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The Three Horseshoes closure - a disappointing outcome

20-03-2018 Gary Rawlinson

  Sirs,   It is disappointing to hear that the Three Horseshoes in Burbage has been sold to a property developer, Red Star WSL Ltd, that has a track record of obtaining planning permission to convert pubs to houses.At least with the French Horn, the sale to the same developer was sometime after...

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A question over the future of Burbage's Three Horseshoes


On Thusday of last week (15 March) the sale of the Three Horseshoes went through to a company specialising in development and the pub signage was removed.  

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Village Green application refused, but...


  The Inspector who held the two-day inquiry into the application to register amenity land at College Fields as a Village Green has delivered his verdict.  It will be discussed at the meeting of Wiltshire Council's Eastern Planning Committee in the Corn Exchange, Devizes on Thursday, March 22 - at 3pm.    

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Bridge Garage buildings to be restored - work to begin as soon as approval is given


The owners of the Bridge Garage - members of the Dean family - have applied for a variation of the planning consent they hold for the redevelopment of the Bridge Garage site.  

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Marlborough's new music festival to go ahead - but not how the organisers hoped


It will be called the Marlborough Rising Music Festival - a community event that will be non-profit making.  It will be on Friday, 7 September and Saturday, 8 September and will be the first steps towards forming a new festival weekend for the town with a wider and more varied...

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Volunteers required for MYFC (Marlborough Youth Football Club)


  Volunteers required   Marlborough Youth Football Club (MYFC)    **Your time has come, your Football Club needs YOU!!**   It is that time again - there are some vacancies at MYFC.  Can you spare some of your time?   Recent successes have led to growth in the club, which now numbers approximately 350 young players (as...

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Driver injured by a metal hook smashing through windscreen near Beckhampton: Police appeal for information and witnesses


  Police are appealing for witnesses to an incident which occurred on the A361 between Beckhampton and Devizes on Thursday last week - 14 March. At about 4pm on Thursday afternoon a man in his 50s was driving a silver Nissan Leaf towards Beckhampton from Devizes when, approximately 1km from the...

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Town Council consultation on 20mph speed restrictions is LIVE!


Following the assessment by Wiltshire Council of the viability of 20mph speed restrictions in Marlborough, the Town Council are running a consultation so people can register their views.   

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Wiltshire Council - who is it that matters?

19-03-2018 Val Compton

Sirs,  I am a huge supporter of the idea of a residents’ parking scheme.  Not a right to a parking place, but an opportunity to park somewhere roughly in the vicinity of your home. 

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Marlborough's new Community and Youth Centre hosts the Area Board Meeting for the first time


Last week's Area Board meeting in Marlborough was a meeting with a difference - it was held in the town’s new Community and Youth Centre just off St Margaret's Mead.

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Callous road crash killer from Baydon who fled abroad is gaoled for eight years

Paula Barnes, now serving eight years for causing death by dangerous drivingPaula Barnes, now serving eight years for causing death by dangerous drivingDescribed by police as a “callous and manipulative woman” who fled to Holland, Paula Barnes, 45, of Aldbourne Road, Baydon, was today (Tuesday) sentenced at Swindon Crown Court to a long prison term.

She was gaoled for eight years for causing death by dangerous driving plus a further five months for bail offences, the sentences will run consecutively.

She was also disqualified from driving for 10 years.

A statement issued by Inspector Steve Cox, Head of Roads Policing for Wiltshire Police, said: “We are pleased with today’s sentence as it reflects both the seriousness of these crimes and the anguish that Paula Barnes has put her victim’s family through.”

“This case has been a long and complex one after Barnes tried to evade justice by fleeing to Holland where she hoped to remain undetected.”

“The fact she was caught, arrested, extradited and has now been sentenced is testament to the hard work and dedication of the Wiltshire Police serious collision investigation team.”

“Barnes was arrested after being released from hospital on November 4th 2010 following a two vehicle collision in Foxhill, Baydon, on September 23 2010.”

“During this collision, the driver of the other vehicle involved, Diane Wright, sadly died from her injuries at the scene.  Barnes was then bailed to attend court on April 15, 2011, but failed to show.  Nothing was seen or heard from her again.”

He added: “After an intensive search involving the Zephyr Regional Financial Investigation Team and the Serious Organised Crime Agency, Barnes was arrested in Holland on November 9, 2012, and we were successful at an extradition hearing which led to her being brought back to the UK.”

“Barnes has proved to be a callous and manipulative woman who thought she was above the law.  We hope that today, Diane’s family can feel that justice has finally been served.”

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Wiltshire claims a “legacy of outstanding achievements” as it freezes next year’s council tax

Jane Scott, leader of Wiltshire CouncilJane Scott, leader of Wiltshire CouncilDespite the government’s slashing attack on its funding, Wiltshire Council, launched four years ago as the only shire unity authority in the country, has built a good and solid foundation.

And it will hand over to the new council, due to be elected in May, a legacy of outstanding achievements and innovative programmes, delivering improvements wherever possible.

This was the message from Jane Scott, leader of the Tory-controlled council today (Tuesday) when it it froze council tax for the coming year against the odds.

She told the council: “In the four years we have made many changes and we have delivered a great deal.  Our focus has always been to do what we believe is best for the people of Wiltshire.”

“We have had to change, do things differently, adopt new and innovative ways of working and not be afraid to take tough decisions.  We have done this so that our front line services can be protected.”

