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Annual town meeting hears questions about Oxenwood closure & debates introducing 20mph restrictions


This was probably Marlborough's best attended Annual Meeting of the Town Council (April 23) for years and the brisk review of the Council's year, the public questions and a debate on the introduction of 20mph restrictions should ensure a similar turnout in years to come.  

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Kelham Gardens land: Wiltshire Council will negotiate over its use as a car park - at what price?


At a meeting of Wiltshire Council's cabinet (Tuesday morning, April 24) re-considered their plan to sell the piece of land they own in Kelham Gardens.   Due to contamination and its shape, the land is almost certainly unsuitable for housing and the cabinet were in favour of negotiating with Marlborough Town...

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The Now Vauxhall dealership in George Lane has closed


Further to our report today about the state of Marlborough High Street, we have since learned that the Now Vauxhall dealership, service and MOT workshops in George Lane has closed.

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They say footfall has fallen in Marlborough High Street - will it improve now the road works have gone?


The airwaves, the digital this-es and thats and the newspapers have been full this past week of the current woes of High Street Britain.  Mothercare is shrinking and Debenhams has seen a huge drop in profits.

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A new use for old technology: Pewsey Vale gets another red tourist information kiosk


The sun shone brightly in Bottlesford when the latest addition to the Pewsey Vale Tourism Partnership's (PVTP) Tourist Information Kiosks was officially opened (April 20) by two local stalwarts Roy Rumming and Gordon Phillimore.

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Local artist's Drinking Horse sculpture gets its own winner's enclosure at Newbury Racecourse


Newbury racecourse marked the opening of its Flat racing season by installing a remarkable sculpture at the heart of the parade rings - Tom Hiscocks' massive bronze depiction of a drinking horse.  

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Another no train week: but GWR put on an extra & early bus


This coming week (beginning on Monday, April 23) is another week without trains from Pewsey and Bedwyn to Paddington.

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Reports: Baroness Scott has agreed to stand down as Wiltshire Council year

22-04-2018 has heard substantive reports in the media that Baroness Scott has agreed to stand down next year as Wiltshire Council's leader.  

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OXENWOOD CLOSURE: Wiltshire Council ignoring interest from organisations wanting to continue Oxenwood's work for school children

22-04-2018 understands that there are two organisations with proven records in the field that are keen to take over the Oxenwood Outside Education Centre and to continue its work.  

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Protests mount over Wiltshire Council closure of outdoor education centres - they will be raised at Monday's Annual Town Meeting


The decision by Wiltshire Council to close two outdoor education centres - Oxenwood near Marlborough and Braeside in Devizes - has caused mounting protest and opposition across the area.  

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Wiltshire's burglary rates in UK's 'best three' table

Picture courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.netPicture courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.netWiltshire is the eighth safest county in the UK, and has the third lowest level of recorded burglaries, according to the latest crime statistics.

New Home Office figures show that overall crime in Wiltshire went down in the year to June 2012, compared to the same period in the previous year.

The statistics reveal that Wiltshire and Swindon remains a low-crime area: during the 12-month period, the Force recorded a total of 36,137 crimes.

The Force continues to record a relatively low volume of dwelling burglaries, moving from fourth to third lowest nationally.

There was a 17.4 percent reduction in Wiltshire, compared to a national drop of 6.4 percent.

Wiltshire Police has maintained its position as having the lowest number of drug offences of any force in the country.

There has been a reduction of 2.8 percent in criminal damage. This equates to 193 fewer victims compared to the previous 12 months.

However, there has been an increase of 8.9 percent in vehicle crime. The Force has been running initiatives to remind motorists to keep their vehicles locked with valuables out of sight.

The figures also show an increase of 6.8 percent in violence against the person compared to the same period last year. Nationally there has been a drop of 6.2 percent in such offences.

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Diamond-shaped orchard planting marks the end of town's year of jubilee events

Marlborough Community Orchard Group chairman Philippa Davenport (pic Pete Davison)Marlborough Community Orchard Group chairman Philippa Davenport (pic Pete Davison)A small apple orchard in the shape of a diamond has been planted at Marlborough Common to commemorate the year of the Queen's diamond jubilee. 

And Sunday's planting was also a milestone for the Community Orchard volunteers who want to turn Marlborough into a town in an orchard. 

Marlborough Community Orchard Group chairman Philippa Davenport told enthusiasts, who had paraded up Kingsbury Hill from the town hall, led by a piper: “This is the first time we are going to plant a full quota of Wiltshire varieties 

“We are saving them for posterity, to be enjoyed by our children's children. We are planting trees here and at other spots around the town, so that we truly become a town in an orchard.”

And she praised the community groups and individuals that had sponsored saplings. “The numbers are huge,” she said. “We may have a surfeit. The sooner we get our own apple press and our own bees the better.”

Bees are vital for the pollination of apple trees: it was the absence of bees due to the summer's rain that led to this autumn's disastrous apple harvest.

So among the traditional Wiltshire varieties – one of each in the diamond – volunteers planted two crab apple trees. They will grow more quickly and larger than the fruit trees, and attract pollinating insects, including bees.

Other fruit trees, including plums and damsons, will be planted in a second tranche on November 25 – during National Tree Week. And the Tree Council has chosen Marlborough as one of 60 towns that will be receiving a Jubilee Tree.

Philippa told volunteers that many communities had asked for an oak. Marlborough requested, and will receive, a mulberry tree, which itself has royal connections – James I tried, and failed, to establish a British silk industry using mulberry bushes to feed the silkworms.

“We will plant the tree early next year,” pledged Philippa. “And we will invite children to dance round the mulberry bush on a cold and frosty morning.”

