborough, elevation 124m, 1981–2010
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Mean daily maximum °C (°F) 7.3
Mean daily minimum °C (°F) 1.2
Average precipitation mm (inches) 83.0
Mean monthly sunshine hours 52.7 73.2 108.3 162.5 189.2 191.0 204.1 192.1 144.8 102.4 64.2 46.5 1,531
Source: Met Office[49]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ As with all constituencies, Devizes elects one Member of Parliament (MP) by the first past the post system of election at least every five years.


  1. ^ "Marlborough". City population. Retrieved 25 October 2022.
  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.). Oxford University Press. 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. ^ Hillaby, Joe; Hillaby, Caroline (2013). The Palgrave Dictionary of Medieval Anglo-Jewish History. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 141–43, 267–9. ISBN 9780230278165. OL 28086241M.
  12. ^ Lund, Ian. "(1) Fire Damage at Marlborough High Street". Institute of Historic Building Conservation.
  13. ^ Porter, Stephen (1996). The Great Fire of London. Stroud: Alan Sutton Publishing. p. 3. ISBN 978-0750907781.
  14. ^ a b Baggs, Freeman & Stevenson 1983, pp. 199–229.
  15. ^ 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
  16. ^ "Marlborough Town Hall". Folk and Honey. Retrieved 9 May 2022.
  17. ^ "Prince of chat". Gazette and Herald. 24 June 2004. Retrieved 9 May 2022.
  18. ^ "Marlborough's Mop Fairs 2014" (PDF). Marlborough Town Council.
  19. ^ Mauremootoo, Anna (30 December 2013). "Marlborough jazz festival founder is made an MBE". The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald. Retrieved 19 June 2019.
  20. ^ Collier, James (1 August 2005). "Marlborough Jazz Festival". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 19 June 2019.
  21. ^ 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.
  22. ^ Historic England. "Parish Church of St Mary, Marlborough (1034302)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 16 December 2021.
  23. ^ Historic England. "Church of St George, Marlborough (1243100)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 16 December 2021.
  24. ^ Historic England. "Church of St Peter and St Paul, Marlborough (1034258)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 16 December 2021.
  25. ^ "The House - The Merchants House Marlborough". 29 November 2022.
  26. ^ Draft Statutory Instruments, 2020 No. 0000. The Wiltshire (Electoral Changes) Order 2020. Retrieved 08 April 2022.
  27. ^ "Marlborough Town Council - Home". Retrieved 8 April 2022.
  28. ^ "St John's Marlborough". Inspection reports. Ofsted. 9 June 2014.
  29. ^ Turnbull, Stacey (7 September 2017). "New Marlborough Primary School opens doors to pupils". The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald. Retrieved 8 September 2017.
  30. ^ "2009-10 South-West Division". England Rugby. RFU. Retrieved 2 May 2017.
  31. ^ "Regional 2 Tribute South Central". EnglandRugby. Retrieved 19 June 2023.
  32. ^ Marlborough club website teams page
  33. ^ "Marlborough Hockey Club". Retrieved 13 November 2020.
  34. ^ "Marlborough Common parkrun". Retrieved 18 October 2019.
  35. ^ "Marlborough (Wiltshire, England) Freeview Light transmitter". May 2004.
  36. ^ Bus services Marlborough-Bedwyn-London Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine on
  37. ^ 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.
  38. ^ "Singer Bo wows crowd as she returns home to Marlborough". Gazette and Herald. 10 May 2013. Retrieved 9 May 2022.
  39. ^ "Earl of Cardigan explains why he couldn't come to court to answer charges". Gazette and Herald. 19 October 2020. Retrieved 9 May 2022.
  40. ^ "William Golding's Early Life". William Golding. 19 September 2018. Retrieved 9 May 2022.
  41. ^ "Charles Hancock". British Museum. Retrieved 9 May 2022.
  42. ^ a b c James, Francis; Loadman, John (2010). The Hancocks of Marlborough. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-957355-4.
  43. ^ "Phil Harding". Marlborough News. 13 June 2017. Retrieved 9 May 2022.
  44. ^ Bernard Rainbow, Music and the English Public School (1990), p. 249
  45. ^ "Marlborough honours Eglantyne Jebb, founder of Save the Children, with a new blue plaque". Marlborough News. 7 June 2019. Retrieved 9 May 2022.
  46. ^ "Wisden - Obituaries in 1938". ESPNcricinfo. 20 January 2006. Retrieved 20 March 2019.
  47. ^ "Edward Thompson & Arthur Peppercorn". Retrieved 18 June 2012.
  48. ^ "Coldest day of each year from 1900".
  49. ^ "Climate Normals 1981–2010". MetOffice. Retrieved 6 June 2017.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]