“Four years ago we had the opportunity as a new unitary to make efficiencies and save money and this has undoubtedly helped us.  We knew that the demand for some of our services was increasing, particularly those for adult care as the growth in the number of older people in our county was exceeding the national average, also that more children were coming into care as was the case across the UK.”

“We also recognised that investment was needed in the county’s roads and the waste and recycling collection services.”

And, she added:  “I hope you will agree that we have built a good and solid foundation ready to hand over to the new council in May, and that we leave a legacy of outstanding achievements and new innovative programmes of work, that will continue to deliver improvements and savings long into the future.”

But, she revealed, the council had faced some perils from the start with a significant reduction in funding from central government outlined in the comprehensive funding review of 2010 as a result of world wide economic decline.

“The Chancellor announced that local government funding would be reduced by 28 per cent in real terms and 21 per cent in cash over the next four years,” said Councillor Scott.

“In the autumn of 2012, this reduction in cash was extended by a further two per cent to apply in 2014/15.  For Wiltshire this means our funds from central government have been reduced in cash terms by 22 per cent but in real terms, when factoring in inflation, the reduction is closer to 37 per cent, which is nine per cent more than we predicted in 2010.”

“Added to that our financial challenge is tougher in Wiltshire.  We receive an average of £224 in government grant per head of population – that is almost £94 less than the English rural average of 318 pounds.”

“Plus - the population of the county aged 65 plus is 15 per cent higher than the national average and this will rise to 18 per cent by 2015.”

“This means we need to invest more than £3 million in services for older people next year just to stand still.  Keeping the local economy vibrant has always been a priority.”

She continued: “In response to these challenges, three years ago we published our first business plan.  It set out that we would invest in key frontline services, protect the most vulnerable in our communities, and, save money to enable us to do this.”

“And, it also stated that we would keep any increase in council tax low, and we would protect our frontline services.  I think it’s important that I update on whether we achieved what we set out to do.  It’s easy to set goals but far more challenging to actually achieve them.  These achievements are key to the decision on the budget proposals for next year 2013/14 and what we agree in readiness for a newly-elected council.”

As to the future, Councillor Scott revealed: “I am also planning to invest almost £146 million into services and capital schemes.”

This will include an additional £3 million on roads maintenance reflecting local feedback that we need to spend more on highways and potholes including £300,000 more into flood alleviation projects.

“Plus £16.6 million on affordable housing and social housing highlighting the demand for good quality affordable homes and reflecting our new powers to spend more money to improve the condition of our council homes in Salisbury.”

“And almost £39 million to provide the first seven community campuses in Corsham, Melksham, Salisbury, Calne, Cricklade, Pewsey and Tisbury.  This will deliver sustainable savings through more efficient, modern buildings as well as providing enhanced facilities for our communities.”

“In the longer term, the plan is to create 18 campuses in each of the community areas.  The campuses will bring police, health, leisure, other council and public and voluntary services together in one location, in modern, efficient facilities, based on what each local community says it needs.”

“We will continue to invest in the local economy with the roll out of superfast broadband.  This was planned to reach 85 per cent of Wiltshire homes and businesses but will now reach 91per cent.  We allocated £16 million and we received a government grant of £4 million to deliver this project.”

“Our base budget reflects a £1 million growth each year to support the local economy.  This includes help to provide incubation units across the county, as well as local initiatives in market towns such as underwriting the Christmas market in Salisbury.”

“And support for the apprenticeship scheme which aims to have 1,000 people placed in apprenticeships by July this year.  Currently more than 770 have been placed in apprenticeship posts in local businesses.”

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Wiltshire joins in major crackdown on the illegal trade in tobacco that loses revenue millions

Wiltshire Council joined in a major campaign today (Monday) to crackdown on the illegal trade in the tobacco trade which is depriving HM Customs and Revenue of billions of pounds in lost tax.

And the tobacco trail also brings criminals into local communities and into contact with children.  As well as being unregulated, illegal tobacco is often bought at “pocket money prices”.

It sells for less than half the tax-paid price of legally sold tobacco.  This attracts younger smokers and allows those who could otherwise not afford to smoke, to maintain their habit and undermining their attempts to quit.

Wiltshire Council is taking take part in a partnership initiative alongside HMRC, Smokefree South West, the Police, Crimestoppers, other enforcement partners and primary care trusts as part of on-going efforts to tackle the illegal tobacco trade.

Progress is being made.  HMRC figures show that in 2010 the associated revenue loss caused by illegal tobacco in the UK was estimated to be £2.18bn.  Today that figure has dropped to £1.86bn.

Illegal tobacco however remains a serious issue.  Two in 10 smokers in Wiltshire smoke illegal tobacco which has an equivalent retail value of £211million in the region alone.

A key aim of this on-going campaign is to reduce further the number of people buying and being offered illegal tobacco in Wiltshire.

In Wiltshire, more than one out of two people believe that illegal tobacco poses a real danger to children and six out of 10 illegal tobacco smokers agree that the reduced price of illegal tobacco products allows them to smoke when they otherwise couldn't afford to.

Keith Humphries, cabinet member for public health and public protection, told Marlborough News Online: “We are committed to disrupting the supply of illegal tobacco across the South West and through this initiative we are able to gather intelligence to help us complete this task.  Businesses should be aware that if illegal tobacco is being sold on their premises you are liable to a range of fines that could strip you of your livelihood.”