The first tree to be planted, by Marlborough's mayor Edwina Fogg and her consort Nick, was of the Burn's variety, first recorded at Tottenham House – the Savernake Forest ancestral seat of Lord Cardigan – in 1831. The tree will produce a small, sweet eating apple in around three years time.

Cllr Fogg said the orchard “painted a great picture of community spirit. “We will be planting, tending and harvesting these trees,” she said, “and the great thing is that we're all entitled to come and pick the fruit.”

The orchard was then blessed by the reverend Andrew Studdert-Kennedy, who sprinkled holy water on the first of the trees. But not before a Jack Russell, belonging to one of the volunteers, had conducted a water-sprinkling ceremony of its own.  

click on any pic to enlarge......

Piper Major Neil Moore of Marlborough College leads the way to the new Community OrchardPiper Major Neil Moore of Marlborough College leads the way to the new Community OrchardPhillippa Davenport Phillippa Davenport Mayor Edwina Fogg flanked by Philippa Davenport and Jeffrey Galvin-Wright, who designed the Diamond Jubilee PlantationMayor Edwina Fogg flanked by Philippa Davenport and Jeffrey Galvin-Wright, who designed the Diamond Jubilee PlantationRev Canon Andrew Studdert-Kennedy performs the blessingRev Canon Andrew Studdert-Kennedy performs the blessingL to R|:  Jeffrey Galvin-Wright, Mayor Edwina Fogg, Rev. Andrew Studdert-Kennedy, Councillor Nick Fogg and Philippa DavenportL to R|: Jeffrey Galvin-Wright, Mayor Edwina Fogg, Rev. Andrew Studdert-Kennedy, Councillor Nick Fogg and Philippa Davenport

Nigel Kerton gets down to planting a tree for the Marlborough Gardening AssociationNigel Kerton gets down to planting a tree for the Marlborough Gardening AssociationMarlborough Community Orchard's apple tree banner was carried by Richard Shaw (pictured) and Maurizio MadonniniMarlborough Community Orchard's apple tree banner was carried by Richard Shaw (pictured) and Maurizio MadonniniMayor and Cllr Nick Foog standing beside the Burn's Seedling she planted to mark her mayoral yearMayor and Cllr Nick Foog standing beside the Burn's Seedling she planted to mark her mayoral yearSt John's musicians Jonathan Snape and Ed Crawley (shown far left in St John's line up) inspired the crowd waiting to process up from the Town Hall to The CommonSt John's musicians Jonathan Snape and Ed Crawley (shown far left in St John's line up) inspired the crowd waiting to process up from the Town Hall to The CommonSt John's team planting the 'Roundway Magnum Bonum' treeSt John's team planting the 'Roundway Magnum Bonum' treeVal Compton and her son lead Marlborough Community Choir in planting the tree they sponsored, the aptly chosen Chorister BoyVal Compton and her son lead Marlborough Community Choir in planting the tree they sponsored, the aptly chosen Chorister Boy

Dr Nick Maurice, watched by Mickey Dobie, plants Julia's Late Golden as a tribute to the link between Gunjur and Marlborough Brandt GroupDr Nick Maurice, watched by Mickey Dobie, plants Julia's Late Golden as a tribute to the link between Gunjur and Marlborough Brandt GroupRobert Tindall planting a Wiltshire Monster for Marlborough CollegeRobert Tindall planting a Wiltshire Monster for Marlborough CollegeNeville Hobson, school govenor, does the spadework for St John'sNeville Hobson, school govenor, does the spadework for St John'sThis Jack Russell and eight or so other dogs enjoyed the occasion as much as children and adultsThis Jack Russell and eight or so other dogs enjoyed the occasion as much as children and adultsPhilippa Davenport addresses the  assembled throngPhilippa Davenport addresses the assembled throng

Piper leads the way to the new Community OrchardPiper leads the way to the new Community OrchardMajor Neil Moore strides outMajor Neil Moore strides outMayor Edwina Fogg flanked by Philippa Davenport and Jeffrey Galvin-WrightMayor Edwina Fogg flanked by Philippa Davenport and Jeffrey Galvin-Wright

pics Neil Goodwin

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Camilla creates a little moment of history – and cheers galore – on her Marlborough royal visit

A moment to add to Marlborough’s history – and a chance for schoolchildren to wave their flags and cheer Camilla – lifted the grey cloud gloom over the town for today’s royal visit by the Duchess of Cornwall. 

Prompt at 11am her black limousine arrived at the steps of Marlborough town hall for the significant event in her visit, the unveiling of a brilliantly hand-painted mosaic mural to mark the Queen’s diamond jubilee year. 

She was greeted by Wiltshire’s Lord Lieutenant, Mrs Sara Rose Troughton, and a fanfare from the cornets of St John’s Academy students Stephanie Browning and Harry Austen, and the two youngest mace bearers in the country, Luke Callaghan and Josh Daniel, both from St John’s too.

There was a posy presentation as well, by 10-year-old St Peter’s Junior School pupil Josephine Vergera, before the Duchess went off to visit the historic cells beneath the town hall, followed by reception in the Court Room packed with representatives of local organisations.

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall meets Jamie Robb MD Marlborough Tiles.  pic - Chris PerrettCamilla, Duchess of Cornwall meets Jamie Robb MD Marlborough Tiles. pic - Chris PerrettCamilla, Duchess of Cornwall meets town crier Alfie Johnson.  pic - Chris PerrettCamilla, Duchess of Cornwall meets town crier Alfie Johnson. pic - Chris PerrettAnd an hour later Marlborough’s Mayor, Edwina Fogg, declared: “It’s the highlight of my year so far in that it’s the culmination of many wonderful diamond jubilee celebrations we held here in the town.”

“But those events have passed whereas we now have a permanent memorial Camilla unveiled today that is now a little part of Marlborough’s history for everyone to see.”

