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News

London buyers rush to buy haven home of royal portrait painter – for £2.5 million

Pound House, Oare, the magnificent country house near Marlborough created out of a field by the late royal portrait painter John Merton and his wife Penelope, is up for sale – at £2,500,000.

And there is a rush of interested buyers, mainly from London and with no lack of cash, interested in the single-storey property set in 6.9 acres on the edge of a pond with views across the Pewsey Vale.

Pound House - in its magnificent Pewsey Vale setting

Eton-educated Merton, who died in February, aged 97, two years after his wife Penelope, painted a remarkable triple portrait of Princess Diana when she was 25, which hangs in Cardiff City Hall.

That was five years after her marriage to Prince Charles, and when the Prince of Wales subsequently visited Cardiff City Hall with the Duchess of Cornwall in 2005, the painting was temporarily – and controversially, removed.

Merton described Princess Diana as “undoubtedly the most beautiful woman I have painted.”  And he made an official silverpoint drawing of the Queen, which is now in the Royal Collection, and painted acclaimed portraits of aristocratic and rich society women and was often exhibited at the Royal Academy summer show.

Now his two daughters are selling the house that was their parents prized and very private hideaway haven for more than 30 years through Devizes agents Winkworth.

Claire Markwell told Marlborough News Online: “It’s an absolutely lovely property, a very special house. And we have had an amazing amount of interest from people, mainly those who want to leave the rat race in London and move to the country.”

“Many of them have children whom they want to grow up in the country and to go to local schools, not places like Marlborough College, but the schools in the area.”

And she added: “There may be an economic decline at the moment but there still appears to be a lot of money sloshing around at the top of the end of the market. And that’s where the interest is coming from.”

“We are optimistic that we will find a buyer.”

Built in 1962, Pound House is situated at the end of a single-track lane, and sits in a secluded oasis surrounded by a fine collection of beautiful and rare mature trees, a large ornamental pond together with a wide variety of wildfowl and extensive gardens planted from scratch.

The property has an Italianate feel to it and is single storey, but despite this the rooms have large proportions with good ceiling height, giving a sense of space and light.  Mainly red brick, the house is accentuated with flint inlays and a palisaded roof.  

It was extended in 1976 when Merton’s own studio plus a large tropical garden were added. A second storey could easily be added, subject to planning consent, which would allow a new owner to create an imposing country home of more than 6,000 sq ft.

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Town hall exhibition to view plans for the Wiltshire of tomorrow

Wiltshire Council, now seeking the views of residents across the county on two of its core strategies for the future, is staging an exhibition at Marlborough town hall next Wednesday (June 29).

The first strategy outlines the number of jobs and homes needed in Wiltshire over the next 15 years and the second makes proposals for the location of new waste management facilities across Wiltshire and Swindon.

The Marlborough town hall event will run from 2.30 – 8.00pm and will take the form of an exhibition at which council officers will be on hand to answer any questions and take note of comments made on the consultation exercise, which will remain open until August 8.


Alternatively, hard copies of the documents can be viewed in the council’s offices in Chippenham (Monkton Park), Devizes (Browfort), Salisbury (Milford Street) and Trowbridge (County Hall and Bradley Road) as well as all local libraries.


For further information on the Wiltshire Core Strategy consultation document please telephone 01225 713489 or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Two new money saving energy schemes to be unveiled in Marlborough

New energy schemes aimed at helping people to save money are to be launched in Marlborough next week (June 29) by Wiltshire Council’s  Marlborough Area Board.

It is hosting an Energy Awareness Event to provide people with useful advice and to launch two major new money saving schemes.

The council is hoping people will take advantage of the new energy monitor and home insulations schemes as they could help save households hundreds of pounds every year.

Cabinet member for the environment, Toby Sturgis, says: “Summer is the ideal time to start looking at ways to make your home more energy efficient. If you make a start now you could start saving money on your fuel bills as soon as the weather starts turning colder.

“Rising fuel costs are a problem for many people. So we are asking as many people as possible to come to this  event so we  can show the many ways people can  make their  homes more energy efficient and save money at the same time.”

More households could be entitled to have free loft and cavity wall insulation, thanks to the council’s new Wiltshire Warm and Well home insulation scheme.

The council has received funding to insulate around 1,000 homes and is open to private tenants and home owners who are elderly or on a low income, who can have their lofts and cavity walls insulation for free.