Corporate director Maggie Rae said: “Significant progress has been made since February 2011 when this campaign was launched to tackle the problem of illegal tobacco across Wiltshire.  Our collective efforts to tackle illegal tobacco are having a big effect, but more can be done.”

“The illegal tobacco market in the UK has halved in the last decade but still poses a real and present threat to children and local communities.  Cigarettes and pouches of hand rolling tobacco are offered to our children at pocket money prices making it cheap and all too easy for our children to smoke and become addicted.”

“The only people who benefit from this trade are the criminals who don’t care about what is in the packets they sell.  Since illegal tobacco remains part of the range of smuggled and contraband goods traded by criminal gangs it is vital that steady, sustained pressure continues to be applied.”

South West spokesman for HM Revenue & Customs, Bob Gaiger said: "The trade in illegal tobacco across the South West is a very real problem, one that through this partnership initiative we are tackling, but there is more still to be done. Illegal tobacco is often the first stage in a chain of illegal trades that fund criminality.”

“These criminals smuggle tobacco and cigarettes illegally into the country.  Some of these will be counterfeit and will have been manufactured in completely unregulated environments to be sold at knock-down prices.  They do not care about the impact on local businesses, your neighbourhood or your children’s lives, targeting anyone and anywhere they can make money.”

“Together, we are focused on breaking the hold these criminal gangs have on local communities across the South West.”

The sale of illegal tobacco is a criminal offence.  Anyone wishing to report the selling of illegal tobacco can report anonymously online to trading Standards at or call the charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or visit

They cannot trace the call and will never ask for a name.

To pledge your support for the campaign or for more information on illegal tobacco go to

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Philip Perkins’ calendar event capturing the beautiful Kennet raises £780 to boost finances for ARK

Philip Perkins with the cheque for ARKPhilip Perkins with the cheque for ARKHis aim was to raise £,1,000 for Action River Kennet, which cares for the famed chalk stream that flows through Wiltshire and Berkshire.

And with a smile on his face, 67-year-old Philip Perkins produced a larger than life cheque yesterday (Thursday) to present to ARK’s director, Charlotte Hitchmough.

He didn’t quite hit his target, the cheque being for £780, but Philip was more than pleased with his initial success in producing the first ever Kennet Calendar – and presenting the cheque to Charlotte on the banks of the Kennet at St George’s Church, Preshute.

“I like to consider the project a big success,” he told Marlborough News Online.  “And I would like to thank all those who showed their goodwill by buying a calendar – and your website for giving such positive support to the enterprise.”

It was Philip’s own passion for photography that inspired the idea of producing a high class calendar without any experience of marketing it – and in fact over-producing 750 copies for an initial print run.

He sold some 600 in the end despite retailers at shops, pubs and post offices in towns and villages along the banks of the Kennet advising him that it might prove too costly at £10 in tough economic times.

“But it was a first bash at this sort of thing and I’m delighted to have raised so much to help the work of ARK,” he said.

Philip Perkins presenting the cheque to Charlotte Hitchmough, Director of ARK and Geoffrey Findlay, Chairman of ARKPhilip Perkins presenting the cheque to Charlotte Hitchmough, Director of ARK and Geoffrey Findlay, Chairman of ARKAnd at Tesco’s, Marlborough, on Saturday, there will be an opportunity to buy Philip’s splendid calendar at a reduced price.

Meanwhile, he faces the challenge of producing a new calendar for 2014, the problem being that he has no access to long stretches of the Kennet because the river flows through private property.

So he has sent off free copies of the current calendar to the landowners and asked for their permission to allow him to roam their river bank to find new vistas for the next 'Beautiful Kennet' calendar.  River keepers are also keeping a look-out for seductive scenes he might add to his collection of Kennet photographs.

“I do want to have another go,” said Philip, a telecommunications consultant who has lived in Ramsbury since 1984. “Something like 90 per cent of the land through which the Kennet flows is private, and this time I want to take more photographs of the eastern end of the river.”

“So all the help I can get will be gratefully received.”

And Charlotte Hitchmough has given her blessing to the production of another calendar too.  “The project has been a terrific success – as well as being very beautiful,” she said.


A burst water main and sewage in the Kennet are causing concern

ARK expressed its concern this week after a major burst main at Axford resulted in hundreds of families in Ramsbury, Axford and Mildenhall going without water on Sunday and Monday.

Pressure in most places was reduced to 85 per cent and caused consternation for businesses as well as households.

“Keeping treated water in the system by minimising leaks has been a priority for Thames Water and this sort of leak is bad news at a time when we are trying to encourage people to use less water,” said ARK director Charlotte Hitchmough.

“Another issue bubbling around is the number of sewers which are overflowing while the groundwater is so high.  Some are discharging straight into the river.

“At East Kennet there seems to be a hole in the sewer upstream of the pumping station, which is letting water in to the sewer at such a rate that a team of tankers are running backward and forward to Swindon all day to take the diluted sewage to the treatment works because the pumping station can’t cope.”

She added: “There is no public health risk – no-one is swimming in the river or drinking directly from it – and the sewage is too dilute to cause fish kills.  But it still shouldn’t be happening.”



