Merchant's House Trust celebrates a quarter of a century of renovation - and pays the rent
The Merchant's House marked the 25th anniversary of the foundation of the Trust that has so carefully conserved and run Marlborough's premier tourist attraction. The ceremony in the Town Hall on Wednesday (April 27) was also the occasion to bid a fond farewell to its long-serving Chairman, Sir John Sykes.
The Merchant's House is owned by the town and one of Sir John's last duties was to pay the annual rent to the Town Council. If anyone thought a 'peppercorn rent' was just a figment of the imagination of lawyers who cannot cope with a simple 'Nil', here was a small bag of the finest peppercorns to prove the rent was real.
The Town Mayor, Councillor Margaret Rose received the rent - watched by fellow councillors and many of those who over the years have been connected with the Merchant's House project.
Also watching were Mr and Mrs Bayly (who originally owned and decorated the house) and Preacher Proffett, the Puritan Rector of St Peter's Church. The first families to occupy the house were Puritans.
For this ceremony, Mr Thomas Bayly, a silk merchant of the 'middling classes' but with somewhat grand ideas, and his wife were played by Susan and Andy Pearson and the Preacher by David Sherratt.
Also welcomed at the ceremony was the Lord Lieutenant for Wiltshire, Mrs Sarah Troughton. She thanked all the volunteers, historians, conservators, restorers and Marlborough Town Council for their work on such a successful project. She raised a toast to the Trust and to Sir John - and Mrs Bayly presented her with an appropriately seventeenth century looking posy.
As what we might now call a 'middle class home' in a town setting, the role of the Merchant's House is a rarity both as a tourist attraction and a place for education. It gives us a totally different view of the household life of the times compared to the scores of aristocratic homes that are open to the public around the country.
Speaking at the ceremony, one of the Trust's patrons, James Ayres, who is an expert on English house interiors, made the point that one of the Trust's major achievements was that the conservation and renovation of the house and its garden has not been done too quickly.
The many people attending this anniversary celebration could see a large display of historic articles from the Merchant's House and a timeline highlighting the key events of the Trust' twenty-five year project to restore and maintain it.
The new Chairman of The Merchant's House Trust will be Clyde Nancarrow.