Another way people can save money is to monitor how much energy they use.

Residents can now borrow free monitors from libraries to show them just how much money they are spending on electricity.

Marlborough Area Board chairman, Chris Humphries, says: “I hope lots of people come to our energy awareness event to learn more about these two schemes. It’s also an excellent opportunity to receive free general advice on how to save money in these difficult economic times.

“People can speak to our specially trained home energy efficient officers and the Citizens Advice Bureau will be on hand to help people who are having problems paying their fuel bills.”

The Marlborough Energy Awareness Event will be held at Marlborough Library from 10.30am to 2.30pm.

If residents cannot attend the event and would like more information about the new home insulation scheme, they can call the local Energy Advice Service on the freephone number 0800 512 012.

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BBC’s Anna Quarendon is new chair of the Marlborough Brandt Group

Anna Quarendon is taking over as chair of the Marlborough Brandt Group (MGB).  She succeeds former diplomat Tim David who has come to the end of his four year term.

MBG was founded thirty years ago and its main aim has been to maintain and develop Marlborough’s link with the village of Gunjur in The Gambia.  Anna visited Gunjur in January last year and soon afterwards became one of the group’s trustees.

Anna is a senior producer at BBC Wiltshire and has lived in the county for last twenty-six years.  She’s worked for the radio station since 1999 and is currently producing the daily Morning Show.

For more about Anna Quarendon, see our profile of her in Marlborough News Online’s features section: “How the 80th birthday of Anna Quarendon’s mother was celebrated in Africa.”

Her appointment as chair was ratified at the group’s annual general meeting on Thursday. Anita Bew, who is the group’s secretary and first visited Gunjur in 1985 and since 1990 has been there at least once a year, told Marlborough News Online:

“I am delighted Anna is our new chair. She’s got lots of ideas – especially about fund raising. She’ll be a breath of fresh air – she’ll be great.”

One of Anna’s first tasks will be to welcome six Gunjurians on a month long visit to Marlborough. They arrive on Tuesday (June 21), will be staying with hosts in the area and learning about life here. 

They will spend time at the College and at St John’s School – and are going on a geography field trip with St John’s students to Lulworth in Devon.  They will be guests of honour at  MBG’s Summer Garden Party held next Sunday (June 26) in the beautiful gardens of the Master’s Lodge at the college.

Anna looks forward to their visit – and to her four years as MBG’s chair:  “I will not forget my visit to Gunjur, and I hope their visit to Marlborough will be similarly memorable.”

“It’s taken a lot of hard work to get them here and it will take a lot of hard work to achieve some of the other ambitions we might have, but let’s be ambitious.  I hope we can make the next four years fruitful. I’m looking forward to it.”

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Make Remembrance Day a bank holiday says Tory MP Claire Perry

Marlborough MP Claire Perry today (Wednesday) introduced a 10 Minute Rule Bill in the House of Commons proposing that Remembrance Day be made into a permanent Bank Holiday in tribute to our armed forces.

She told Marlborough News Online: “Having one national bank holiday to pay tribute to our armed forces would be the best way to bring together the people of the United Kingdom to support the military now and in the future.”

“Many other major countries recognise the contributions of their current and former service personnel in this way and I think it is time that we did too.”

In the Commons, she declared:  “This Bill would consolidate and entrench long-term public support for our armed forces.  My constituency of Devizes includes many of the Salisbury plain garrison towns and is home to more than 10,000 members of the armed forces and at least the same number of service family members.”

And she added:  “My father, both grandfathers and my great-grandfather served in the British Army.  I am therefore particularly proud to wear a poppy in early November, sport various charity wristbands, attend homecomings and parades in both Westminster and Wiltshire, observe the silence at 11 am on Armistice Day, and to lay a wreath on Remembrance Sunday.

“Indeed, laying a wreath at the Devizes war memorial last November was one of the most solemn and thought-provoking moments of my new career as a Member of Parliament.”

“I am also proud to support armed forces day, introduced more than two years ago and held in late June.  I know that in all of this support I am joined by Members on both sides of the House and millions of people across the country.”

 “But I fear that with all of these initiatives and opportunities to show our support we have perhaps fragmented that support—diluted the brand.  And many events happen at weekends when working families—as I know for myself—can face as many time pressures as they do during the week, sometimes making their participation in weekend events difficult.”