“It’s been a tremendous day, a wonderful day for Marlborough, something we shall remember.”

That was true to for students from St John’s, St Peter’s and St Mary’s schools, who lined the pavement along with residents to wave their Union Jacks and cheer, the more so when the Duchess went over to greet and talk to them as she left.

“That’s made my day, my week,” said one of the bystanders. “I’m not much of a royalist, but Camilla shook hands with the children, chatted with them and behaved so beautifully.”

Weeks of weeks of behind the scene communications by Edwina and her husband, Nick, twice mayor of Marlborough, took place before the royal event was confirmed.
Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall meets St John's cornet players Stephanie Browning and Harry Austen.  pic - Chris PerrettCamilla, Duchess of Cornwall meets St John's cornet players Stephanie Browning and Harry Austen. pic - Chris PerrettCamilla, Duchess of Cornwall talks to Jenny McShane. pic - Chris PerrettCamilla, Duchess of Cornwall talks to Jenny McShane. pic - Chris PerrettMarlborough's hand-painted mosaic mural courtesy of Marlborough Tiles.  pic - Chris PerrettMarlborough's hand-painted mosaic mural courtesy of Marlborough Tiles. pic - Chris Perrett

But you wouldn’t have thought so as all involved prepared for the arrival of the Duchess, who toured the photographic display of some 30 pictures of the Diamond Jubilee events held in June, greeting and talking to the guests as she went round the room.

She saw too a display of press clippings about the Swiftsure canoe from Marlborough, New Zealand, that took part in the diamond jubilee pageant on the Thames, meeting up with New Zealander Debbie Peploe and telling her of the forthcoming trip to New Zealand that Camilla and Prince Charles are to make.

And she spent significant time talking to Jenny McShane, Helen Whitield and Kirsty Robinson, the three artists from Marlborough Tiles, who created the mosaic she later unveiled, together with Jamie Robb, the managing director whose company has donated it to Marlborough.

“It’s all a blur now, I can’t remember what Camilla said,” Jenny told Marlborough News Online. “It is been a fantastic day.”

Jamie recalled: “She said she was going to come by and look in at our tile shop the next time she is in Marlborough.  Let’s hope she does that.  A royal commission?  You never know.”

What impressed the mayor and many others was the ease with which the Duchess, who was wearing a smart cream and brown suit, took any tension out of meeting and talking to so many people in such a short time, particular young people.

And that included the one big surprise of the royal visit for many of those present – the Duchess’s own daughter, Laura Lopez, who lives in Ogbourne St Andrew, was there, together with her two-year-old twin sons, Louis and Gus.

“None of us knew that,” said Edwina.

Click on any pic to enlarge.....

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Queues at food counter as Budgens opens doors

Despite the planned 'quiet opening' the owners of the new Budgens of Marlborough convenience store and petrol forecourt enjoyed anything but a peaceful first day of trading at the Business Park today (Thursday).Jenny Cleverley, manager Frank Stevens, Sue Stevens, shops development manager Nick Fraser, Katie Mills,  and group operations manager Mark Wilson outside the new Budgens of Marlborough storeJenny Cleverley, manager Frank Stevens, Sue Stevens, shops development manager Nick Fraser, Katie Mills, and group operations manager Mark Wilson outside the new Budgens of Marlborough store

Youngsters from the nearby St John's Academy formed an aisle-long queue six abreast to buy lunch at the Subway sandwich concession, which forms part of the new £2m development.

At its lunchtime peak, ten members of staff were manning the counters to cope with demand, which was far greater than managers had anticipated.

Elsewhere trade was brisk, especially at the fuel pumps, where petrol was 4p a litre cheaper than the local competition, and diesel 2p a litre cheaper.

The official opening, by mayor Edwina Fogg, takes place next Friday, October 26. Fifty new jobs have been created within the family-run business, and some part-time positions have yet to be filled.

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You can’t touch that College wall – its probably “medieval” declare archaeologists

A last minute e-mail sent by the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society has played a vital part in the unanimous rejection of Marlborough College’s plans to breach its listed boundary wall to install new gates.

The College, which is seeking a Puffin crossing at the top of Bridewell Street for female students using its new Ivy House hostel, wanted to make entry into the campus safer.

But the society, founded in 1853 and backed by the Council for British Archaeology, dramatically informed the Eastern Area Planning Committee that, since the origins of the wall were possibly “medieval”, this made the planning application unacceptable.

And this was probably a key factor in the six committee members present voting down the new gates proposal.

The email declared: “The wall (1836 or earlier) in question predates Marlborough school (founded 1843) and has a coping top that appears to be recovered building material from an earlier period.  These may even be of medieval origin.”

“The date of the wall and the materials would therefore require that proposal to adopt a resolution that did not require the loss of this historic boundary wall.  In any event, the copings should be assessed for the historic origination.”

The email, sent by John Baumber, chairman of the society’s Buildings and Monuments Committee, is made a second objecting, pointing out:

“Whilst it is not in our remit to consider the need or otherwise of a pedestrian crossing at this particular location, the applicant should research other solutions to the problem considering traffic history and incident occurrence before being allowed to remove historic boundary wall.”

Factual evidence to show the need for the crossing – it would be the third on the Bath Road edge of the campus – was also challenged by John Ford, a resident of the High Street, in a letter to the planning committee.

And during the meeting there was confusion when Wiltshire Council’s solicitor claimed that only the application to create a hole in the wall, not the need for a new crossing, was material to the application.

However, Councillor Nick Fogg, who represents Marlborough at county level and called in the planning application for urgent consideration, insisted that the report of planning officer Charlotte Douglas extensively raised both issues, and the fact that could not be separated was accepted.

Mr Ford’s letter declared that a similar proposal in 2008 revealed that there had been no accidents at all in Bridewell Street for the previous five years – and there had been no accidents since then either.