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Angels and the Apocalypse: St John’s Players’ original drama confronts the end of the world as we know it

Angels and the Apocalypse - rehearsalAngels and the Apocalypse - rehearsalAngels and the Apocalypse is an original work devised by St John’s  students and directed by the school’s Head of Drama, Cheri Whitehouse.  Reports from the rehearsals say this is a very powerful piece of theatre.

In Samuel Beckett’s famous play, Waiting for Godot, the central character never arrives.  In Angels and the Apocalypse  the end of the world as we know it does arrive – and the moral dilemmas the survivors face bring the audience close to some central dramas and quandaries of life.

At the end of last year the newspapers were full of forecasts that the world was indeed about to end.  According to the Mayan calendar, on December 21, 2012 the thirteenth b'ak'tun came to an end.

Many people had read these runes wrongly.  This was not the end of the world but rather  the end of an era – also known as the end of the fourth world.  This play sees mankind entering the fifth world – a world where there is no oil, food production grinds almost to a standstill and people turn to violence as a way of maintaining life.

Against this post-apocalyptic background, three siblings struggle to find a way to survive and one of them must decide whether she will take the violent route to survival, or be true to what she knows and believes to be a moral way of living.

A challenging drama to stage – and one that poses important challenges.

Performances on Thursday, February 21 and Friday, February 22 - curtain up at 7.00pm.
Tickets £5 and concessions £3.  Tickets available on the door or call 01672 519537

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National figures show another big increase in employment but spending power slips back

Nationally the employment figures published in February show a big increase in the numbers in work.  The number of people in employment at the end of last year was the highest since records began in 1971.

The number of Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) claimants was down over the last quarter of 2012, but it rose between December and January.  The total number of UK claimants in December was 1.56 million and in January it was 1.58 million.

And youth unemployment – that’s those aged eighteen to twenty-four – rose by 11,000 during the last quarter of 2012 which is the largest rise in this age group for a year.

Over the October-December 2012 quarter there was a significant fall both in the number of those in part-time work and those taking part-time jobs because they could not get full-time work.

The way the unemployment figures for each Parliamentary constituency are calculated has been changed and the amount of data published reduced.  The figures for claimant rates or percentages now take into account constituency populations revealed in the 2011 census.  

This has meant that the Devizes constituency’s rate of claimants for JSA given in the figures published on Wednesday (February 20) is two per cent – whereas under the old calculation method (using the 2001 census) it would have been 2.2 per cent.  This makes comparisons of the rates in the various age groups impossible.

In actual numbers those in the constituency claiming JSA rose from 992 in December 2012 to 1,044 in January 2013.

The Office for National Statistics reported a continued cut in the real value of peoples’ pay. Regular pay (which excludes bonuses) rose by 1.3 per cent – the lowest increase since the end of 2009 and well below the inflation figure.

This factor helps to explain why the number of people with more than one job has increased by 41,000 to 1,100,000.  But it also puts into perspective the harsh times some high street shops are experiencing as people’s ability to spend falls back in the face of inflationary increases in essentials such as food and heating.

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Kids urged to aim high at basketball camp

SlamdunkzSlamdunkzKids who want to aim high during the Easter holidays will have the chance to do just that at in Marlborough – at a basketball training camp.

The Wiltshire Council-run SlamDunkz camp is open to boys and girls aged between eight and 14, and will take place at St John's Academy from Wednesday to Friday, April 3 to 5.

Camps run from 10am to 3pm each day and cost £30 per child.

Each day will see skills and drills developed in the morning in age appropriate groups with activities provided to support passing, dribbling and shooting. In the afternoon, players will be assigned to teams and various matches will be played utilising the full length of the court.

SlamDunkz is part of a development plan to encourage the game in Wiltshire, set up and led by Wiltshire Council’s Sports Development Team and supported by local clubs.

Council sports development officer Alex Muse said: “This is a great opportunity for young people to get into the game, or develop existing skills, and hopefully will lead to more people involved in basketball in Wiltshire.”

More information on the Easter camps is available at or contact Alex on 01380 826315.

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Local ingredients given a Mediterranean twist

Androulla at Marlborough Communities MarketAndroulla at Marlborough Communities MarketFor her fourth and final (for now!) recipe for Marlborough News Online, and to celebrate Marlborough Communties Market becoming a twice-monthly event, we set cookery coach Androulla Derbyshire of Culinary Capers a challenge – to create a main dish using only ingredients found at the market. 

Androulla's first stop was at the Hinton Marsh Farm stall, where she bought loin of locally-reared lamb from stall holder Emily Smith.

Next she headed to Olives 'n' Stuff, where owner Chris Lugg provided her with some tasty sun-dried tomatoes and kalamata olives.

Finally she paid a visit to the stall of Lyneham-based Preston West Farm's, where she bought a container of British Cheese Awards gold medal-winning goats cheese, which had been packed at 6am that day from farmer Erica Barton.

Find out what she came up with below. The next Marlborough Communities Market will be held from 10am to 4pm this Sunday (March 3) and will be held on the first and third Sunday of the month until the end of September.

With Emily Smith of Hinton Marsh FarmWith Emily Smith of Hinton Marsh FarmLoin of Chalk Downland Lamb stuffed with Goats Cheese, Sun-dried Tomatoes and Olives.


