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Lifetime Achievement Award for Marlborough Tennis' Barbara Jones from the Wilts LTA

11-12-2018 Sue Round

Barbara Jones from Marlborough Tennis was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by Wiltshire Lawn Tennis Association at their AGM last week.  The award was presented by the president of Wiltshire LTA, Sir Geoffrey Owen.

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1918 - the 'Peace Christmas': with results of war still evident, Marlborough retailers made great efforts to stock up for…


As you take advantage of Marlborough High Street's late night shopping evening on Thursday (December 13), spare a thought for the town's shopkeepers at Christmas-time 1918.

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Great Western Hospital expands services ready for the real winter months

11-12-2018 A Correspondent

At the end of last week GWH staff were welcoming a much needed injection of long-term capital funding.  This week they were back to the immediate concerns of winter pressures on the hospital and on patients and staff.

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Message to Claire Perry - why keep on fracking?

10-12-2018 Jo Ripley

Sirs  Our MP, Claire Perry, also Minister of State for Energy, acknowledges climate change to be a very real threat and that she feels a sense of responsibility to deliver more rapid progress on emission reductions in the wake of the recent IPCC report warning of escalating climate-related risks.

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‘Deck the hall’…‘tis the season to be jolly’ and join in Marlborough’s Christmas Day lunch

10-12-2018 Sue Round

Now in its sixteenth year, the Christmas Day lunch in the Town Hall has become a Marlborough tradition.  It all began in 2002, when Joy and Nigel Kerton, hearing how a local lady would be alone on Christmas Day with a can of fish, decided to remedy the situation.

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Town Hall to resound to the Sounds of Christmas on 20 December


Marlborough Town Hall will be filled with the magical sounds of Christmas on the evening of Thursday 20 December when a group of experienced singers stage ‘Sing a Song of Christmas’ to raise money for Manton Village Hall Refurbishment Fund.

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GWH to get £30 million of capital funding for expansion and new approaches to treatment


Great Western Hospital has been successful in their bid for major natonal funding for capital projects to help expand its capacity.   GWH is now far too small for the large growth of Swindon's population - a growth that is still continuing - and the ageing population of the wide area...

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Pewsey Tennis Club wins top 2018 award as best club in Wiltshire


At the annual meeting of the Wiltshire Lawn Tennis Association (a branch of the national organisation) Pewsey Tennis Club achieved two notable awards - Pewsey Tennis Club was named 'Club of the Year' and Keith Hampson was named volunteer of the year. 

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Dental Nurse / Treatment Co-ordinator - Savernake Dental Practice


  Dental Nurse / Treatment Co-ordinator   (part time to support endodontics, orthodontics, restorative and implants)     Salary:    Salary will depend on qualifications and experience. Our offer to you: A competitive starting salary and the opportunity to increase this through training and development Fully funded CPD training, GDC registration, DBS and Professional Indemnity Progression and development Contributory pension scheme Modern...

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SEND school closures: parents right to be concerned

06-12-2018 Sylvia Card

Sirs    In response to Jo Waltham’s article on the closure of the three schools for children with special education needs and disabilities, I can understand why some parents are pleased that the proposed new school will  be built on the Rowdeford site.  Rowdeford is an excellent school and parents and staff campaigned...

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Thousands expected at St John's Science Fair

Organisers hope their forthcoming event won't go with too big a bang, as thousands of adults and children have fun with chemicals and lasers.

More than 2,00 people are expected to descend on St John's Academy for its fourth annual Science Fair on Saturday, March 16.

Run as part of National Science Week, the inaugural event in 2010 won an award from the British Science Association for the best school fair in the country.

The event offers families the chance to join in with experiments in the science labs, get their brains working in the maths puzzle zone and explore the latest gadgets in the technology zone.

Children are also encouraged to take part in a code breaking treasure hunt, Lego robotics, and rocket making with Cats House Observatory.

Better still, most of the events are free, while a small charge is made for some spectacular events, for which pre-booking is required.

Scientist 'Dr Mark' Biddiss will be bringing two shows to the show: The Cool Science and Maths Show, featuring exploding water, belching balloons, levitating balls, flying fish and vanishing loops is aimed at children aged four and upwards.

And his Tricks of the Mind Show show promises magnetic fingers, antigravity arms, handy force fields, and coloured ghosts.

Attendance at each show costs £4 for adults and £2.50 for children.

The Amazing Planetarium will be making a return visit to the event, with six shows over the day and a charge of £3.50 per person.

And the chance to engrave a glass using laser cutters takes place twice during the event and costs £4.

For more information, or to book a place at one of the special shows, log on to

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Caffe Nero survey claims of increasing visitors to Marlborough accused of “total unreliability”

John Kirkman, chairman of the Kennet branch of CPRE,John Kirkman, chairman of the Kennet branch of CPRE,Surveys made by Caffe Nero experts, which it claims prove it attracts additional visitors to town centres like Marlborough and increases retail trade, are claimed to be totally unreliable.

The data presented to the adjourned hearing of the planning inquiry at Marlborough town hall that will decide the café’s fate was told on Thursday that they amounted to estimates and generalisations open to challenge.

The methodology of Allegra Surveys was revealed to be without any known or accepted margins of error or bias that invalidated its conclusions.

“I am making the accusation of total unreliability,” declared John Kirkman (pictured) , chairman of the Kennet branch of CPRE, after his interrogation of planning consultant Chris Green, the main witness for Caffe Nero Holdings.