“This cannot be construed as a dangerous an hazardous crossing point,” he said, pointing out that there was no statistics to support the claim by the College’s consultants, Cole Easdon, that there were an estimated 1,400 daily pedestrian movements at the crossing point.

“The figure would seem to be ridiculous,” he suggested, adding that since he Puffin was solely for the benefit of the College and not residents, there was no justification in it being paid for by public funding.

 “Of course the College is now free to appeal and its consultants will probably suggest that it does so,” Councillor Fogg told Marlborough News Online. “We can only wait and see what happens.”


College wall pic from the Marlborough College Planning Application

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Wiltshire Council urged to change its staff complaints system

Wiltshire Council has been told it needs a “more appropriate forum” to ensure “early and sensitive resolution of employees/councillor complaints.”  The call came from Caroline Baynes who was the ‘Independent Person’ for the Standards Hearing earlier this month into complaints against the conduct of Councillor Chris Humphries, Conservative councillor for Aldbourne and Ramsbury and Chairman of the Marlborough Area Board.

Caroline Baynes hoped her views would be “noted and taken forward by the Council”.  Her statement came to light when the full minutes of the Standards Hearing Sub-Committee were published on the Council’s website.

However, Caroline Baynes also told the hearing that it was “disappointing that the [Councillor’s] behaviour was not dealt with earlier, particularly as the sub-committee heard Councillor Humphries’ behaviour and general demeanour was well known, but apparently not challenged formally prior to the complainant doing so.”

The complaints were made by Mrs Julia Densham who had, at the time of the incidents, recently started working full-time for the Marlborough Area Board. Caroline Baynes also regretted that Mrs Densham’s line manager “was not able to take the matter forward once it was brought to their attention.”

Councillor Humphries was found to have breached the code of conduct in five of the seven incidents alleged by Mrs Densham.  He refutes all the allegations.

Councillor Humphries was censured by the sub-committee.  They also recommended that Jane Scott, the Council’s Leader, should “request the Marlborough Area Board to consider the appropriateness of Councillor Humphries continuing as chairman of the Area Board in the light of these findings.”

The minutes of the hearing will be presented to the next meeting of the Standards Committee (24 October) and to the full meeting of the Council on 15 November. It is usual for the Standards Committee merely to note reports from its sub-committee.

A Council spokesperson told Marlborough News Online that if there were to be any further sanction taken against Councillor Humphries it was now a party matter - therefore in the hands of the leader of the Conservative group on Wiltshire Council who is also the Council Leader.

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Munchies disappears from Marlborough blaming Caffe Nero as the final nail in its coffin

Clare Thomas outside MunchiesClare Thomas outside MunchiesMarlborough has said farewell to Munchies, the offbeat café on the banks of the Kennet, with the arrival of Caffe Nero in the High Street blamed as “the final nail” in its demise. 

Proprietor Clare Thomas, who has run the business for the past decade, originally in The Parade, acknowledges that tough economic times have been part of the problem. 

“But the arrival of Caffe Nero was the final nail in the coffin,” she told Marlborough News Online. “It is pretty shocking that big companies like that can come in and open up without planning consent and get away with it.”

“They have set a precedent by starting their business and then seeking retrospective permission for change of use.  I have filled in the survey that is being conducted by the town council on the effect they have had.”

Munchies certainly added a difference to Marlborough’s cuisine over the eight years it has been in Kennet Place, presenting itself under the mantle of a Tardis café and also as the place for a Breton breakfast, as well as a takeaway.

“I tried to make it something different because we are off the beaten track,” explained 45-year-old Clare.  “And it did make keep us going competing with all the other cafes and eating spots in the town.”

“But we lost that difference when Caffe Nero arrived.  So I’m afraid it’s a sad farewell for me from Munchies.  I shall have a rest and hope than I can find another opening somewhere in the future.”

Town councillor Val Compton, who lives nearby, commented: “Munchies was wonderfully placed as a riverside café.  It is such a shame it has had to close and considers that Caffe Nero is the final nail in its coffin.”

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The magic of the artists who have created Marlborough’s truly unique tribute to the Queen

L to R:  Kirsty Robinson Jamie Robb and Helen WhitfieldL to R: Kirsty Robinson Jamie Robb and Helen WhitfieldThree talented artists who work as an inspired team in a factory hidden away down Elcot Lane, will be presented to Duchess of Cornwall, tomorrow (Friday) when she arrives at Marlborough town hall. 

The rare royal occasion is the unveiling by Camilla of their remarkable creation - a huge hand-painted mosaic depicting the historic town and its landmarks – all as a tribute to mark the Queen’s diamond jubilee year. 

The original concept is that of Marlborough’s elegant Mayor, Edwina Fogg, but the execution is that of Jenny McShane, Helen Whitfield and Kirsty Robinson, who have worked on the project during its five weeks of gestation at Marlborough Tiles.

It would be difficult to find three more modest people at such a grand event, but when I met them Kirsty admitted:  “Yes, I’m looking forward to meeting Camilla.  It’s going to be a great day for Marlborough.”

And, inevitably, it will be their prowess – and love of Marlborough -- that will excite and earn the praise all those who will see their masterpiece hanging in the town hall’s Court Room in the years ahead.

Kirsty has created the royal coat of arms on the mosaic, which measures some two metres wide by just under a metre deep, made up of nominal 13 by 13 centimetre tiles held within a written border made by Helen Whitfield.

And the actual mural picture itself of Marlborough’s iconic buildings and key sites such as Savernake Forest, the Kennet and Avon Canal, the White Horse and legendary Silbury Hill is the painted creation of Jenny McShane.

“I love Marlborough,” camera-shy Jenny told me.  “I love the town and the surrounding countryside.  So I hope we have been able to capture a little bit of everything -- and that there’s something there for everyone.”

