St John’s School is urging the Marlborough community to get behind an event in September to raise much-needed funds for Prospect Hospice. The Marlborough Starlight Walk, on the evening of Saturday, September 17, takes ladies on a fifteen kilometre night-time walk across local countryside.
The Starlight Walk will begin and end at the school on Granham Hill, and staff and students are keen to ensure the event is a success. “We have been promoting the walk with the students’ parents, through our newsletter and our regular email service,” says Kate Hunter, the school’s development officer.
“When the Hospice approached us, we were only too happy to say yes. The Hospice is a good local charity, and many of the students here will know someone who has been cared for either at the Hospice or by the Prospect Hospice team in the community, so this is the kind of project we are only too happy to support.”
Also joining in will be the team from Pabulum, the school’s contract catering firm. They’ll either be taking part in the walk or will be helping supply bacon rolls to welcome the walkers back at the end of their trek under the stars.
Kate hopes the support for the walk will signal the start of an ongoing relationship with Prospect Hospice. “Many of the students are taking their International Baccalaureate and, as part of that, they must complete 150 hours of creativity, action or service,” she says. And by supporting the Marlborough Starlight Walk as walkers or as volunteers on the night, they can notch up some of those hours.
Sheryl Crouch, Prospect’s head of fundraising, has expressed her thanks to the school for their support: “We’re very grateful to St John’s School for all they are doing to make our Marlborough Starlight event a success,” she says. “What we are really looking for now is for the ladies of Marlborough to step forward and get signed up.”
This is the event’s second year. Last year 170 women took part, raising just over £15,000. Sheryl hopes that “fantastic achievement” can be more than matched this year.
Prospect Hospice in Wroughton serves the Marlborough area and runs the ground-breaking Prospect at Home scheme which enables many people to spend their last days in their own home. The hospice needs to raise five million pounds a year before it can receive some top-up funding from the NHS.
To register for the Marlborough Starlight Walk, visit:
http://www.prospect-hospice.net/marlboroughstarlight or call 01793 816161. Registration costs £15, and it is hoped walkers will raise sponsorship of at least £100 each.
Plans to alleviate any future flooding of the River Kennet in the heart of Marlborough are to be considered by Marlborough town council at an extraordinary meeting on Wednesday.
The Environment Agency is proposing to build a three foot high floodwall on the banks of the river in Kennet Place, extending from the Town Mill bridge to the Old Ropeworks.
Town Mill under water in 2003
This was the area hit by flooding in January, 2003, and now the Agency is proposing a three-way partnership deal to cover the cost of the floodwall, thought to be in the region of £40,000.
The Environment Agency did consider flood defences for the Town Mill area itself as well as Culvermead Close, but decided there was only a one per cent chance that they might be directly affected.
It was hoped that Wiltshire Fire and Rescue would also be part of the partnership plan for Kennet Place, but the service, facing financial cut-backs, has now pulled out.
“Wiltshire Council has yet to decide its position but the Environmental Agency wants to go ahead with the work next year,” Liam Costello, Marlborough’s town clerk, told Marlborough News Online. “We have called a meeting to decide on our position.”
He added: “It may seem ironic that the Kennet is now at one of its lowest levels for many years -- with little fear of any flooding -- but rivers can always rise up suddenly.”
The annual Merchant’s Summer Lunch, held on Sunday in the grounds of Marlborough College, was attended by 125 guests and raised a record £2,500 for Marlborough’s Merchant’s House appeal.
Before the lunch, Sir John Sykes, chairman of the Merchant’s House trustees, invited guests to observe a minute’s silence in remembrance of the seventy-six Norwegians who died in the bombing and shooting tragedy in Oslo.
Sarsen Song Men
The Sarsen Song Men, a four part male voice choir (pictured with conductor Michael Reynolds) were among the entertainments provided, together with a Quirky Question Time, written and hosted by John Yates
An unusual panel of grumpy celebrities answered questions from the audience with hilarious results.
Brewin Dolphin sponsored the event, and the many local traders who donated prizes included Charlotte Quest, East, Majestic Wines, Primrose Lane, Rowlands, Tesco, Susie Watson Designs, The Food Gallery, The Merchant's House Shop and the Trust Office, The White Horse Book Shop, Viyella, as well as private donors.
Marlborough College and its separate Summer School should be allowed to advertise on posters behind its ornate gates, to attract people to the mainly artistic events it holds on its campus.
That was the decision of Marlborough town council’s planning committee this week when it voted overwhelmingly in favour of a planning application to allow temporary banners to be put on display on a 28-day revolving basis.
“We put up banners all the time on the town hall,” said Councillor Elizabeth Hannaford-Dobson, the committee chair. “I fear we are in danger of calling the kettle black by not allowing them to do it too.”