Mr Green, whose paper submission of evidence itself weighed five pounds, six ounces, accepted that his statement that an Allegra survey showed that 25 per cent of the visitors to shopping centres was due to the attraction of coffee shops was incorrect.

The 25 per cent figure related to the food industry as a whole, restaurants, pubs and other such establishments.

He also admitted that his statement that there had been a 13 per cent increase in footfall related only to the area adjacent to Caffe Nero and not the whole of the High Street.

It was on this point that Mr Kirkman asked how could any such comparison be made when there were no footfall figures prior to Caffe Nero’s arrival in April last year?

“Your claims are without foundation because we have no pre-Nero data to compare with post-Nero data,” he pointed out.

Mr Green: “That’s not true.  Caffe Nero’s attractiveness in its own right is evidence of that.”

Mr Kirkman: “But they may well be people who previously frequented the town centre, not necessarily additional customers.”

One earlier witness had said specifically that he came to Marlborough to visit Caffe Nero while another, who made the same statement, said there was already a Caffe Nero in his home town of Swindon.

“Yes, Caffe Nero attracts customers bit you have no evidence to show that they are additional,” insisted Mr Kirkman.

Mr Green: “Many people use coffee shops to meet friends and this attracts other people.”

Mr Kirkman. “This is generalisation again, it doesn’t tell us what is happening in Marlborough.”

He also protested that surveys based on five-minute samples of the number of Caffe Nero customers had been “grossed up” and were basically estimates.

Mr Green replied that the coffee shop’s retail receipts provided an accurate figure until accepting the answer of Mr Kirkman, who himself sat inside the café to see the facts for himself, pointed out that he did not know if a receipt for a coffee and a glass or orange juice referred to one person or two.

“When you gross up counts you introduce a margin or error,” he told Mr Green, who replied: “They survey remains a benchmarking exercise of the situation.”

Mr Kirkman referred to survey counts taken in June and November of customers entering seven adjacent shops, which showed that four had increased their total, which was claimed as proof that Caffe Nero added to the vitality and viability of the town.

“Are we to infer that the presence of Caffe Nero influenced the trade of those seven shops?” he asked.

Mr Green: “Our presence attracts more visitors as a whole, that provides an opportunity for other shops to benefit from that.”

And when pressed further Mr Green said: “We are not suggesting that is the benefit from the influence of Caffe Nero.  I am talking about the town centre of Marlborough as a whole.”

There were further clashes over the survey claim that 13 per cent of customers said they would return to Marlborough more that Caffe Nero was there, Mr Kirkman pointing out that industry-accepted standards for marginal errors reduced this to only six per cent, which was another example of the unreliability of the surveys.


Marlborough is not special after all, says Caffe Nero’s planning expert

Chris GreenChris GreenPlanning consultant Chris Green, presenting Caffe Nero’s case, claimed that the coffee house was a destination in its own right, part of the now accepted as an accepted extension of the shopping experience.

It generated more customers than traditional retailers with a high volume of repeat visits and was in no way detrimental to the vitality and viability of the town centre.

Thirteen per cent of those interviewed in a Caffe Nero survey stated that they would visit the shopping centre more often because of the presence of Caffe Nero.

He pointed out that core local development plans on which Caffe Nero’s retrospective application was rejected were out of date and no longer relevant following the publication of the government’s new planning framework.

According to Wiltshire Council data, Marlborough, where Waitrose was the “key anchor”, had lost ground and could be considered to be “struggling.”

Mr Green said the closure of the Dash fashion store that occupied the site was evidence of that, its decline taking place despite the fact that a revamp of the shop had taken place.

His own evidence was that the heavy reliance on high quality fashion shops, as in some other towns, failed to provide the diversity the shopping centre required and revealed that Marlborough’s number of individual shops was in fact three percentage points below the national average and five percentage points lower than Devizes.

“To my mind the individuality of Marlborough is much wider, principally it’s concerned with its environment,” he said, adding: “Marlborough’s retail functions are similar to many other market towns and it is a mistake to consider it is unique or even significantly different to other similar centres.

“Marlborough is not that individual in terms of retail, the above average number of clothes shops are at particular risk at this time of ever increasing internet shopping.”


In his final submission, James Findlay QC, counsel for Caffe Nero Holdings, said there was no evidence presented to show that its presence had caused any dis-benefit to Marlborough.

“No single shopkeeper has given evidence that his/her trade has been adversely affected,” he told the inspector.  “No survey evidence of shopkeepers or footfall put forward to justify the concern as to this alleged phenomenon, which is unsupported by any retail analysis.”

He added: “Ultimately, the council’s case as presented rests on unspecified future harm that is not yet evident which will arise, it is said, because Caffe Nero is simply too attractive and prevents people from journeying to others parts of the town centre – honey potting it might be called.”

“But ay coffee drinker exiting can see almost every location on the other side of the street and that they may wish to visit and will be aware of those on the same side.”

“Moving from Winnie the Pooh and the attractiveness of honey pots to toy-storing venturing to the outer reaches of Marlborough’s town centre is hardly to infinity and beyond.”

“This is a case built upon sand.”

