Former mayor David walks his way back into Marlborough’s history

Written by Gerald Isaaman on .

David ChandlerDavid ChandlerHe was born in George Lane, the seventh generation of Chandlers living locally.  And he knows the road takes its name from the now lost George Inn, which stood on the site of the current Catholic church.

There was a ford across the River Kennet where the Bridge Garage now stands and up the Salisbury Road were the Old Forge blacksmith operated near the  ruins of Marlborough Priory which, as a boy, he thought were haunted.

But what do you know about the name of the street where you live and its history, about Marlborough itself and the variation of its name down the centuries, Merleberge, Marlebowwow, Marlebryi, Mierleb, Malburrow among them?

And nothing whatsoever to do with the 17th century Churchillian soldier and statesman.

That’s why former Marlborough mayor David Chandler (pictured) has updated a book his father Jesse (1911—1985), a celebrated saddler who won the Queen’s racing favours, wrote in 1981.

And also because, like his antiquarian grandfather, he is fascinated by the past. “I suppose history is in my genes,” 74-year-old David told me at his home in Alma Place, itself named, of course, after the Crimean War battle of 1854.

So he spent six months research checking records and adding a considerable number of names created by new developments, as well as documenting eight enjoyable walks that will help you understand the history of the town, first referred to in 1086.

What still surprises him is how small the original town, recorded in charter granted by King John in 1204, was, though it was one of the most highly populated in Wiltshire, and how it has twice doubled in size by additions in1901 and again in 1934, the latter date when Manton was joined on.
Jesse Chandler (1911—1985)Jesse Chandler (1911—1985)
You can see the growth yourself from the maps that David has included in his remarkable pocket-size book, which has very much been a labour of love inspired by his family heritage, his father (pictured) in his robes as President of the Society of Master Saddlers.

David’s many discoveries include the fact that there are now only a handful of houses left in Bridewell Street, near the Marlborough College gym, compared with those his father recorded.

“That’s where the borough prison was,” he pointed out. “I didn’t know that as well as having a market and a fair a town also had a prison as part of its charter. There were 15 cells and some 300 prisoners were held there in 1843 after the agricultural riots.”

It is an illuminating example of the mass of information packed into David’s tiny book, my own delight being the discovery that Figgins’ Lane has nothing to do with an expletive used by D H Lawrence.

In 1700 it was known as Figginswell Lane after the name of a local landowner, Figgins’ Lane being a corruption of that, though in earlier 14th century times it was called Dame Isbell’s Lane after a chantry with lands, rents and endowments valued at £8 a year.

“I’ve seen enormous changes myself,” said David, who has twice served on the town council for a total of almost 18 years and he was Mayor of Marlborough in 1970-71.

“For the better? It’s certainly very different but I don’t think it’s for the worse. So many people have come to the town who have shown real interest in it and given so much.”

It is a comment that personifies his own family saga now encapsulated in his self-published book Place Names of Marlborough, price £9.99, and available at the White Horse Bookshop.