And the mayor, Councillor Alexander Kirk Wilson interjected that the council would be “rather precious” if it objected because the College is part of a conservation area.
“We are a vibrant town with things going on all the time,” he declared. “These banners are for attractive things going on and they need the publicity to show that we are an active town.”
Summer School events aimed at encouraging residents as well students from around the world to take part in its activities provide an important added value to the economic impact that the school has on the town.
The Summer School alone brings in more than 3,000 visitors to Marlborough, who fill local bed and breakfast establishments and now enjoy late night shopping.
None of the councillors appeared to be aware of the Schools' true value to Marlborough, in much the same way that the replacement of the Pewsey Road bridge was allowed to go ahead without any economic impact assessment taking place, to the detriment of the High Street shopping centre.
But Councillor Richard Pitts did pointed out: “These are wonderful events taking place and we should be encouraging them as much as we can.”
Elinor Goodman has been appointed to the official inquiry into the ‘phone hacking scandal.
Elinor, a former political editor of Channel 4 News, got the phone call asking her to join the inquiry team while she was at the Marlborough Jazz Festival on Saturday (July 17.)
Elinor, who has lived in the Marlborough area for many years, left Channel 4 News in 2005 and became chair of the Affordable Rural Housing Commission. Since then she has been heard regularly on BBC radio chairing The Week in Westminster and reporting for countryside and farming programmes.
She told Marlborough News Online: “The scandal has shown up the two poles of journalism – the high and the low. The question is how you stamp out the low without endangering the high which includes the kind of investigative journalism which has revealed this scandal.”
The inquiry, chaired by Lord Justice Leveson, will investigate the ethics and culture of the media as well as specific claims about hacking at the News of the World, the shortcomings of the initial police inquiry and allegations of illicit payments to police by the press.
And today (Wednesday, July 20) the prime minister, David Cameron added another element: he wants Lord Leveson to consider the limits on media ownership.
The first part of the inquiry – into the ethics and culture of the media – will start immediately. The inquiry into hacking and the police’s role will have to wait until the police investigation is completed.
The others on Lord Leveson’s inquiry panel are: Shami Chakrabarti (director of Liberty), Sir Paul Scott-Lee (former chief constable of the West Midlands), Lord Currie (former chair of the media regulator Ofcom), George Jones (former political journalist with the Daily Telegraph and the Press Association) and Sir David Bell (former chair of the Financial Times).
Elinor joined Channel 4 News when it (and Channel 4) began in 1982 – she was previously a political reporter on the Financial Times. She became political editor of Channel 4 News in 1988.
The Earl of Cardigan is challenging the removal of historic paintings from his home on the 4,500-acre Savernake Estate on the outskirts of Marlborough, insisting that the estate’s trustees had no legal right to remove “fixtures and fittings.”
The 58-year-old Earl claims there is no need to sell the paintings, among them works by Sir Joshua Reynolds and Sir Peter Lely, to recoup the cost of his divorce settlement with his wife, said to have put the estate £1 million in the red.
“There’s no need for them to sell them,” declares the Earl, whose indirect relative led the famous Charge of the Light Brigade. “The divorce has cost money but it’s merely a cash-flow problem.”
“The estate has dozens of valuable assets that we can borrow against.”
In an interview in The Lady magazine, he says too that when he signed a 20-year-old lease with the trustees for his current home, Savernake Lodge, they granted him the right to enjoy “all the fittings, fixtures and furnishings” therein.
“It’s ludicrous to say the paintings aren’t fittings, fixtures and furnishings,” the Earl protests. “And I should know. I fixed them on the walls myself.”
“If they’re allowed to get away with this, it’s logical that the trustees could strip me of everything – and leave me sitting here in an empty house.”
And pointing out the hooks of the 25 works of art that have been removed, he adds: “I felt like Mike Tyson had just clouted me. It’s like a burglary.”
“One of the works was a portrait of a young Lady Elizabeth Seymour by Sir Peter Lely. It was on the stairs, and I walked past it every morning and every night. It was a joy.”
“Successive generations of my family have handed it down for hundreds of years, and now it has been taken on my watch. That’s devastating.”
The Earl and his second wife, Joanne Hill, he points out, had to live in Savernake Lodge for 14 weeks without hot water and having to boil a kettle to do so, a situation that has now been remedied.
“There wasn’t even hot water in the guest bedrooms,” he says. “I blame the trustees who manage my estate. A simple pump has needed replacing since Maundy Thursday (in April), and they’ve only just done something about it.”
“Now I’ve got a leaking roof. It’s intolerable.”
Some of the now missing paintings were sold in April and will never be returned. A second Sotheby’s sale has however been halted after the Earl secured a last minute injunction.
The fate of the remaining 12 paintings will depend on a High Court hearing expected to be held in the coming months.