“I am also concerned that while we have seen a real upwelling of support for the armed forces in the last few years, due in no small part to the tireless work of the Royal British Legion who are Britain’s ‘custodians of remembrance’, as well as the work of charities such as Help for Heroes—headquartered in my constituency—SSAFA and the Army Benevolent Fund, when our soldiers return home from their current operations it may be difficult to keep this momentum going and to ensure that we as a country deliver on our obligations under the military covenant.”

“A day set aside in our busy calendars for remembrance, support and celebration of our armed forces would help to keep the support alive in the future.”

She pointed that her proposal was not a “radical” suggestion as many other countries pay tribute to their armed forces with a national holiday, in particular New Zealand, where her husband was born, which celebrates Anzac Day.

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Rare black poplar trees found growing on Marlborough water meadow

A botanical survey has discovered rare black poplar trees growing on the 15-acre Stonebridge Meadow, which Marlborough town council bought for £150,000 six months ago in a bid to save the town’s heritage.

It did so on the initiative of ARK, which covered half the cost of the meadow thanks to the generosity of a group of private donors.

Now the council’s Amenities and Open Spaces Committee is to urge the council to go ahead, in partnership with ARK, with a major project to manage the land on the banks of the River Kennet and introduce new activities.

And part of the cost of the plan will come from selling off additional strips of land to the owners of four houses that border the site, the sale of which will part pay for the project, the vast majority of the funding coming from environmental grant awarding bodies.

The committee was told on Monday that the project, being managed in association with ARK, is currently the subject of an environmental impact study carried out by the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

“The most significant finds on the meadow are eight native female black poplars on the southern bank of the river Kennet,” says a report by the Wiltshire Botanical Society following a visit to the water meadow in May.

“Although there are many hybrid black poplars in England, native black poplars are now very rare with an estimated 7,000 male ones and 600 female trees, most of which are old and decaying.”

“Other female black poplars have been found in the Cotswold Water Park and Gareth Harris of the Water Park Trust has been working on propagating these trees.  The trees in Stonebridge Meadow have low easy reach branches, which make them ideal as donor plants for propagation. They are also host to a rare gall (Pemphigus).”

Councillor Richard Pitts (pictured), the newly-elected committee chairman, told Marlborough News Online: “This whole project needs careful consideration and that is why we are seeking the best possible advice.”

“But it is important that we do not lose momentum in making it happen and we shall be recommending the town council to go ahead with the scheme when it meets at the end of the month.”

Claire Perry, Marlborough’s MP, visited the site last month at the invitation of ARK and gave her support for imaginative new uses for the meadow.

They range from the introduction of catch-and-release fishing for wild brown trout found in the chalk stream Kennet, itself a rare river, and a place for dog walkers to the introduction of banded Galloway cattle.

A management plan is now being worked on. Funding will also be an issue but it is hoped that the AONB and possibly the Heritage Lottery will make substantial contributions.

“Both ARK and the town council are very interested to hear the views of residents on how this meadow might be managed and encouraged to enjoy an even higher level of environmental diversity and quality,” added Councillor Pitts.

Charlotte Hitchmough, director of ARK, told Marlborough News Online: “We are now jointly working on a management plan supported by funding from the AONB.  The plan will carefully consider the best use of the river and the land, with the preservation of wildlife habitat and green space as the priority.”

“The project at Stonebridge Meadows  is a continuation of the work ARK has been doing along the river to improve access for people at the same time as preserving this beautiful chalk stream.”

“As part of the process we will be interviewing local people to find out what they would like to see on the meadow, and we are establishing a Stonebridge Meadow Stewards group of local people who would like to  help to care for the river and land. This is very much a community project.”

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Volunteers urgently needed to man Marlborough’s new tourism centre

An urgent plea to help find twenty or more volunteers to man Marlborough’s new information and tourist centre went out to members of the town’s Chamber of Commerce at its annual meeting last week.

The centre, to be launched in what was the Mayor’s Parlour at Marlborough town hall, is being set up in the wake of Wiltshire Council’s shock decision to close its public library-based tourist information centre (TIC), leaving visitors to the town stranded.

A loan from the town council will enable Marlborough activist Val Compton and two former TIC staff to start again, but they will need the backing of volunteers to maintain a full service and the support of hotels, restaurants, pubs and shops to succeed.

Wiltshire currently spends £500,000 supporting the website Visit Wiltshire, which lists just one Marlborough hotel and one pub restaurant because its subscription charges are exorbitant compared to the modest fees to be charged by the new Marlborough TIC.