See also:

"Caffe Nero evidence should be thrown out because it “blatantly flouted” planning rules, public inquiry told"

"Caffe Nero should be applauded for giving potential to an under-used vital site, says estate agent"

"Caffe Nero encouraged customers to sign their petition more than once planning inspector told"

"Caffe Nero’s claims of boosting visitors to Marlborough town centre declared “misleading and unfair”"

"Caffe Nero is 'the cynical cuckoo sitting in the heart of Marlborough’s successful High Street'"

"Caffe Nero accused of being “parasitic” at major Marlborough planning inquiry into its future"

"Publish online all those companies like Caffe Nero who escape any taxes due, Chancellor is urged"


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Secret trip to Afghanistan stopped Claire Perry voting in gay marriage debate – as a supporter

Claire PerryClaire PerryTory MP Claire Perry has revealed her reason for not voting in the gay marriage debate in the House of Commons on Tuesday because her “urgent government business” was a trip to Afghanistan.

 “I was due to go to Afghanistan with the Secretary of State as per my twitter comments this morning,” she told Marlborough News Online today (Friday).  I've just returned.”

She revealed that she is in fact a supporter of same sex marriage, adding: “I intend to support the legislation at the third reading subject to scrutiny of the amendments.”

 And as a committed Christian she pointed to the fact that the new Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Rev Nick Holtam, is a supporter too.

Mrs Perry, MP for Devizes, who lives near Salisbury, explained that she didn’t vote in Tuesday’s controversial debate in the House of Commons because “urgent government business required me to miss the vote.”

She was listed as one of the Tory MPs who did not vote on the legislation, which resulted in more of her Conservative colleagues voting against the gay sex marriage Bill than for it. The vote in favour secured an overwhelming majority.

Marlborough News Online asked her to explain her position but she did not respond, and did not post a statement on the issue on her own constituency website.

Then, in a local newspaper column, she explained: “It comes down to fairness and I think it is fair to allow as many people as possible to marry regardless of race, colour or sexual orientation.”

“Marriage is the bedrock of our society and anything that strengthens it is to be supported and this move will strengthen, not weaken, marriage.”

“I reach this view as a practising Christian and it is one shared by our Bishop, the Rt Rev Nicholas Holtam.”

Mrs Perry, married with three children, adds: “I support this legislation, although the irony of the matter is that urgent Government business required me to miss the vote on the second reading to the Bill on Tuesday.”

“I have appreciated the communications from my constituents on this issue – both sides of the argument have been represented without rancour and helped me to reach my decision.”

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Marlborough College music staff feature in major North Wiltshire Orchestra concert

Paul Turner Paul Turner Wiltshire pianist Paul Turner will play Gershwin’s ever-popular Rhapsody in Blue with the North Wiltshire Orchestra on March 9 – and the conductor will be a fellow member of the Marlborough College music staff, Alex Arkwright.

The concert, in St Andrew’s Church, Chippenham, will include Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring and Shostakovich’s Jazz Suite No 2 for Variety Orchestra.

Paul Turner studied piano at the Royal Academy of Music where he won many prizes and awards culminating in the Queen’s Commendation for Excellence and the Peter Pears Accompaniment prize which was adjudicated by Peter Pears himself.

Paul specializes in chamber music and has worked with many eminent musicians and has appeared in many leading concert venues both at home and abroad.   

Beside his appearances as a performer, Paul is widely known for his work promoting and organizing concert series including one at St. John’s Smith Square London. Closer to home he is also the inspiration behind the Swindon Recital Series.

Paul teaches music at Marlborough College, where he collaborates in chamber music with Philip Dukes, the College’s Artistic Director and internationally acclaimed Viola Player who will be appearing with North Wiltshire Orchestra this summer.

The well-known trumpet player Alex Arkwright was appointed NOW’s conductor last year.  He is not only a very sought after performer, but is a conductor, adjudicator and teacher - he is currently head of woodwind and brass and head of performance at Marlborough College.

Founded in 1966, the North Wiltshire Orchestra is one of Wiltshire’s oldest and finest amateur orchestras. In 1998 the NWO started its relationship with St Andrews Church Chippenham – its current concert venue.

It does a great deal of community work and raises funds for local charities – at the end of this concert there will be a retiring collection for the Dorothy House Hospice.

And if you can’t place the Shostakovich piece, its ‘Waltz 2’ was heard in the haunting opening music to Stanley Kubrick’s last film Eyes Wide Shut.

To see the full programme and find out how to get tickets – click the date on our What’s On calendar.

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Caffe Nero evidence should be thrown out because it “blatantly flouted” planning rules, public inquiry told

Councillor Val ComptonCouncillor Val Compton

Part of the evidence submitted by Caffe Nero to a public inquiry into its appeal against the refusal of planning consent for its coffee shop in High Street, Marlborough, should be thrown out.

This was the angry demand from independent town councillor Val Compton when she gave evidence yesterday (Thursday) to the delayed second day of the inquiry, held at Marlborough Town Hall.

She told planning inspector Phil Grainger that Caffe Nero had deliberately flouted the planning rules after opening its new outlet last April without seeking planning consent in advance, thus tainting its retrospective planning application. 

And it was a tactic that the company, based on the Isle of Man and in Luxembourg,  had blatantly used all over the country.

“As parts of Caffe Nero’s evidence was gathered prior to planning permission by their deliberate flouting of the rules, I feel very strongly that this part of their evidence should be considered inadmissible,” she protested. 

“To gain advantage through abusing the system, even though it is within the letter of the law – but certainly not the spirit – does not sit easily where justice is concerned. 

“For Nero Holdings, this is now a tried and tested method, as I found by entering the words ‘Caffe Nero’ and ‘retrospective’ into Google.