Her contribution has earned the admiration of Jamie Robb, 46-year-old managing director of Marlborough Tiles, a company that dates back to 1936 and remains among a passionate handful left in the country producing artistic and valued hand-decorated tiles.

“Jenny worked on 90 per cent of the mural,” he told me.  “She is an exceptionally talented individual who, after we had taken photographs of the sites we wanted to capture, took them away to draw the design by hand.”

“She was able to make the whole thing flow together, one building, one site flowing into another, which is where her strength came from.  It is not actually like real life but that’s how it works magically on tiles.”

Moreover, Jenny, who has been with Marlborough Tiles for five years, used the centuries-old majolica painting technique from Italy to transfer the design to the raw-glazed tiles before they were placed in constantly monitored kilns.

Jamie describes it as an unforgiving process like painting on blotting paper because you can do only one brushstroke at a time and not go back over it.

“It’s been a fantastic challenge – how best to capture the colours and the sense of the image on a tile,” confessed Jenny. “You have to have the confidence to make the mark on the tile with just one stroke of the brush.”

“It has been good to do something on such a big scale, very satisfying to see it through to completion. And I’ve enjoyed us working on it as a team.”

For Helen Whitfield too, who has been with Marlborough Tiles for 17 years, it has been the biggest project she can recall working on.

“And it’s the project that’s taken the longest time to complete,” she said. “I didn’t wake up in the middle of the night worrying about it.  I was confident that we could do it.”

The event is not the first brush with royalty for the company, which began life as Packard and Ord, after Sylvia Packard and Rosamund Ord whose tiles, trays and giftware were bought by the late Queen Mary as presents for friends and family.

Jamie Robb’s grandfather, Hugh Robb, took over the business at the end of World War I, his five brothers all initially playing a part before, eventually, Jamie’s father, Alastair Robb and his late brother, David, took control, Jamie following suit when his father retired to Somerset.

That long association resulted in Edwina Fogg inviting Marlborough Tiles to produce a fitting tribute to mark the Queen’s diamond jubilee.

“We were delighted to say Yes,” added Jamie. “It is probably the biggest commission we have had while my hands have been on the reins – and the fact that the mosaic is being unveiled by the Duchess of Cornwall a wonderful moment for us – and good for business.”

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Cards for Good Causes boosts charity coffers at Christmas

Manager Jo Smith with volunteer Romaine Daw at the Cards For Good Causes pop-up shop in St Peter's Church, MarlboroughManager Jo Smith with volunteer Romaine Daw at the Cards For Good Causes pop-up shop in St Peter's Church, MarlboroughThe return of the triangular Santa to St Peter's Church in Marlborough can mean only one thing: Cards for Good Causes is back.

The pop-up shop offers people the chance to raise money for charity every time they send send a friend, relation or colleague a Christmas card.

Shoppers are able to choose from a range of national charities, including Age UK, Barnardos, the NSPCC and the Stroke Association, as well as local organisations, including Prospect Hospice and Wiltshire Air Ambulance.

Founded in 1988, Cards for Good Causes now operates over 300 pop-up shops every autumn and winter. At least 75p in every pound goes to the good cause nominated on the cards, and in the past five years, charities have benefited to the tune of more than £20 million.

The shop at St Peter's opened on Saturday, and will be selling cards, gift wrap and gifts until Christmas week.  

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Policemen raise much-needed coppers for Pudsey in triple marathon challenge

Police constables Adam Leakey and Jon Hewlett, who will be running three marathons in three days for Children in NeedPolice constables Adam Leakey and Jon Hewlett, who will be running three marathons in three days for Children in NeedA pair of policemen will be plodding the pavements between Marlborough and London to raise much-needed coppers for Britain's most vulnerable children, as they attempt to run an incredible three marathons in three days.

The gruelling challenge is being undertaken by Jon Hewlett (35) from Marlborough and Adam Leakey (29) from Swindon, colleagues from the burglary and robbery unit based at Gablecross police station in Swindon.

The PCs, who hope to raise £10,000 for Children in Need, will set off from Marlborough Town Hall on Wednesday, November 14. Following the A4 through Hungerford and Newbury they will finish their first 26.2 mile leg at Woolhampton, near Thatcham.

On Thursday they'll set off from Reading, hitting the A4 again and arriving five hours later at Slough.

And on Friday – Children in Need day – they'll set off from Hammersmith Apollo in London, taking in the capital's most famous landmarks before finishing their 78-and-a-half mile endurance challenge at BBC Television Centre in West London 

For the runners, getting the pace right will be vital. “It will be so tempting to set off at our normal running speed,” said Jon, “but we have to remember we're running three marathons; not one. We'll aim to cover each mile in about 16 minutes, to preserve our stamina. That means five hours of fairly steady running each day. 

“Reducing our recovery time has been really important,” said Adam, who only took up running in April.

“When I started, I couldn't run a mile without stopping. Now I run the six miles to work in under an hour, or do a half marathon before starting a shift. The daft thing is that running 18 or 19 miles in a day has become a routine for me – my legs used to ache and I felt tired after a long run; now I don't.”

Both men have young families, which inspired them to raise money for Children in Need, although – for Adam – it was always going to be the charity he supported. “I grew up watching the telethons,” he said, “and always wanted to support it.”

Adam LeakeyAdam Leakey“It's such a well known charity that it has made fundraising easier,” added Jon. “You don't need to explain Children in Need to people; everyone has heard of Pudsey Bear.”

The pair admit that families and work colleagues were skeptical when they first announced their intention to complete three marathons in three days.

“But people have seen the changes in our physiques, and witnessed our dedication, and they know we're serious,” said Jon.

“Besides the physical effort, training has involved huge personal sacrifice, both on our parts and those of our families,” said Adam.