“This clearly was a crazy situation and it wasn’t difficult to see the knock on effect to our local economy,” Val told the town hall meeting. “Tourists need to feel valued, they want to meet and like to talk to someone who knows about local things.

“And, of course, there are still many who want to talk about the fact that ‘Kate Middleton woz ‘ere’ – as a student at Marlborough College.

“You may not be aware of what the TIC officers do for your business, because when customers arrive to find that folding chair, those walking sandals, the sun cream they forgot to buy, the instant BBQ kit and so forth, they don’t announce to you that the TIC told them where they would find the products.

“The value of a manned TIC, dispensing huge amounts of local knowledge, is really not recognised because it is almost impossible to quantify.”

And she added: “At this stage, although we might like to lash out at Wiltshire, there is no point and there certainly is no time. We need to form a connection with the Chamber of Commerce in order to harness your energy to go in into supporting this project.

“Right now, we are effectively starting a new business with no money. We have no cash to fund the stock at present. But I’m sure that somehow finance will appear – because I’m an irrepressible optimist.”

She appealed to members to think up ways of helping the new TIC and urged: “Spread the word that we are trying to plug the gaping hole that Wiltshire Council has left in this town.

“And please also find and send us volunteers because, without them, we are not going to survive the summer.”
Anyone who can help should email Liam Costello atThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it."> This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Cycling for charity – is it the new jumble sale?

The great revival in cycling over the last few years can be put down to many causes.  There is of course the inspiration of the success of British cyclists in international events right up to the Olympics.

Some people take up cycling for their health, some for the company and some to save on petrol costs.  And many, many more are now using their new pastime as an efficient means to raise money for charity – more appealing to many than the jumble sale.

Next Sunday (June 26) sees the annual Dartmoor Classic, a non-commercial Cyclosportive event organised by the mid-Devon cycling club.  And one of the teams taking part comes from the Pewsey Vale.

They call themselves the Fat Lads and are raising money in memory of two local people who died recently from cancer.  Patrick Walmsley was a popular and respected member of the local community who had been Chairman of Woodborough parish council and a regular player with the Wilcot cricket club’s Sunday side.

Sue Cordel lived in West Lavington for fifteen years, worked locally as a solicitor for Wincanton Logistics in Chippenham and was an active supporter of the Avonvale pony club.

The ten strong team (six of them are pictured left) of Patrick and Sue’s friends will be tackling the gruelling 65 mile circuit along the twisting lanes and over the exposed hills of Dartmoor and north Devon.  They won’t be lonely: the event has 2,500 entrants from afar afield as Merseyside, the Metropolitan Police Cycle Club and Shropshire.

There’s also a team from the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Cycling Association.  But they’re doing the even more daunting 106 mile circuit.

The Pewsey Vale team has been in serious training since the beginning of the year.  One of the cyclists, David Rees who is a director at Pewsey-based Innecto Reward Consulting, finished the course last year in six hours and fourteen minutes.

David says: “We are really just a bunch of guys in our 40s and 50s who like beer and chips – so this event is a challenge. But we’re doing it for a very good cause.”

“The Prospect Hospice and the Dorothy House Hospice were a great support to Patrick, Sue and their families and we and to help provide them both, as well as Cancer Research, with funds to continue their excellent work.”
The Pewsey Vale team aims to raise £2,500 through sponsorship.  To sponsor them and find out more about the event go to http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/FatLadsDoingitforPatrick

You can find details of other cycling events for charity in the What’s On section of Marlborough News Online.

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Town came close to having no Christmas lights

Marlborough came within a whisker of not having Christmas lights this year, it was revealed last night (Thursday).

At the annual general meeting of Marlborough Chamber of Commerce, estate agent Jonathan Conning, a committee member of the Marlborough Christmas Lights Association, revealed fundraisers had become so exasperated with trying to get retailers to make donations towards the festive display, they had almost given up.

“We'd be going back ten or twelve times to businesses with lights outside of their shops just to get a tenner. They'd be asking questions like 'why are the lights blue?' and we felt like saying 'give us ten grand and you can have whatever colour you like',” said Mr Conning.

“We held race nights which raised £300. That's a lot of race nights to fund the lights.

“We had donations from the entire business community of £1,000 last year – and £500 of that was from one donor.