“The internet is alive with fury at their blatant disregard for the rules and the absolute contempt shown for due process in many towns.”

She claimed that Nero Holdings literally seemed to think it was their right “to barge in, set up shop and trade.” Making a planning application, where one is required, came “very near the bottom of their ‘to do’ list.” 

And Mrs Compton, who has campaigned against Caffe Nero as one of the international companies that fails to pay any UK corporation tax, added: “I believe there is reliance, particularly in these cash strapped times, of councils being reluctant to get involved in the costly appeal process.

“Surely, retrospective planning was not intended as a default position, but only intended for occasional use. Caffe Nero are now using the retrospective planning process as a loophole to gain advantage, not just in Marlborough but across the UK.”

She pointed out that Caffe Nero have opened in many other towns, prior to planning permission being granted, just as they did in Marlborough. 

“It would seem they choose to deliberately ignore the planning rules to gain ground, produce figures on footfall, or a customer petition etc which would appear to give them a very uneven advantage in the case of a planning appeals.

“It is easy to prove a positive – such as the number of customers per day, a signed petition by those customers, or the even the profitability. 

“It is, however, nigh on impossible to prove a negative, such as the number of customers who may have been lost to any number of other local businesses, or the effect generally on a High Street.

“No one can provide absolute proof of how customer behaviour may have changed had Caffe Nero not been there. Every customer would have taken a different route and spent their money and time differently.”

Others at the inquiry challenged the validity of Caffe Nero surveys and claims that it proved its presence has attracted more people to Marlborough and has not undermined the vitality and viability of independent retailers.

In her final submission, Sarah Clover, counsel for Wiltshire Council, which served on enforcement notice on Caffe Nero to quit the premises in August, also questioned the basis of the company’s “flawed” claims.

“It is the positive impact which is unsubstantiated and that is what this appeal is all about – what the local plan is all about,” she insisted.

“The appellant maintains that Caffe Nero is an attraction itself and that people are drawn specifically to it, for its own branding. The appellant maintains that  Marlborough is compact and easy to traverse on foot, so that people will move around regardless of the pressure of Caffe Nero.

“If that is true, then it is difficult to understand why Caffe Nero cares, as it clearly does, where precisely it is positioned with in Marlborough. If that point is good for others, then it is good too for them.

“On the contrary, their Mr Price (a witness) made it plain that they would only wish to go in this high footfall area. Their actions belie their arguments.”

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I do support same sex marriage reveals Tory MP Claire Perry after "urgent business" prevented her voting

Tory MP Claire Perry does support same sex marriage after all.  And as a committed Christian she points to the fact that the new Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Rev Nick Holtam, is a supporter too.

Mrs Perry, MP for Devizes, who lives near Salisbury, explains that she didn’t vote in Tuesday’s controversial debate in the House of Commons because “urgent government business required me to miss the vote.”

She was listed as one of the Tory MPs who did not vote on the legislation, which resulted in more of her Conservative colleagues voting against the government than for the gay sex marriage Bill, which was passed with an overwhelming majority.

Marlborough News Online asked her to explain her position but she did not respond, and had not issued a statement on the issue on her own constituency websites.

Now she reveals in a local newspaper column: “It comes down to fairness and I think it is fair to allow as many people as possible to marry regardless of race, colour or sexual orientation.”

“Marriage is the bedrock of our society and anything that strengthens it is to be supported and this move will strengthen, not weaken, marriage.”

“I reach this view as a practising Christian and it is one shared by our Bishop, the Rt Rev Nicholas Holtam.”

Mrs Perry, married with three children, adds: “I support this legislation, although the irony of the matter is that urgent Government business required me to miss the vote on the second reading to the Bill on Tuesday.”

“I have appreciated the communications from my constituents on this issue – both sides of the argument have been represented without rancour and helped me to reach my decision.”

Claire Perry told Marlborough News Online:  “I was due to go to Afghanistan with the Secretary of State as per my twitter comments this morning.  I've just returned.  I intend to support the legislation at the third reading subject for scrutiny of the amendments.”

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A younger Pope from Africa or South America is possible, says Edwina, Marlborough’s Catholic mayor

White smoke soon to be seen again from the Vatican chimneyWhite smoke soon to be seen again from the Vatican chimneyA much younger new Pope, one possibly coming from Africa or South America, may well result from the surprise resignation yesterday (Monday) of Pope Benedict XV11.

That is the view Edwina Fogg, Marlborough’s Mayor, who is a Catholic and a former head of religious studies at St Mary’s School, Calne, where she took students on trips to Rome on three occasions.

“I would not be at all surprised if that happened,” she told Marlborough News Online. “It is something that has been speculated on in the past.”

“There has been an enormous growth of Christians in Africa and other burgeoning populations. So, yes, it is quite likely.”

“As well as being a sad time, it is also one of challenge.”

“It is always an extraordinary occasion when the Cardinals come together and everyone waits for that white smoke coming out of the chimney.  It’s a very dramatic moment when we have a new Pope.”

Mrs Fogg was equally shocked when Pope Benedict made his announcement – in Latin – at a meeting of the Cardinals in Rome, no suggestion that it was going to happen being leaked in any way.

“Most people felt that shock because not only hasn’t it happened in one’s lifetime, but it is something that hasn’t happened in 600 years,” she said.

“The papacy has been so transformed since Pope John Paul.  People want to see them – and images of them – in their own countries round the world.  The present Pope has travelled and been on Twitter.”