“If we work a shift then go running for 18 miles, that's two and a half or three hours when our families aren't seeing us, and it's hard work when you just want to relax after a shift.

Jon HewlettJon Hewlett“You don't put yourself through six months of training not to go through with the challenge in the end.”

The sporting community has also fallen in step with the duo. Swindon-based physio Danny Clayton, former sports masseur to Swindon rugby club and the Cardiff Blues, will be following the runners to treat minor injuries, aches, and pains; while sports outfitters Run Swindon, in Old Town, have donated a pair of running shoes to each constable.

Adam and Jon's fundraising total is currently just shy of £2,000. To make a donation, log on to the Just Giving website.  

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Economy “on the road to recovery” as national figures for employment rise

The coalition government has welcomed the latest national employment figures which show a fall of 50,000 in the jobless total.  There was also a fall of 62,000 in those sixteen to twenty-four-year-olds who are out of work – that figure fell below the one million mark during three months to August.

However, most interest in the figures has been in the large rise in those in work. The national figures show people in work rose by 212,000 to a record level of 29,600,000. More than half of that increase was in part-time jobs.  Those in part-time work reached the record high level of 8,100,000 and of those 1,400,000 had taken part-time jobs because they could not find full-time work.

This month’s release of figures for the Devizes constituency does not fit neatly with the national figures for the numbers without work.  Those in the constituency claiming jobseekers allowance (JSA) in September stood at 1,003 – exactly the same figure as for the previous month.  The figures for those aged under twenty-four were slightly up; those aged between twenty-five and fifty slightly down; and those over fifty slightly also down, standing at exactly the same figure as in July.

Those in the constituency claiming JSA for more than twelve months – the normal definition of the long-term unemployed – went up again very slightly.  And more worryingly, the Jobcentre Plus vacancies fell by over a third between August and September. This may well be due to seasonal factors.

The data released for constituency-by-constituency employment does not distinguish between full and part-time jobs.

Claire Perry, the Devizes constituency MP, writes in her weekly newspaper column that there is a local trend in improved trading conditions and that local “companies are either maintaining or increasing their employment”: “This encouraging local trend was borne out by the employment data released this week…”

Her column was headed: “Economy is on the road to recovery at long last”.  Mrs Perry also praised the thirty per cent rise between April 2010 and March 2012 for those in the constituency who have started apprenticeships.  That was considerably less than the increase in apprenticeship starts in the constituency between April 2008 and March 2010.

Mrs Perry writes: “…I am trying to do my bit by looking to hire an apprentice in my local Devizes office.”  The successful applicant will help with “the full range of constituency business” and will follow a Business and Administration Diploma Level 2 with Wiltshire College.

Those interested can apply online or by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Back to the Sixties: St Peter’s School marks a fiftieth birthday

There should be fifty There should be fifty On Wednesday (October 24) it’s the children’s turn for a party to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of St Peter’s junior school’s move to the iconic building on The Parade.  On Tuesday they had worked hard to show their school off to the assembled visitors who had come to celebrate this important birthday.

In September 1962 St Peter’s moved to The Parade from the building that is now Marlborough’s library.  The grammar school had just moved out of The Parade building to their new school ‘up the hill’.

Among the people attending the reception and performance were Marlborough’s Mayor, Edwina Fogg and her consort, Nick Fogg, and many of the school’s present Governors. There were former teachers - including Tom Perry who taught at the school for thirty years and retired in 2001.

Also there were Ann Owen who was the last Head Girl of the Grammar School before it moved from The Parade, and Tony Gray who had been a pupil at the school in 1949. There were memories of the days when some grammar school pupils from outlying villages were not brought in by coach, but were boarded in the town.

The reception had been prepared by members of the Parent Teachers Association and Friends of St Peter’s.

Appropriately, this term the school has been concentrating, as headmistress Caroline Spindlow explained, on the nineteen sixties - especially in history and art.  So the performance put on by Class 5S for the people attending the reception was a spirited show called Let’s Twist Again – ending with a reminder to those of more years than they care to count what it was like to do the Twist on young legs.

Let’s Twist Again included a ‘teacher’ who, in true sixties style, tried to persuade one of her pupils that you don’t say ‘the best bit of my school holidays’, you do say ‘the best part of my school holidays’. There were Mods and Rockers, renderings of London’s Burning taking in various fictitious teachers names and, if one heard correctly, an “uncharismatic music teacher”.  Tremendous.

Then we toured the classrooms – shown round by pupils and with guides on the doors to make sure you had enjoyed your visit.  Education never ends: your correspondent learned something new about the limited colour palette used by both Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol.  And to prove the point there was row upon colourful row of self-portraits in the style of Lichtenstein and views of St Peter’s building in the style of Warhol. Most impressive.

On Wednesday, the children get a fiftieth birthday party of their own with squash and a big birthday cake. At least we can be sure the school won’t be in their old but well-used building come the next fiftieth birthday.

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Crowds come out for cancer charity’s Feast of Food

LATE NEWS:  last Saturday's Feast of Food raised £12,000 for Cancer Research UK.

It’s all about food and gifts – but it’s also all about beating cancer.  The Marlborough branch of Cancer Research UK held their annual Feast of Food event at the College on Saturday (October 20) – and it was a sell-out success.

The Norwood Hall and an adjoining marquee held sixty-eight stalls with traders representing just about every part of the south-west of England and far beyond too.  One of the organisers told Marlborough News Online that they’d had applications from almost twice as many stall-holders as they had space for.

Crowds started to fill the hall almost as soon as it was open.  And many of the stalls were very soon doing brisk business.  Organisers said they had a consistent flow of people and were “really pleased” with the whole event. They hope to make between eleven and twelve thousand pounds.