Gordon Olson, another respected Marlborough figure, who sent his two sons to Marlborough College, has hit out at the College’s bid to buy the Ivy House Hotel and convert it into a hostel for girl students.
He fears for the security of the female students who might live there from “roaming bands of drunks” in the High Street at night – as well as the detriment such a move would have on Marlborough’s tourism economy.
And he points out that the hotel would have a “viable and sustainable” future if it were taken over by the celebrity chef Marco Pierre White backed by the insurance financier Robert Hiscox, the current High Sheriff of Wiltshire.
Mr Olson has followed Sir John Sykes in sending a protest letter to the Bristol-based Planning Inspectorate, one in which he declares: “The College rightly takes the security of its students very seriously.”
“Replication of that level of security in Marlborough High Street, in which the Ivy House is prominently located, would be difficult and potentially intrusive for the townspeople and visitors going about their legitimate business.”
“A new build within the school’s existing perimeter, which the Deputy Master (Peter Bryan) has publicly stated to be an option available to the College, would pose no such new problems.”
“Marlborough has a continuing problem with late night drinking by young people at weekends in its many bars and clubs. This leads to the frequent presence of roaming bands of drunks in the High Street.”
“A girls’ boarding house in their midst would be a new and unwelcome target for public disorder, putting further avoidable pressure on the Wiltshire constabulary in its ongoing attempts to control this undesirable state of affairs.”
Mr Olson is the retired founder and managing director of Swindon-based Kinesis, the software house that was lead sponsor of the Marlborough Jazz Festival for five years in the nineties.
His sons were at Marlborough College earlier when Mr Olson, now a permanent Marlborough resident, was managing director and a board member of Logica, the internationally-famed technology company.
Mr Olson claims that the loss of the Ivy House Hotel would damage the town’s tourism economy, eliminating 28 of the 61 hotel rooms available in Marlborough, thus reducing the current estimated revenue -- from Wiltshire Council’s own figures -- of between £1.2 million and £1.8 million.
“The proposed conversion would, however, bring zero net contribution to the town’s economy,” he points out. “This is because the economic inputs that would result from any future expansion of the College’s boarding population would be delivered equally, whether those students were accommodated in the Ivy House or in a purpose built boarding house within the school’s existing perimeter.”
And he adds: “Both the College and the hotel’s owner, Hunts Food Services, have claimed that it is not viable as a hotel and that no purchaser could be found for it.”
“I understand that occupancy rates are above 80 per cent and that under its previous ownership by experienced hoteliers it yielded annual profits in the region of £200,000.”
“At the Wiltshire Council meeting on 14th July a Hunts’ director, Mr Michael Douch, stated that his company had made no investment in the Ivy House subsequent to purchasing it in 2008, hardly a recipe for success in a market with growing expectations of the services and facilities it should find in upmarket boutique hotels.”
“Hunts no longer offers dining in the Ivy House, with the sole exception of a breakfast service. It is now a matter of public record that Marco Pierre White, as hotelier, and Robert Hiscox, as financier, have come forward to state their interest in owning and operating the Ivy House as part of the Wheelers group of boutique hotels.”
“We can assume that, given their impeccable credentials in their respective fields of business, they would not have done so if they had not judged the hotel to be viable and sustainable.”
Sir John Sykes, one of Marlborough’s leading residents, has made a passionate plea for the rejection of the bid by Marlborough College to buy the grade II listed Ivy House Hotel and convert it into a boarding house for girl students.
A planning inquiry is due later this year to decide the College’s application for a change of use for the 18th century property, whose retention as a hotel is now backed by both Wiltshire Council and Marlborough town council.
But the College, whose female students in the past have included the royal bride Kate Middleton, the new Duchess of Cambridge, and prime minister David Cameron’s wife, Samantha, is believed to have increased its offer for the hotel to £1.8 million.
As plans to launch one or possibly two public petitions were being discussed this week, Sir John, a long-standing resident who is chairman of The Merchant’s House Trust and vice-chairman of the Marlborough Literary Festival, produced his own blast in the campaign.
Sir John Sykes
“The demise of the Ivy House Hotel would be a huge nail in the coffin of a beleaguered High Street where there are currently several empty shops and continual sales by those still in business,” declared Sir John in a letter to the Planning Inspectorate, based in Bristol.
“Of the accommodation currently available in the town, the Ivy House has 28 bedrooms or 40 per cent of the hotel spaces, pubs providing accommodation have 24 bedrooms in total, and other bed and breakfast accommodation no more than five.”
“Marlborough entertains a huge number of visitors, especially during the summer, the vast majority of whom are day visitors but many would be happy to stay overnight if there was suitable accommodation and so would bring much-needed extra income to the town’s economy instead of pressing on to find accommodation elsewhere.”