1kg/2.2lbs of Chalk Downland Lamb Loin

For the stuffing

150g/ 6oz Preston West Farm goats cheese

50g/ 2oz sun-dried tomatoes – chopped
50g/2oz kalamata olives –chopped
2 teaspoons of fresh thyme leaves
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons of olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
6 cloves of garlic – unpeeled
1 wine glass of white wine
Preheated oven- Gas 6/ 200ᵒC

Providing that Mediterranean twist: Chris Lugg of Olives'n'StuffProviding that Mediterranean twist: Chris Lugg of Olives'n'StuffMethod

Mix all the stuffing ingredients together in a bowl.

Open out the loin of lamb to give you a squarish piece of meat. The loin may already have been rolled and tied in which case cut the strings to open the loin out.

Spread the stuffing evenly across the lamb loin and then roll it back up and tie it with string to give you a rolled up joint.

Place the loin of lamb in a roasting tin.

Pour over 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the lemon juice. Add the unpeeled garlic cloves to the pan. Don’t worry about peeling them as these are just to add flavour to your meat.

Place your meat in the oven at the preheated temperature for 30 minutes. After this time turn down the heat to Gas mark 4/ 180ᵒC . Remove the lamb from the oven and pour over a wine glass of white wine. Place back in the oven to roast for another 30 minutes. The wine, lemon and garlic will create a lovely gravy while the meat cooks. Cook for 20 more minutes by which time the lamb will be cooked through.

Serve with some roasted potatoes and steamed green beans dressed with a little olive oil and lemon while still warm.

Chalk Downland Lamb stuffed with Goats Cheese, Sun-dried Tomatoes and OlivesChalk Downland Lamb stuffed with Goats Cheese, Sun-dried Tomatoes and OlivesMarlborough-based Culinary Capers offers one-to-one coaching to people who'd like to learn to cook, or want to improve their skills. Unlike traditional cookery schools, Androulla visits the homes of clients to teach them cooking skills with their own equipment and based around their own dietary requirements and tastes. 

For further information and more free recipes log on to

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“Bluebeard” Henry VIII who hunted in Savernake Forest comes under the Hilary Mantel lash

Henry VIII and Jane Seymour, who met whilst hunting in Savernake ForestHenry VIII and Jane Seymour, who met whilst hunting in Savernake ForestThe Duchess of Cambridge, whom she describes as the princess with “a perfect plastic smile” who learned her hockey skills while a student at Marlborough College, is not the only royal who has come under fire from Hilary Mantel.

The British Museum lecture by the double Booker Prize-winning historical novelist, which runs to 5,600 words, includes cutting criticism too of the Queen, Prince Charles, Prince Harry plus Henry VIII, who met Jane Seymour, the third of his six wives, while hunting in Savernake Forest.

A considerable section of the lecture dealt with the Tudors. Referring to Anne Boleyn, Hilary Mantel told her audience: “It was said she had won Henry by promising him a son.  Anne was a power player, a clever and determined woman.”

“But in the end she was valued for her body parts, not her intellect or her soul.  It was her womb that was central to her story.”

“The question is whether she could ever win the battle for an heir.  Or was biology against her?  At his trial Anne’s brother, George Boleyn, entertained the court by telling them that Henry was no good in bed.”

“Conception was thought to be tied to female orgasm, so the implication was that what George called Henry’s lack of ‘skill’ was the problem.”

“Yet clearly he was able to make his wives pregnant.  Was something else wrong?  The old notion that Henry had syphilis has been discarded.  There never was any contemporary evidence for it.”

“The theory was constructed in the 19th century, as part of a narrative that showed Henry as a sexual beast justly punished for his promiscuity.  In fact Henry constrained his sexual appetites.”

“He had few mistresses compared to other grandees of his time.  I think it was more important to him to be good, to be seen to be good, than to be gratified in this particular way.  In fact I think we can say that the old monster was a bit of a romantic.”

“Later in life, when he married Anne of Cleves, he didn’t want to have sex with a woman with whom he wasn’t in love.  It was a scruple that baffled his contemporaries.”

Hilary Mantel pointed out: “Often, if you want to write about women in history, you have to distort history to do it, or substitute fantasy for facts.  You have to pretend that individual women were more important than they were or that we know more about them than we do.”

“But with the reign of King Bluebeard, you don’t have to pretend.  Women, their bodies, their reproductive capacities, their animal nature, are central to the story.  The history of the reign is so graphically gynaecological that in the past it enabled lady novelists to write about sex when they were only supposed to write about love.”

“And readers could take an avid interest in what went on in royal bedrooms by dignifying it as history, therefore instructive, edifying.”

New research, she reported, suggested that Henry had a blood type called Kells positive, which meant that he carried an extra antibody on the surface of his red blood cells.  The blood type is rare, so if it was assumed Henry’s wives were Kells negative, then their lack of compatibility was the reason for their multiple reproductive failures.

“His first child with Anne Boleyn was a healthy girl, and his first child with Jane Seymour a healthy boy,” she added.  “Jane died soon after Edward’s birth, so we don’t know what would have happened thereafter.”

“The world’s focus on body parts was most acute and searching in the case of Jane Seymour, Henry’s third wife.  No one understood what Henry saw in Jane, who was not pretty and not young.”

“The imperial ambassador sneered that ‘no doubt she has a very fine enigme’: which is to say, secret part.”

And Hilary then declared: “We have arrived at the crux of the matter -- a royal lady is a royal vagina.  Along with the reverence and awe accorded to royal persons goes the conviction that the body of the monarch is public property.”