The event came hard on the heels of the joint Channel 4 and Cancer Research UK Stand Up to Cancer campaign – which raised a magnificent £6,483,995.

Pies galorePies galoreAt this year’s Feast of Food you could find some really delicious meat and game pies.  There was Wiltshire honey and Marlborough’s famous shiitake and oyster mushrooms. And Wiltshire chillies of varying strength. Making their second appearance at the Feast of Food were Loire Uncorked with an array of Loire wines and highly delectable cheeses.

Looking ahead to Christmas there were homemade puddings with traditional and not so traditional ingredients.  And a range of Christmas cakes that might well find themselves being opened long before the day itself.

If you had shopped for food and had your mid-morning coffee and cake, you could start on the Christmas gifts.  There were some really attractive Polish pottery designs and Backdoor Shoes brought a colourful display of their light waterproof clogs painted with fruit and vegetable designs.Thanks to Wiltshire's beesThanks to Wiltshire's bees

Vying for a place on the Christmas present list was all manner of ‘kitchen stuff’ from bottles of oil (olive and rapeseed) to innovative cookware; from cookery books to antique cutlery; from Turkish delight to fragranced candles.

Finally time for a taster from Ramsbury Brewery or the Wiltshire Liqueur Company.

Oh, and there’s a date for your diary: also raising funds for Cancer Research UK is the Marlborough Spring Fair which will be on 13 April 2013.

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Funding squeeze hits our area’s only specialist early years centre

You probably won’t have heard about this very special specialist centre – and you almost certainly haven’t heard about the financial position it’s been landed in. But it’s a vital part of the care and development of very vulnerable toddlers in our area.

Devizes and District Opportunity Centre is an independent charity which was originally  set up in 1978 by a small number of parents who needed help for themselves and for their children with special needs.

Ever since then, the Centre has provided specialist early years educational and therapeutic care for children from birth to five years old, who have disabilities, learning difficulties or complex, life threatening health conditions. It is now designated as one of Wiltshire’s four District Specialist Centres.

Forty-two children and their parents are supported at the main centre in Devizes and a further ten at the satellite centre in Tidworth. The catchment area covers the towns of Devizes, Marlborough, Pewsey, Tidworth and Melksham and all their outlying villages.

Children come to two sessions each week and each has their own key worker. The staff team consists of one full-time and eleven part-time highly trained and experienced pre-school teachers and four trained volunteers – that gives a minimum ratio of one staff member to every two children in each session.

Parents have the opportunity to play with their children, learn how best to support and stimulate their development with support and advice from experienced staff and medical therapists. Parents can also benefit from mutual support and friendship with other parents.

There are also preschool sessions for children over two-and-a-half who attend on their own.

The centre works closely with consultant paediatricians, speech and language therapists, physiotherapists and occupational therapists.  It also works with other charitable organisations such as Portage and Home Start.  The centre’s policy is to ensure children benefit from a ‘Whole Team Around the Child’ approach.

When children join the Centre staff take approximately eight weeks to assess them, identify their strengths and their needs and then devise an individual developmental plan.  Betty Newman, who has been involved with the centre for twenty-one years and now manages it, explains:  “We concentrate on maximizing each child’s ability, we might only deal with tiny steps of progress but we celebrate every single one”.

Julia and PaddyJulia and PaddyTwo-and-a-half-year-old Paddy and Tom are two children who come from Marlborough to the centre in Devizes with their mothers Julia and Nancy.  Both mothers say the centre has done wonders for their children.
Julia and Nancy support one another and as Tom’s mum Nancy doesn’t drive, Paddy’s mum Julia brings them in her car. As we shall see, transport can be a major problem for some of the centre’s families.

Over the years the Devizes building has been enlarged and improved. It now has a multi-sensory stimulation room, a soft play room, a computer area with specially adapted equipment, and two large play rooms – one of which has an under-floor sand pit which can easily be opened up to provide a real get-in-and-get-sandy experience. There are also outside areas to play in and explore – when it’s not raining.

Betty says: “Although we have excellent premises and equipment our most important resource is our trained staff.” And she’s adamant that she must be guided “by what the children need and what their parents want.”
The development of the centre over the years has been something of a roller-coaster ride as local authorities have changed, policies have changed at local and national level – and funding has changed. When early years education and specialist intervention became national policy, the centre was commissioned by the Council to provide specialist services for under-fives. Their funding was increased which enabled them to consolidate and develop the service that could be offered.Nancy and TomNancy and Tom

The centre is inspected by Ofsted – in May last year the Tidworth centre which had opened just five months earlier, was rated outstanding. And Betty sends quarterly reports to Wiltshire Council and there’s an annual inspection by Council officials.

Then in 2010 Wiltshire Council, which still commissions the centre as a service it is obliged to provide, cut its funding by £13,000 to £84,110 a year. And before March 2014, the Council will be putting this service out to tender again.

The centre has always had to raise some extra money, but this year with the added pressure caused by the funding cuts, the centre’s trustees need to raise £70,000 in order to maintain the high quality of its service. At the end of the last financial year the centre was left with a deficit of £10,000 and it looks as though that will be matched this year. This eats into the reserves which every organisation that employs paid staff must keep.

There's always been a reliance on community support and the centre has some very generous donors – often anonymous. The soft play room was added by a local builder who decided not to send in his invoice. A grant from BBC’s Children in Need pays the costs of one and a half members of staff.

Devizes Lions and Round Table have helped. Recently Melksham Rotary have raised funds and Waitrose in Marlborough gave one of their monthly Green Token community grants. In June Devizes-based Seren Events Management organised a ‘Roaring Twenties’ evening which raised £4,500.

The future of funding in this area looks most uncertain as the coalition government plans to take money from the early intervention grant to fund the new free nursery places for two-year-olds from poorer families, and to remove the ring-fence round the rest of this grant so local authorities can use it as they wish.