Sir John pointed out: “I am writing to object strongly to the application by Marlborough College for change of use of the premises from hotel to school boarding house.”
“Marlborough is at the heart of a tourist area of great importance besides being a considerable attraction in its own right. It is renowned for its history, the beauty of its High Street and its cultural life.”
“The internationally known Jazz Festival recently attracted around 4,000 visitors over a weekend. The first Literary Festival held last year was applauded by speakers and audiences alike and will be bigger and even better this year. The outstanding 17th century Merchant’s House has some 2,500 visitors each year. The redundant but multi-functional St Peter’s Church has even more.”
“There is a constant round of concerts, lectures, films, even opera. But without sufficient hotel beds these venues and events reach a ceiling very quickly.”
He said that the value of Ivy House Hotel lies primarily in its central location in Marlborough High Street, adding: “This means that visitors can dine, if not at the hotel then at any of the excellent restaurants in the centre of town and do not have to abstain from drinking or hire a taxi to get to their bed for the night.”
“It has been described as a failing business but I have been reliably informed that in the recent past it has had on average an 87 per cent occupancy rate and up to 10,000 visitors each year. If there is a failure, it is one of management.” “Significantly, from comments made by over 200 visitors to the hotel over a period of six months from August 2010 to February 2011, its excellent location came out top over cleanliness, comfort, services, staff and value for money. Guests' criticisms of the latter have increased this year.”
“The fact that at least two reputable and successful hoteliers have recently, and independently of one another, shown great interest in acquiring and refurbishing the premises as a going concern, speaks for itself.”
“The case for retaining and reviving this vital town asset is obvious and the need urgent.”
Tory town councillor Martin Houlden announced his surprise resignation last night because he has moved his family – and his computer technology business – out of Marlborough to a new location in Dorset.
Mr Houlden, who stood as an independent conservative against Claire Perry in last year’s general election, subsequently became a member of Marlborough town council in a by-election last August.
In his election leaflet for Marlborough West Ward he declared: “I think my local knowledge and business experience would be a useful addition to the town council.”
“Proud of our town, I want to ensure it continues to be a nice place to live, with its rich history and unique character.”
But he told colleagues at the end of last night’s Planning Committee meeting that family problems to do with housing and his children’s education has resulted in him moving out of Marlborough – and Wiltshire too.
“I had hoped to be able to continue serving on the council, but as I no longer have an office here, and consequently am not in the town five days a week like before, I feel that I cannot continue to represent the people of the town to the level that they deserve,” he said in a statement.
“And so it is with regret that tomorrow I shall be resigning from the town council and will inform Wiltshire Council at the same time.”
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank the council staff and, of course, council colleagues. The last year has certainly been an experience. Please let me wish all of you the very best for the future.”
Mr Houlden, 38, married with two children, had this year proposed a computer-controlled programme to solve parking problems. He had also been criticised for his views concerning traveller sites in the area.
The mayor, Councillor Alexander Kirk-Wilson, told him: “I would like to thank you ever so much for bringing a young spirit into the town. We will seriously miss your absence.”
The first of 3,000 brochures for Marlborough’s second literary festival went on display this week as the box office opened for the sale of tickets for a splendid array of exciting events due in September.
They include the appearance of a range of poets, debut novelists, acclaimed biographers and specialists, among them Sir Michael Holroyd, Deborah Moggach, Anna Sebba, David Edgar, Lauren Child and Marlborough’s own George Orwell expert, Professor Peter Davison.
Judy Golding (pictured), daughter of the Nobel laureate and Lord of the Flies author Sir William Golding, who grew up in Marlborough, will be talking about her family memoir, The Children of Lovers, and former Marlborough mayor Nick Fogg about his forthcoming book on Shakespeare.
“Marlborough is the town that hosts the festival, literature from everywhere is its guest,” novelist Mavis Cheek, who inspired the first festival last year, told Marlborough News Online. “It's such a delight to be able to invite wonderful writers to the town.
“We may be provincial in setting, but we are never provincial in outlook.”
And she added: “The importance of this four-day event is that -- thanks to both its national and local sponsors -- it is not bound by any commercial considerations. The best literature never is - and this is wonderfully reflected in our 2012 programme.
“As G K Chesterton put it, 'While thought exists, words are alive and literature becomes an escape, not from, but into living'.
“Our tag, when we began, was that this would be a Festival Where Literature Comes Alive and it has honourably lived up to that maxim. At the Marlborough LitFest it is never who you are that matters, but what you write.
“And we're sticking to that!”
Brochures for the festival, which runs from September 22 to 25, are initially available at The Merchant’s House and the White Horse Bookshop, the latter offering tickets too, as well as on the festival’s own website, www.marlboroughlitfest.org.
Brochures will also become available at Marlborough town hall, Marlborough public library, at St John’s School and other outlets.