“We asked all of the retailers to set up a direct debit of £25 or £30 a year to support the lights – we've had not one response.

“It breaks our hearts, because we put so much effort into it. I'm an estate agent. I don't benefit from Christmas; December is my worst month. Only one committee member is a retailer. We do it because we want Marlborough to be vibrant at that dark time of year.”

And Mr Conning revealed just how close the town had come to having no lights at all in 2011. “We came close to saying 'sod it',” he admitted.

“The idea was to not put any lights up this year, and to say 'okay traders, you don't want to support it, we totally understand'.”

It was revealed that a greatly-reduced Christmas lights display will be erected this year, funded entirely by Marlborough council tax payers – a decision Cllr Richard Pitts admitted would upset some voters and be accepted by many, admitting “We're damned if we do, and damned if we don't.”

The Parade will not be lit this year, and neither will the High Street shops behind St Peter's Church.

The main length of High Street will, however, enjoy a Christmas lights display after the committee 'turned the funding approach on its head' and asked Wheelers, the Pewsey-based company which erects, dismantles and stores the lights, what could be achieved with the £8,000 donation guaranteed by Marlborough Town Council.

Marlborough Christmas Lights Association was formed in 2007, when the role of putting up Christmas lights was relinquished by Marlborough Chamber of Commerce, which had faced exactly the same funding problems.

The blue and white lights display was inspired by the previous year's Oxford Street display, which Mr Conning described as 'classy'. In the first year £24,000 was raised to buy, erect, dismantle and store the new lights, but donations from the local business community have fallen year on year.

The estimated cost of providing a display this year was put at £20,000, including the erection, dismantling and storage costs of £10,000, insurance, and the cost of replacing each bulb every year – as changing a bulb once the display is up costs twice as much as changing every bulb prior to erection.

After the meeting, a huddle of retailers discussed a way forward, while Cllr Pitts offered to host a meeting to bring interested parties together.

  • More news from the Marlborough Chamber of Commerce AGM next week.

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Three Marlborough sites nominated for Queen’s diamond jubilee challenge

Three local playing field sites in Marlborough are to be nominated by the town council for the Queen Elizabeth II Fields Challenge being held to mark the Queen’s diamond jubilee next year.

The aim is to protect 2012 playing fields in communities across the country to secure recreational spaces for community events, some 20 sports fields in Wiltshire and Swindon being included in the project.

Prince William has agreed to be patron of the Challenge as a tribute to the Queen and to mark the London Olympics.

Marlborough’s Salisbury Road recreation ground, the Jubilee Field at Manton and the proposed railway walk from Marlborough to Swindon have been identified as the town’s candidates for the Challenge.

“The project has been conceived to stop people flogging off playing fields,” explained Marlborough’s mayor, Councillor Alexander Kirk Wilson.

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Great Western Hospital reacts to care failings highlighted in a snap inspection

An action plan has been adopted by Swindon’s Great Western Hospital following failings found by the Care Quality Commission, which visited the hospital unannounced in April and discovered shortcomings.

The inspectors concentrated on the hospital’s Neptune and Jupiter wards for older people and report their concern over the lack of “dignity and respect” shown to some patients.

“Overall, the hospital received positive feedback and recognition for the good standards of care being provided,” says a hospital press release.

“The report acknowledges the positive comments made by patients on how well they were being treated by our staff and the choice and quality of meals the hospital provides.”

However, the report highlighted some areas where the hospital needs to “focus on improving the care we provide”.

The key concerns were in relation to the dignity and respect of patients occupying extra bed spaces in some of the bays, where there is a need to ensure provision of equitable facilities for these patients by providing bed screens and call bells.

“The report also highlighted the need to ensure that the quality of care associated with nutritional assessments, documentation of nutritional care plans and access to call bells and PALS information is consistent across all wards,” adds the press release.

In response, Sue Rowley, director of nursing and midwifery, says: “The report provides a useful snapshot of care on two wards at GWH on a single day and highlights many areas where we are performing well, such as treating patients with respect, ensuring that they share accommodation only with people of the same sex, and that patients are offered a choice of food.

“However, the report does highlight a number of issues in relation to privacy and dignity and nutrition. We are disappointed that on this day there were some areas of our care which the Commission felt needed to be improved and we take that feedback very seriously.”

“We now have an action plan to address these issues. Our staff work hard to provide the best care for patients and service users and we will always look for ways we can do things better.”

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