“At the age of 85, he has just been an extraordinary Pope.  He had a hard at to follow the previous Pope.  And he has done it extremely well.”

“He has held things together – he was previously known as the Rotweiller.  He has had awful things to combat like the sex abuse scandal.  He has obviously thought about his position and realises that modern Catholics probably demand a lot more than ever before.”

The Mayor added: “In the past, you could just sit there in the Vatican amid all your officials and you could do all the masses, even if you were old and doddery.”

“However, what is required now is something very, very different.  He was certainly the caretaker Pope.  So I imagine we might be looking for a younger candidate for the next one.”

“Someone from Africa or South America is very likely to be a possibility.”

Prayers for Pope Benedict at St Thomas More, Marlborough

Marlborough’s Catholic priest, Father John Blacker, praised Pope Benedict as a man of faith and courage who had taken a brave decision.

Prayers were said for him at St Thomas More, Marlborough, and special services are to be held there and at The Holy Family, the Catholic church in Pewsey – the two churches have a combined congregation of 180 -- to recognise his papacy.

Father Blacker revealed too that he had lobbied Claire Perry, the Tory MP for Devizes, who is a committed Christian and has given her support to the government’s legislation for gay marriage.

“We wish the MPs hadn’t voted that way,” he said. “We believe marriage is between a man and a woman and you can’t change the holy scriptures and the meaning of language in that way.”

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Bishop of Salisbury to discuss sex and the gospel of today in Marlborough events for Lent

Bishop Nick HoltamBishop Nick HoltamGrown Up Christianity is the title of an exciting series of events organised by Marlborough Churches Together to mark Lent with the Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Rev Nick Holtam, among those taking part.

He is to lead a discussion on The Gospel and Sex – he is a supporter of gay marriage -- while David Campbell, Chaplain at Marlborough College, will take on The Gospel and Social Media with former prison governor Tim Newell tackling The Gospel and Restorative Justice.

“Just over 10 years ago, shortly before it was known who was to be the next Archbishop of Canterbury, a journalist commented that one of the great strengths of Rowan Williams was that he could remind us all that Christianity is ‘interesting, important and grown up’,” Marlborough’s rector, the Rev Canon Andrew Studdert-Kennedy told Marlborough News Online.

“Somewhere in this should be mention of fun, but even so this is a useful list of qualities which church life should try and reflect.”

“One of the criticisms often made about the church is that it spends too much time pre-occupied with its own affairs and is therefore irrelevant to most people.  Certainly some of the recent publicity of the Church of England at a national level leaves it open to just this kind of criticism.”

“That’s why Marlborough Churches Together has put together a Lent programme that is seeking to explore what the Christian Gospel has to say about some of the major factors in contemporary life.”

And he asked: “What might the gospel have to say about the ever increasing use of Social Media?  Can Christianity dethrone the power of Money? Jesus preached both mercy and justice; might this help us place Restorative Justice at the centre of our judicial system?”

“Why did Jesus talk about money much more than about Sex?  How can the gospel enrich Everyday Life?”

“These are the subjects that our Lent talks are going to explore and we are very fortunate to have some outstanding speakers who are going to guide us in our thinking.”

The talks are on five successive Wednesday evenings (7.30pm) at Christchurch Methodist church.

The full list of events:

20 February - The Gospel and Social Media led by David Campbell, Chaplain at Marlborough College.

27 February  -  The Gospel and Money led by Robert Willoughby, Lecturer at London School of Theology.

6 March -  The Gospel and Restorative Justice led by Tim Newell, former prison Governor, now working with Restorative Justice.

13 March -  The Gospel and Sex led by Nicholas Holtam, The Bishop of Salisbury.

20 March - The Gospel and Everyday Life led by Linda Woodhead, Professor of Sociology and Religion at Lancaster University.

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Volunteers are vital to the success of Marlborough’s historic Merchant’s House project

Sir John Sykes with Susan and Andrew Pearson dressed in 17th century costume as Thomas and Katherine BaylySir John Sykes with Susan and Andrew Pearson dressed in 17th century costume as Thomas and Katherine BaylyThe success of The Merchant’s House, the historic 17th century home in the High Street of silk merchant Thomas Bayly, is due to the work of the volunteers who take part in the project.

So said Sir John Sykes, chairman of the trustees, when he welcomed some 70 volunteers to a presentation and reception, to tell them of last year’s achievements and plans for the future.

 “The historic Merchant’s House is slowly revealing more of its secrets and there is still much refurbishment  to do,” he told them.   “Volunteer help is vital, so do encourage your friends and relations to get involved to.   Volunteering brings its own reward of satisfaction.”

He pointed out that the work done by volunteers, individually and as part of a team, is absolutely essential.   

“A year or two ago we estimated that something like 200,000 hours of volunteer work had been expended on the restoration project since it was started in 1991,” he added.   “Multiplied by an average minimum wage of £5 an hour, that equates to over £1million worth of volunteering”

With the first two phases of the development plan now complete, the third phase, to raise a five-year target of £250,000, is in full swing.  During last year £65,000 was raised.

Treasurer Anthony Cohen reported that the Trust and Trading Company were holding their own in difficult economic times.

The wonderful costumes, researched and made by historic costume designer Angela Munn, for Mr. and Mrs. Bayly were modelled on the  evening by Susan and Andrew Pearson and demonstrated how the Baylys might have appeared in 1690.

