The Castle and Ball, now Marlborough’s premier hotel and restaurant, is back in business, re-opening today (Saturday) after a two-month refurbishment costing close to £1 million.
The historic coaching inn that dates back to 1670 now has additional bedrooms to cope with tourism following the controversial sale of the Ivy House Hotel, on the opposite side of the High Street, to Marlborough College.
“We are clearly committed to Marlborough by the fact that is our most expensive refurbishment to date costing close to £1 million,” Gordon England, regional manager for owners Green King/Old English Inns, told Marlborough News Online.
“We are absolutely delighted to be Marlborough’s premier hotel and we are looking forward to a prosperous and exciting future ahead.”
The Castle and Ball, originally called The Antelope at the time of the Spanish Armada, now has a total of 37 bedrooms, two more than before, both fitted with en suite showers instead of baths.
The original 35, some with four-poster beds, have all been upgraded with new decoration and carpets. Some have been upgraded to a higher standard than before offering superior accommodation to some of the 84 people the hotel can accommodate when fully booked.
Only nine bedrooms are currently available, the rest coming on stream during the rest of March with a double room costing £89 a night with a £10 or £20 additional charge being introduced at peak times. This includes a full English breakfast or alternatives.
“We are treating the Castle and Ball as a research and development project by raising its splendid bedrooms to a higher status,” said Mr England, who controls 14 hotels in five counties.
The new general manager in charge of a team of 30 members of staff is Nigel Forrester, who has been recruited from Whitbread Hotels, the biggest chain in the country.
And chef Adam Barrett and his staff have a new kitchen to prepare meals for those attracted by the hotel’s distinctive and newly gilded sign with gold leaf.
Nikki and Bob Holman have spotted a hole in Marlborough’s bread supply and they’re going to fill it – there’s nowhere in the town you can regularly buy artisan bread. So from Thursday, February 16 the Food Gallery will be selling a small range of award-winning artisan bread.
It comes from a very special bakery – the Fabulous Baker Brothers’ Hobbs House Bakery in Chipping Sodbury. The Brothers series of programmes on Channel 4 ended last Wednesday.
Tom Herbert is the baker and his brother Henry is the chef and butcher. It’s been Tom’s aim to do for bread what Rick Stein had done for fish.
Made overnight by what Bob describes as a “team of skilled and charming bakers”, the bread will be delivered daily from the bakery – arriving as the Food Gallery opens. It’s the bakery that makes the bread for the Food Gallery’s made to measure sandwiches.
Amongst the loaves that’ll be on sale will be:
Fig and walnut which is great with just about any cheese. Pain de campagne - a rustic loaf made over two days - it has a crispy crust and goes well with a piping hot bowl of soup. The organic spelt loaf that's won gold medals at the Taste of the West awards - a real wholemeal loaf. Sherston which is probably, says Bob, the best white bread you'll ever taste. And Harvester a granary style loaf that wins accolades as the Food Gallery’s most popular sandwich bread.
Bob says: “You'll see the display as soon as you come into the coffee shop. Simply make your selection, slip it into a paper bag, and bring it to the counter to pay.” But he warns that customers should try “not to nibble before you get it home to share with your family and friends.”
More Food Gallery news at www.thefoodgallery.co.uk/news.php
Being made redundant, or even the fear of losing one's job, can lead to stress, anxiety or depression. But what about the colleagues left behind after a company has made cuts to its workforce?
According to psychotherapist and counsellor Geoff Miles, employees who don't lose their jobs might be as much in need of therapy as those who do.
Geoff and Helen Payne-Kumar, whose company See For Miles Ltd, have just moved into new premises in Marlborough, say workers who remain at their desks after redundancy are likely to feel anxious about their own job security, stressed because they are picking up the workload of their former co-workers, and even guilty that they held on to their jobs while colleagues were shown the door.
“It's called survivor’s guilt,” says Geoff. “And along with stress, it's a very real problem for employers.”
Over nearly 40 years, Geoff has developed counselling techniques which can be delivered to employees in the workplace, or at a neutral off-site venue, helping them to become more productive.
“Employee stress is the cause of more lost working days than any other work-related illness,” he points out. “Years ago you couldn't get signed off for stress. Now GPs have a better understanding of stress, and are signing workers off; sometimes for long periods of time.”
Geoff has also seen an increase in the numbers of people coming to him for counselling – and says the economic conditions and accompanying financial concerns are a huge contributing factor.