“We are ready at any moment to rip away the veil of respect, and treat royal persons in an inhuman way, making them not more than us but less than us, not really human at all.  Is monarchy a suitable institution for a grown-up nation? I don’t know.”

Ending her lecture, Hilary Mantel widened her controversial comments that have gone round the world by insisting: “It may be that the whole phenomenon of monarchy is irrational, but that doesn’t mean that when we look at it we should behave like spectators at Bedlam.”

“Cheerful curiosity can easily become cruelty.  It can easily become fatal.  We don’t cut off the heads of royal ladies these days, but we do sacrifice them, and we did memorably drive one to destruction a scant generation ago.”

“History makes fools of us, makes puppets of us, often enough.  But it doesn’t have to repeat itself. In the current case, much lies within our control.”

“I’m not asking for censorship.  I’m not asking for pious humbug and smarmy reverence.  I’m asking us to back off and not be brutes.  Get your pink frilly frocks out, zhuzh up your platinum locks.”

“We are all Barbara Cartland now.  The pen is in our hands.  A happy ending is ours to write.”

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Wiltshire sings for Comic Relief at St Peter’s Church – and laughs too at the Red Nose Concert

If you cannot think of a way to raise money for Comic Relief, you like to listen to good singing and you need a good laugh - then the Singing for Laughs concert on Saturday, March 2, is just the ticket for you.  

Organised by Vanessa Lafaye and the Marlborough Community Choir it will be the fourth annual Singing for Laughs concert.  Previously they’ve raised £3,000 for Comic Relief and its very worthwhile and necessary work – this year their target is £4,000.

The forty-strong voices of the Marlborough Community Choir, who have performed at many recent celebrations in the town, will be singing their usual eclectic acapella repertoire taking in gospel, show tunes, pop and world music.

They will be joined by four Wiltshire-based singing groups. Kait and Becs are a Pewsey-based vocal and bass duo performing sultry jazz classics.

Mother’s Jam are a Pewsey Vale-based female acapella sextet known in the area for their lovely harmonies.  And just in case you wondered, they are named after a rock formation near Avebury.

Best keep an eye out for the outfits Mother’s Jam will be wearing for this concert – they’ve teamed up with Marlborough boutique Luna to provide some special pizzazz for the evening.

The Magnificent AK47s are a male acapella group which hails from Ashton Keynes (hence the AK, the 47 is for their average age – next year will they have to become a less resonant AK48?) They sing a mixture of the hauntingly beautiful and the hilarious.

Barbarelle are a Swindon-based female acapella quintet featuring leaders of the Swindon Scratch Choir.  They perform music from the 50s and 60s.

All of the music will be light and some will be silly in parts – as befits a concert in aid of Red Nose Day. The ticket price also includes Marlborough’s only cake buffet.

The evening has been designed for families with children. Or for anyone who likes fun music and, of course, cake. A lot of laughter is guaranteed, as well as a high standard of musicianship.

Tickets - £7.50 with under-twelves at £5 - from Marlborough Box Office.

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A flying boost for Marlborough College’s summer school as students now reach for the sky

Ikarus C42 at Clench CommonIkarus C42 at Clench CommonThe initiative of director Jon Copp has literally given this year’s Summer School at Marlborough College a remarkable flying start – with eight-hour courses in learning to fly.

He believes this is a unique event for any summer school, this year’s 39th Marlborough event, starting in July, also boosted by more foreign students flying in from America and Germany demanding places.

And to top that the Summer School, which last year was hit by the effects of the London Olympics bubble, will introduce no fewer than 150 new courses and tutors, as well as a chance to stay in en suite rooms in the revamped former Ivy House Hotel, now a student hostel.

“Yes, it’s a flying start to the year,” Mr Copp told Marlborough News Online.  “There’s always the need for the eye-catching course.  And that’s learning to fly.  We can’t believe it’s already sold out because it is not cheap—costing just under £1,000.”

The reach for the sky flying lessons provide a local business link with GS Aviation, based at Clench Common, something Mr Copp wanted to help improve the local economy.

“The idea came from a conversation I had with Graham Slater, who runs GS Aviation,” he said. “It represents incredibly good value because we’ve discounted the course dramatically to make it accessible to people.”

“There are a total of 12 places for students and they sold out immediately.  The courses are for all ages.  We’ve got young teenagers through to people who have retired.  So that is something we can develop in the future, to promote GS Aviation and ourselves.”

Students will have the opportunity to fly a small 70mph Cessna-type plane – it’s called a C42 -- from Clench Common to another local airfield and back but will not be taught how to take off and land at this stage.

“It is an opportunity for people to experience what it is like flying and then see if they want to go further and train for a pilot’s licence,” explained Mr Copp.  “That’s essentially it.”

“It’s hard to provide an introduction course where you are not seriously out of pocket.  And this is the first we’ve ever heard of being offered by a Summer School.”

An increase in foreign students despite austerity hitting many countries is also welcome.  They make up some 25 per cent of the 3,500 students who attend the Summer School and there were fears that there would be a fall off.

“But we still have this vast number of people coming from abroad,” added Mr Copp.  “The American market has picked again, which is important, and so has Germany in particular, which is a real reflection of the economy.”

“Their numbers have doubled in two years whereas the French, the Italians and the Spanish are slightly down on past numbers.”