Trust vice chairman, Clyde Nancarrow summarised the planned fund raising events for 2013 starting with the spring lecture on March 7 being given by Jon Cannon, on the development of the English Cathedrals.   

He referred to a new educational initiative, featuring an exciting programme for primary school children to visit  the house and learn about life in the 17th century. A number of schools have already booked a place.

To find out more about volunteering at The Merchant’s House contact Sophie Costard  01672 511491

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Mark Rylance unveils a memorial seat to Jimmy Gardner, dramatic hero of the skies and the stage

Victor Gardner and Mark Rylance talk over past timesVictor Gardner and Mark Rylance talk over past timesJust after noon today (Monday) on the immaculate Green at Marlborough it was curtain up time in memory of Jimmy Gardner, a small man with a big reputation who never thought he would die.

But remarkable, forever smiling Jimmy did pass away, aged 85, in May 2010 at the Royal Free Hospital, in London.

And ignoring the icy wind a huddled group of family and friends raised the temperature at the unveiling of a memorial bench in tribute to a man whom his brother, Victor, modestly remembered as “a very nice chap.”

Dramatically present to tell us about the true Jimmy was the award-winning actor, director and playwright Mark Rylance, who unveiled the seat from beneath a blue damask cloth to reveal a shining plaque that declared: Dedicated to the Life of Jimmy Gardner DFM. Actor and war hero – 24.8.1924 to 3.5.2010.

“I met Jimmy when I was 22 and he had a most profound effect on me, as he did on most people he met,” revealed Mark, now 53.  “I don’t know if it was his experience in the second world war or if he was just born with a certain frame of mind, but I never met a man who loved life more and enjoy life more.”

Mark Rylance stands head bowed as the Last Post soundsMark Rylance stands head bowed as the Last Post sounds“He was one of these people who was always prepared for the surprised visitor, for the unexpected guest.  He was a great host. That’s quite a high spiritual thought as well as just a practical one.”

“So I hope that this bench, which is a great expression of Jimmy’s soul, will be, as all benches always are, ready for the unexpected guest.”

Mark pointed out: “This one has room for two or three guests.  I hope they many people who have got a bit older and need a rest after crossing the road will sit here.”

“And I know that Jimmy will hope that many young people will come here and carve things in it, have a secret conversation and maybe some people who have fallen in love will come and express their love here.”

“All sorts of different things can happen on this bench.  So may Jimmy’s spirit reside here, be part of it and bless the encounters that happen on this bench.”

Yet his eloquence denied the fact that Jimmy was the runaway son of a champion jockey, who wanted to be a film star rather than a rider.  He escaped two shipwrecks before joining the RAF to become the rear gunner in Halifax bombers flying over Germany, completing 30 sorties when most airmen were shot down after two, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal (see separate citation).

Plaque on Jimmy Gardner memorial seatPlaque on Jimmy Gardner memorial seatIt was only then that Jimmy, known as Jimbo, trained as an actor and became acclaimed for his roles ranging from the first gravedigger to Mark Rylance’s Hamlet, and the drunk old man in Clockwork Orange, to Harry Potter’s Knight bus driver, Ernie Prang.

Indeed, as Marlborough councillor Nick Fogg, who helped organise the memorial seat event, pointed out in introducing Mark, they both wrote extensive obituaries detailing Jimmy’s dramatic life, Nick in the Guardian, Mark in The Independent, which can be read online.

Brother Victor, now 80, who lives in Ogbourne St George, quietly watched as the event took place, then stood head bowed with others as a student volunteer from Marlborough College played the Last Post.

He sat on the memorial bench chatting with Mark about past times, recalling their champion jockey father - Teddy Gardne - who worked at Fred Darling’s Beckhampton Stables just outside Marlborough.

The Gardner family lived in what is now the Caffe Nero property in High Street, Marlborough, as well as in a cottage on the London Road and, in later days, Teddy ran his own bookmaker’s in Silverless Street, Marlborough.

A surprise champagne reception followed the unveiling at the nearby home of Marlborough’s Mayor, Edwina Fogg, where Mark told me he believed Jimmy’s lust for life and love of spontaneous parties came from escaping from the terrors of the second world war.

“Jimmy was never depressed,” he said “It was because of that war-time experience he was so particularly keen to have a good time and enjoy himself.  When you see pictures of him at that time during the war he seems to be smiling.”

“And he always said he never thought he was going to die.”


Jimmy GardnerJimmy GardnerIt was air gunner Jimmy Gardner’s fighting spirit that won him the Distinguished Flying Medal in 1944.

A recommendation and later citation for Gardner, Edward Charles James 189821 Sgt. 10 Squadron, were posted by his commanding officer:

"Sgt Gardner was posted to 10 Squadron in November, 1943, and after completing 30 sorties comprising 163 operational hours has been screened and posted for instructional duties.  This NCO  was the rear gunner of a Halifax aircraft detailed to attack Berlin on December 19, 1943.  The aircraft was severely damaged by flak, No 3 tank being holed and the starboard outer engine damaged, necessitating feathering. In addition there were 30 holes in the aircraft.

During a sortie on Leipzig on February 19, 1944, the aircraft in which he was the rear gunner was attacked before reaching the target by a Me109 and a Me110 and three Ju88s. Sgt Gardner co-operated magnificently with the mid-upper gunner in passing accurate evasive information to his captain and simultaneously got in accurate bursts of fire on enemy aircraft.