“Most of our work involves individuals who need counselling – where they can identify the cause of their problems and need the tools to help them cope – or psychotherapy, where the root causes of the patient's anxiety is unknown, and has to be identified before the patient can begin to tackle the issues.”
Even children are feeling more pressure. One of See For Miles' most popular courses is delivered in classrooms to students about to sit exams.
“It's a very stressful time,” said Helen. “There's a lot of pressure on young people today.”
“We give them the tools to recognise and deal with pressure, and those skills will be carried with the youngsters throughout their school career and the rest of their lives.”
The new See for Miles offices at Old Hughenden Yard in Marlborough offer a quiet contemplative space for groups, couples and individuals. There's even a video conferencing facility where Geoff can talk to patients via the internet – a service one of See For Miles' clients – who lives in Australia - finds particularly useful.
And the next step for the company is to build a network of consultants who can deliver those courses all over the UK.
For more information log on to www.seeformilesltd.co.uk or call 01672 511043.
Ladies fashion chain Dash is closing its flagship store – in Marlborough High Street – because of a wrangle with the landlord over rent.
The store, which has thrown a closing down sale, is due to close on Friday, March 23. Three members of staff, including the manager, have been made redundant while two other members of staff have been relocated to Swindon.
Dash has traded in Marlborough for over 20 years and, before the closure was announced, the High Street shop was its flagship store.
Manager Lisa Foote, who has worked at the store for over 10 years, said: “People used to come here from quite some distance because we stocked the full range of clothing. A couple of customers used to come twice a year from the Isle of Wight.”
“Our customers were very disappointed when dash announced the closure. There are a lot of unhappy ladies in Marlborough at the moment. One has even written a letter to the MP.”
The manager confirmed the decision was related to the high rents charged by landlords for retail properties in Marlborough.
“The company is in profit,” she said. “The issues were with the landlord. They couldn't agree on the rent.”
Marlborough Chamber of Commerce is due to discuss the matter of retail and office rent at its next meeting in mid-February. Committee members will be deciding whether to write to property agents about their concerns.
Devizes MP Claire Perry has told the House of Commons that unemployment in her constituency is “creeping upwards and long-term unemployment is coming down” - and she claimed that apprenticeships were starting up at “an incredibly rapid rate.”
Speaking in an opposition debate on youth unemployment and bank bonuses, Labour’s shadow chief secretary to the treasury, Rachel Reeves told Mrs Perry that youth unemployment in the Devizes constituency had increased by 36 per cent in the year to December 2011.
As both MPs have, at one time or another, been tipped as potential future leaders of their parties, the exchange had an added edge to it.
In fact the numbers claiming job seekers allowance for more than twelve months have come down when compared to December 2010. But between November and December 2011 they showed a slight rise from 8.9 per cent of claimants in the constituency to 9.1 per cent. The number of new apprenticeships for 2010-2011 are provisional and because of changes to the apprentice programme cannot reliably be compared with earlier years.
It may (so far) be an unusually mild winter, but figures on the economy have a very wintry feel. This week’s announcement showing that Britain’s economy shrank in the last three months of 2011, has led to fresh forecasts of more problems ahead for family budgets, shops and jobs.
The unemployment figures for the Devizes constituency are indeed getting worse. Although the total number of those claiming job seekers allowance was ‘only’ 1,081 last month, that was a 20.5 per cent increase on December 2010.
Rachel Reeves had rounded down the percentage of claimants aged twenty-four and under in the Devizes constituency – the actual figure in December 2011 was 36.7 per cent up on the previous year.
Devizes’ position in the league table of constituencies has worsened considerably. In December 2010 it was at 502 out of 533 English constituencies – just 31 places from being the constituency with the least unemployment. With the November figures Devizes had slipped to 483rd place and in the most recent figures – issued this month – it’s 475thplace. A year-on-year drop of twenty-seven places.
The official, headline-grabbing unemployment figures hide the fact that of the 29,120,000 people in employment in Britain, 7,860,000 are in part-time work. And that figure rose over the last quarter by another 75,000. Twenty-seven per cent of those in employment are now part-time workers.
Many of those will, of course, work part-time by choice. But these figures themselves hide some very part-time work indeed.
Recently a case came to light of a young man who signed a “zero hours contract” to work for a high street retailer. This means he has been called in during a week for as little as one four hour shift – earning him £15 before tax. In the official figures he counts as an employed person.
His employer told him that if he looked for other work to increase his weekly earnings, he would be dismissed. And 2012 is the two hundredth anniversary of Charles Dickens’ birth.