So too, at present, are numbers for those attending children’s courses, but they are expected to improve, as are students seeking out the new art, history and literature classes.

“Bookings are tight where families are concerned because of the effects of austerity,” he added.  “But we’re booming with out adult bookings, particularly with the retired generation, whose finances are being slightly less squeezed.”

This year’s Summer School runs from July 14 to August 3. For full details see



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Gardeners get a chilly lesson in apple care

Apple guru Neil MacDonaldApple guru Neil MacDonaldWith the ground underfoot as crunchy as an apple, there was a cold lesson for gardeners at Marlborough's Apple Workshop on Saturday.

Led by Neil Macdonald – the man behind the popular Orchard Pig cider – and John Gillam, a local horticulturist and stone fruit expert, the workshop started in the warm at St John's Academy.

Attendees learnt about choosing apple varieties and rootstocks for small gardens, planting fruit trees, after-care and pruning, including how to train espalier, fan and cordon trees. 

Horticulturist John GillamHorticulturist John GillamAfter lunch, the class moved outside to winter-prune young apple trees, recently planted at the school, and then moved into town, to prune and train Waitrose’s espaliers.

The next venue was Culvermead Close, where some mature trees in need of rejuvenation were tackled, followed by a planting demonstration at Wye House.

The well-attended event was organised by Marlborough Community Orchard.  

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Where will minor injuries be treated in Wiltshire’s reorganised NHS?

Devizes MP Claire Perry has been told that the Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) which takes over responsibility for commissioning most health care services from the Primary Care Trust (PCT) at the end of next month, are undertaking a review of all urgent care throughout the county.

She has heard that the CCG "is committed to providing community based minor injury care throughout Wiltshire."

Writing on her website, Mrs Perry says: "I am delighted that the CCG have recognised the importance of local minor injuries care for my Constituents, who since 2006 when the units in Devizes and Marlborough closed, have needed to travel long distances to access minor injuries care. I am very much looking forward to seeing the proposals in a few months time."

Marlborough News Online understands that the CCG’s review will cover all aspects of urgent care including accident and emergency provision and mental health crisis teams.  

Val Compton, who campaigned for the reinstatement of the Minor Injuries Unit at Marlborough’s Savernake Hospital after it was closed, is delighted at the prospect of minor injuries being treated in the community - which she has also campaigned for.  She says there are alternatives that the CCG could take:

“Although the GP practices may well take on the minor injury treatment themselves, awarding themselves Locally Enhanced Services money to do this, there is just a possibility that the old Kennet based consortium (Pewsey, Burbage, Bedwyn, Ramsbury and Marlborough) of surgeries could group together and use one base between them all, to address urgent care and other various services, of which minor injuries would be but one part, at Savernake Hospital.”

“It will all boil down to which idea is most economic and viable and I wouldn’t want to second guess that. Although using Savernake Hospital would be brilliant – particularly with the digitally linked X-ray unit – it may yet prove easier to treat patients in their local surgery. That has to be for the CCG to decide.”

Last November a petition was handed to the PCT by Mrs Perry calling for the “The reinstatement of a Minor Injuries Unit in Devizes”.  Over two and a half thousand signatures had been collected and the petition was passed on to the CCG which is currently in shadow form.

Next week the PCT’s board meeting will have a paper presented to it on the petition which gives the CCG the opportunity to show they understand the signatories’ strength of feeling.  The paper, now on NHS Wiltshire’s website, shows the CCG have responded in these terms:

“The CCG, under clinical leadership, is developing a model for community based care which includes plans for the GPs from the three Devizes practices working collaboratively to provide Minor Injuries services for the town in local settings. The CCG is acutely aware of the issues in Devizes and remains keen to deliver a solution. However, a Minor Injuries Unit is not a financially viable option, and the
decision taken in 2006 by the Primary Care Trust to close the MIU remains.”

“The CCG will continue to consider viable solutions which will enable people with minor injuries to be treated locally.”

Although the town setting may allow a simpler solution for Devizes to that for the wider Marlborough area, this response gives more certainty to the way the CCG are thinking.  It is expected that plans for all of Wiltshire resulting from CCG’s review of urgent care will go to a three or four month period of consultation with stakeholders during the coming autumn.

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Nick Harper to play Marlborough gig in support of Record Store Day

Nick HarperNick HarperSinger songwriter Nick Harper will be performing at Azuza in Marlborough as part of the festivities thrown to celebrate Record Store Day by neighbouring Sound Knowledge, the record store announced today (Wednesday).

The afternoon performance will take place on Sunday, April 21, with final details and lineup to be confirmed. 

Record Store Day takes place on Saturday, April 20. Sound Knowledge will be selling an array of new titles on vinyl, including copies of a 10-inch by Nick Harper. 

This week, record giant HMV announced it would be closing another 37 stores and axing 464, bringing a total of 103 shop closures and 1,500 redundancies.

Stores earmarked for closure include the firm's Swindon and Salisbury branches.

Conversely, a concert by Gabrielle Aplin at Azuza, organised by Sound Knowledge and followed by a record signing at the store, attracted a capacity crowd on Wednesday.

Her single, Please Don't Say You Love Me, was at number 3 in the midweek charts, settling at number 6 when the final top-sellers were announced on Sunday.  