There is an urgent need to raise more money from communities the centre serves – Marlborough among them. And, to return to transport problems, there is an urgent search underway to find volunteer drivers-with-a-car to take children and parents to the centre from more rural areas.

The centre may have a colourful and well-equipped soft play room, but it does not offer a soft option for these children and their parents. The sessions are intense and tiring for all concerned.  Whether children have temporary developmental delay problems or more lasting conditions, they and their parents need specialist help.

Betty Newman: “Our parents don’t have the security of knowing what the future will bring for them or their child. Each child’s difficulties and families situation is different however they all live with very high levels of anxiety and many experience varying degrees of isolation. I always say we haven’t got a magic wand here at the centre, but we deal with reality. Our job is to support and reassure parents and to give each child the chance to reach their potential by providing opportunities they would not otherwise have.”

The centre’s telephone number is 01380 726077 - half-term starts on October 22 - so please leave a message.

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Workers encouraged to get the sack for Prospect

Shop and office workers in Marlborough are being urged to get the sack, in aid of Prospect Hospice.

Marlborough's local hospice is running its second annual Santa day on Friday, December 7 and is looking for 100 people to dress up as Father Christmas and raise much-needed funds for the charity.

Everyone who registers will receive an ID card, a collection bucket and a Santa suit, and participants can spend as few or as many hours as they like during the day collecting much-needed funds for the charity.

Sheryl Crouch, head of fundraising at Prospect Hospice, says: “What we’re really hoping for is to have lots of Father Christmases all across Swindon and North Wilts collecting money for us on the same day – it would be fantastic if we could get 100 people to do it.

“The good thing about it is that you don’t need to stand in the street or go door-to-door, or vary your normal routine during the day to do it, or even take a day off work. You simply dress as Santa for the day, take a collecting bucket with you and collect money from whoever you meet.

“It’s only £5 to register, and for that you get everything you need, including a free Santa suit to keep. It’s a really simple idea that will hopefully be a lot of fun for everyone and help raise some money towards our work.”

If you are keen to don the big man’s red suit for the day and help raise funds for Prospect, please visit

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Marlborough celebrates Apple Day as it inherits rare Wiltshire breeds for generations to come

Mayor Edwina Fogg toasts Apple Day eventMayor Edwina Fogg toasts Apple Day eventMarlborough went apple crazy today as the town celebrated its annual Apple Day event and showed off the rare Wiltshire apple breeds saved for generations to come. 

Cornet players Stephanie Browning and Harry Austen from St John’s Academy played a welcome fanfare as the clock at St Mary’s struck 11 – and on to the town hall entrance stepped Mayor Edwina Fogg and her entourage. 

She reminded an audience of supporters that it was her husband, Nick Fogg, twice mayor before her, who had originally called a meeting of people interested in creating a Marlborough community orchard.

This was taken up by inspirational Apple Day founder Philippa Davenport, proudly standing alongside the mayor, who announced: “I was so caught up in the vision that I joined the founding committee.”

“Today is Marlborough’s annual celebration of orchard fruits in general, apples in particular, especially those rare Wiltshire varieties.”

“This time last year many of you joined in a display and tasting of these rare Wiltshire apples, and an impressive 91 pledges were made to buy them so that the Marlborough community orchard team could arrange for them to be grafted.”

Apple being juiced in the High StreetApple being juiced in the High StreetWell, they have arrived.  They are doing a tour of the High Street in a trailer as we speak. So a big thank you to everyone who sponsored a tree and to Barters Nursery for grafting them.

Mayor cuts the tape for opening of Apple Day town hall events watched by founder Philippa DavenportMayor cuts the tape for opening of Apple Day town hall events watched by founder Philippa Davenport“Once planted, Marlborough can truthfully boast that we have saved their gene bank for our children’s children to inherit.”

And she added: “If you missed out last year, you can still share in this important and delicious fruit festival.  Lots of extra saplings were produced and you can buy them here today.”

“This time next week I shall be planting the first tree of our royal diamond jubilee plantation up on the Common.”

“So happy Apple Day everyone…happy Apple Day.”

The crowd responded Happy Apple Day amid warm applause, figures showing that more than 1,000 people, many of them families, attended the event.

The Mayor then cut the red ribbon to open up the displays upstairs and downstairs in the town hall, special entertaining games and events for children among the enticements.

Juliet and Peter Kindersley from Sheepdrove Organic Farm sponsors of the apple art competition plus Philippa DavenportJuliet and Peter Kindersley from Sheepdrove Organic Farm sponsors of the apple art competition plus Philippa Davenport

 Marlborough Apple Day


Art Competition Results


ART CATEGORY A(Age 11 and under)


Phoebe CazalyA31               For painting skills.             Highly Commended


Tom HoleA30                       For drawing skills.             Highly Commended


Lawrence Bett-HewittA03    Apple and a half                                Winner

Excellent composition – well executed in a difficult medium.



ART CATEGORY B(Age 12 – 16)


Gabby ChurchB06                  Little old apple tree         Highly Commended

For attention to detail and the creation of ‘atmosphere’.


Isabella Hutton B05                 Fruit vine                                    Winner

For impressive use of colour



ART CATEGORY C(Adult 17 and over)


Robin Buchanan-DunlopC18     "Autumn"                     Highly Commended

Well designed composition. The apples are all individual and well drawn


Carolyn DavisC05                    Apple Noggin Dobbin       Highly Commended

This is a good idea with a lovely sense of fun.


Clare BickfordC09                     "Take Three"                             Winner

This is a well designed painting with a lovely use of colour that makes each apple very individual. The apples and their shadows are well observed.

 sponsored by Sheepdrove Organic Farm

supporting local foods for local people

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