One engine of a Ju88 caught fire and, although the Halifax was damaged, his skilful directions and accurate fire played a good part in frustrating the attacks and enabled his captain to return safely to base.

While attacking Ottignies on April 20, 1944, three separate attacks on his aircraft were made by an Me109 and two Ju88s. Sgt Gardner, in co-operation with the mid-upper gunner, returned the enemy’s fire and a Ju88 was claimed as damaged.

This NCO has proved himself to be a first class air gunner and stalwart member of a gallant crew.  I strongly recommend that Sgt. Gardner’s determination, fine fighting spirit and strong sense of duty be recognised by the award of the Distinguished Flying Medal."

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Fast learners seek sponsors for Eco Challenge

St Johns Racing Team members Fergus McShane (15), Dan Snipe (16) and, seated, Euan Humphreys (17)St Johns Racing Team members Fergus McShane (15), Dan Snipe (16) and, seated, Euan Humphreys (17)Speedy students from St John's Academy in Marlborough are looking for sponsors from the business community to enable them to compete in an eco marathon. 

The fast learners, members of the Student Racing Team, want to compete in the Schools Eco Marathon, aiming to travel the furthest possible distance on the smallest amount of fuel.

Matt Jones, 16, Dan Snipe, 16 and Euan Humphreys, 17, who have been team members for the last few years, under the supervision of design & technology tutor Clive Stell, have written to local businesses asking for support to help them raise the £500 they need to compete in the challenge.

The Racing Team is a group of young and enthusiastic engineers who are aiming to build a fuel efficient car to run in the 2013 Schools Eco Marathon on June 18. The students have invested hundreds of hours of time and effort during their lunch breaks and after school.

The club started in 2010 when a group of St John’s students went to Rockingham Raceway, where they learnt a lot about the materials used and the methods of construction, then went on to develop their first car, the St John’s Racer 1 (SJR1).

The engine used was a 35cc Honda GX35 four stroke, similar to a strimmer engine, which provided about 1.3hp, more than enough to meet the required average speed of 15mph.

The team drove the car at Mallory Park raceway in the Schools Eco Challenge 2011, even though the car was untested and completed just a few days before, achieving a credible 157 miles to the gallon.

To prepare for the 2012 Eco Challenge the team began to work on modifying “SJR1” to improve the vehicle’s mpg.

Matt said: “A technique used by almost all of the other teams was to build up speed and then coast; some could even shut down and restart the engine while driving.

"Our approach to this tactic was to fit a bicycle freewheeling mechanism to the drive wheel and mount plastic bodywork onto the previously bare chassis. As a result of these changes we achieved a much improved 253 mpg in last year’s challenge; and on the day, with the assistance of some pizza boxes, gaffer tape and fine tuning, the economy of SJR1 shot up by more than 30 mpg to 287.

"We are really proud of our achievement which shows the progress the team has made as a group of young engineers, who are now more likely to pursue engineering in the future as a career”.

For the 2013 Eco Challenge St John’s has two teams. One group is working on further improvements to SJR1 and a second group has designed and is currently building a brand new car, SJR3.

Using CAD and 1:5 scale models and a full size wooden mock-up, the new racer is still constructed from steel bars but is longer and much lower, wrapping around the driver to improve aerodynamics; as well as being much more accurately put together. The increase in planning has led to SJR3 going from first sketch to rolling chassis in less than four months.

The team has also had to learn how to put together a business plan, and has now calculated the cost of entering the 2013 challenge. They are now hoping that local businesses will help them achieve their aim of entering both cars in the 2013 Challenge later this year.

Teacher Mr Stell said: “General materials are required, and items such as harnesses and fire extinguishers are necessary to satisfy the safety rules.

"The team’s business plan shows that we need £500 to bring the two cars up to competition standard. I hope that local businesses or individuals will be prepared to help this enthusiastic group of students, who have worked extremely hard on this project, and help to encourage their passion and their design and manufacturing skills”.

Anyone interested in sponsoring the St John’s Racing Team, and taking the opportunity to have their business name featured on the car, should contact Sally Bere at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The team members are keen to meet potential sponsors and show the team’s developments to date.

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Revealed: big increase in costs of running NHS commissioning for Wiltshire

The costs of running the coalition government’s new system of commissioning health care in Wiltshire will be much higher than for the current system.  The GP-led NHS Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) takes over from NHS Wiltshire (the Primary Care Trust or PCT) on April 1.

The Department of Health has set management or running costs at £25 per head of each CCG’s population. And Marlborough News Online has learnt that running costs for Wiltshire CCG will be £11,600,000 for their first year (2013-2014) of operation which is right up to the £25 per head limit.  

The equivalent costs for the PCT were £19 per head – making the CCG almost one third more costly to run.

These costs are being budgeted for despite the fact that the CCG has responsibility for fewer services than the PCT.  The CCG will not be commissioning primary care (the doctors themselves) or dentistry.  Responsibility and costs for public health have been transferred to local authorities. And the CCG will have no buildings to look after.

The PCT’s total budget for 2012-13 was £690 million.  Wiltshire CCG has been allocated a budget £503 million for 2013-14.

It is not clear how far the CCG’s complex constitution and structure (which we have already reported) accounts for this increase in management costs.

Marlborough News Online also understands that there are two nearby CCGs where running costs will be even higher than those for NHS Wiltshire CCG.