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Harris heads to Hill for album launch

Ray HarrisRay HarrisJazz festival favourite Ray Harris makes a welcome return to Marlborough on Saturday, March 2 at The Theatre on the Hill to launch his eagerly awaited new album, The Transition. 

Ray will be supported by St John’s own Ben Cipolla with flame haired songstress Joanna Peskett making a guest appearance on two numbers with Ray.

Ray Harris & The Fusion Experience will perform tracks from the new album as well as performing past classics.

Joanna Peskett and Ben CipollaJoanna Peskett and Ben CipollaKeyboard player and vocalist Harris has a reputation and expectancy for high energy and dynamic performances with songs about love, loss, life and emotions. 

Tickets can be bought from Marlborough Box Office 01672 515068 or Pound Arts 01249 701628

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The real legacy – and the surprising lottery -- left us by the ever present late George Orwell

Professor Peter DavisonProfessor Peter DavisonProfessor Peter Davison finds it a little odd.  And you can understand that, when he tunes into Radio 4’s special season called The Real George Orwell at his home in Barton Park, Marlborough, he knows a thing or two the broadcasters undoubtedly don’t.

Listening to readings from Orwell’s novels, essays, diaries, letters combined with expert views on what the author of Nineteen Eighty Four and Animal Farm might think of today’s terrestrial turmoil somewhat turns him off.

But nevertheless he personally reveals some surprising bang on Orwell predictions – and warnings -- few know about, the national lottery among them.

“I sometimes wish they would leave George alone,” declares the 86-year-old Orwell guru, who has spent a slice of his life editing virtually every word that Orwell wrote, 20 volumes of his complete works taking 17 years alone.

Plus, of course, editing the Orwell diaries and letters left behind when he died from TB in London’s University College Hospital, aged 46, in 1950.

“Too often there’s too much in the programme of people trying to think what George would say today, what he might have said about the events around us today.  And a lot of disinformation too.”

The creator of the terrifying Ministry of Truth and Room 101 would no doubt agree when Davison points out that “one distinguished professor claimed that everything Orwell predicted never came true.”

He grunts and points out:  “He should have known that 1984 was a warning.  Orwell specifically said it wasn’t a prediction.  But if you look at his other writings, there is a whole row of things he predicted which have come true.”

He refers to deforestation for a start, adds the use of mental homes in which to dump political troublemakers, and then announces:  “The idea of the national lottery too.”

“He said that a lottery would be for the comfort of the proles.  And by jove, it’s there, just as George believed it would be.”

But there are far bigger issues to weigh in the balance when he refers to Nineteen-Eighty-Four’s new world of three major spheres of influence controlling the planet of the future.

That wasn’t original Orwell but came out of the 1943 Teheran conference between Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill.  “The prophecy that came from it – and we see the terrible results now in Syria – is Orwell stating that future wars would be fought on the borders of the big powers,” insists Professor Davison.

“How many can you think of – Somalia, Chad, Iran, Iraq and now Syria, one after another they have happened.  George was right about that, by jove, with Russia on one side and the United States on the other.”

“I’m not saying the solution to all that is easy, in practical terms it is going to be very difficult, but by standing back and letting all wars take place on your borders doesn’t help.”

“That’s why I say Nineteen-Eight-Four was a warning, not a prediction.”

Orwell’s persistent search for the truth, Professor Davison believes, would have put him into conflict with the Lord Justice Leveson inquiry into massive media abuse that also inveigled the police and politicians.

“I don’t like predicting his thoughts, but he would have been caught between freedom of speech and the kind of limitations necessary for the protection of vulnerable people.”

But too few realise, he adds, how, when it comes to the manipulation of news, “Orwell’s ideas about television were incredibly far-sighted.”

He wrote about a two-way system, how television could answer back, not realising that this is what is happening now on the “screens” of Facebook and Twitter.  “The damage that these new forms of social media have caused is an extension of that,” says Professor Davison.

“There are now these cases of incredible defamation taking place, the fact that you can broadcast back is not quite television, but it does appear on a ‘screen’ due to advance technology.

“So, in a way, Orwell wasn’t too far off the score.  He would certainly not approved of running campaigns against individuals.  You can deplore it, but what can you actually do to stop it.”

Why the residual fear remains that we are under attack from Europe

One of the most fascinating of Professor Davison’s views is his own analysis of the dilemma of Europe, why some British people have an inherent fear of becoming permanently involved with countries across the Channel.

It stems directly from history familiar only to those of his advanced age – and those born between the two World Wars of the last century – who realise that, in creating the Empire, we fought our wars in India and America, away from our own shores.

“Whereas all the other countries in Europe, nearly every one of them, wanted an Empire within Europe,” he explains. “The Scandinavians, the Italians, the Spanish, the French and the Germans all fought each other.”

He reveals that after the Franco-Prussian war of the 1870s there were a massive number of books published about England being invaded, by the French, by the Russians, and the Germans, of course.

“One marvellous title was The Battle of Dorking,” he recalls. “The history of all that may have disappeared among younger people today but, to me, I still have a residual fear of Europe.”

“That is because we have seen ourselves, not exactly as victims, but as having to protect ourselves against what is now the area of the European Union.  And that is one of the things Orwell would have been aware of too.”

“The second 50 years of the 20th century may have been the best.  I don’t think the danger of war still exists.  But the French will still break any agreement they make that might do them down.  And we all know that.”

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