The coalition’s White Paper of July 2010 which outlined the restructuring eventually passed into law as the Health and Social Care Act, stated its aim as ‘radically simplifying the architecture of the health care system’.  In doing so it promised to reduce NHS management costs by more than 45 per cent over four years and asserted the aim of ‘strengthening democratic legitimacy’.

Supporters of the coalition’s restructuring have emphasised how the Health and Social Care Act removes the PCT ‘layer of administration’ and that savings on management costs will go to fund front line services. 

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New Zealand’s acting high commissioner to visit Marlborough for giant royal oar presentation

Acting New Zealand High Commissioner Rob Taylor will be the guest of honour when Marlborough’s Mayor Edwina Fogg  holds a reception at the town hall on February 14 to celebrate Marlborough's international links.

The town has links in particular with Marlborough in New Zealand and also Marlborough in America, but the presence of Mr Taylor has special significance following the Queen’s diamond jubilee pageant on the Thames last year.

Taking part in that was a team of six students from Marlborough Boys College, who rowed a replica model of the Swift Shaw whaler boat as part of the royal flotilla using a huge oar to steer the 9.7 metre long boat.

And that very same steering oar is now to be a jubilee gift to Marlborough, where it will be on display in an exhibition at the town hall after being officially presented to the Mayor by Mr Taylor.

He is a career diplomat who, from the Commission in London, is also Acting Ambassador to Ireland and Acting High Commissioner to Nigeria.

The presentation takes place at 12 noon.

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Wiltshire Police freeze their council tax precept at the same rate for the third year running

Wiltshire PCC, Angus MacphersonWiltshire PCC, Angus MacphersonWiltshire Police’s precept as part of next year’s Wiltshire’s council tax rate has been frozen, which means that the average Band D household will pay £157.77 for it services.

So far the only other increase announced is a nine pence in the pound rise for the same band ratepayers in Marlborough, where the town council has approved a 3.73 per cent rise for the coming year.

And Wiltshire Council itself will reveal its budget – and the overall total precept – on February 19.

The proposal for the police freeze came from newly-elected Police and Crime Commissioner Angus Macpherson, and was formally confirmed by the Police and Crime Panel on Wednesday.

The £157.77 sum is the same amount as last year – and the year before that too.

“I am very pleased that residents will benefit from this cap on the policing part of the council tax, especially in the current economic climate,” Mr Macpherson told Marlborough News Online.

“I am confident that we can keep the cost of policing down for households while maintaining effective frontline services.”

The Commissioner promised not to increase the policing part of the council tax for the 2013/14 financial year during his election campaign.

He has now consulted with the business sector, via chamber of commerce groups, and the voluntary community sector on the proposal. He is also continuing to consult with the voluntary community sector on his forthcoming Police and Crime Plan, with a wider public consultation on the plan due to start later this month.

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Apple guru to lead fruity workshop

Neil MacdonaldNeil MacdonaldApple guru Neil Macdonald – the man behind the Orchard Pig cider brand - will be leading what is billed as a “fruit-filled day of learning and fun” in Marlborough later this month.

The third annual Apple Workshop will take place in The Enterprise Centre at St John’s Academy, Marlborough from 10am to 4pm on Saturday, February 23.

The workshop – organised by Marlborough Community Orchard - will cover choosing varieties and rootstocks for small gardens, planting fruit trees, after-care and pruning, including how to train espalier, fan and cordon trees.

Illustrated talks will be followed by discussions and advice, Q&A, hands-on demonstrations and practical experience. 

Limited tickets for the workshop are priced at £25. For more information, or to book a place, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 01672 514497.  

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Band get £7,000 grant to blow their own trumpet

The Aldbourne BandThe Aldbourne BandThe Aldbourne Band will be blowing their own trumpet, after receiving more than £7,000 of National Lottery cash to tell the story of their organisation.

The Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded Aldbourne Band Heritage Project £7,700 to secure and publish the 153 year history of the band, which was originally formed in 1860 and is currently ranked at 48 in the world.

The project will digitise photos and documents, collect reminiscences and deposit them at the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre and in the village of Aldbourne for future generations to access.

Summaries will also be published online and made available for presentations, events and for schools’ local history work as part of the All Our Stories project, a new small grant programme, launched during April 2012 in support of BBC Two's The Great British Story.

TV presenter and historian Michael Wood said: "We British love our history, and no wonder: few nations in the world, if any, have such riches on their doorstep, and so much of it accessible to all of us.

"It is really tremendous that the people of Aldbourne have been inspired to get involved to tell their own story and to dig deeper into their own past."

Gavin Dixon, secretary of the Friends, said “We are delighted to have been awarded this grant and we can’t wait to get started.

"The Aldbourne Brass Band is now 150 years old and there are many stories to be told. We know that artefacts, documents and photographs exist and our aim is to gather and capture the history and stories of the band to ensure they are available for future generations."

Anyone with memories, old programmes, photographs, newspaper clippings, magazine articles, old instruments, notices or banners should contact the Heritage Project Manager, Gavin Dixon, secretary of the Friends of Aldbourne Band, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Friends of Aldbourne Band have also organised a Memories Open Day on Saturday, April 27, from 10am to 1pm at the Aldbourne Memorial Hall at which people can share their memories.

Meanwhile, the Aldbourne Band will be in concert at the Theatre on the Hill, St John's Marlborough on Saturday April 20, playing music with Italian connections. 

For more information about the band, log on to or join the Friends of Aldbourne Band on Facebook at

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