With the fun and frolics of the royal wedding receding, Marlborough’s mayor, Councillor Andrew Ross, heaped praise on the small army of town councillors and volunteers who made it a day to remember.
The party atmosphere was great and there was a real buzz about the place,” the Mayor told Marlborough News Online as the celebrations ended with a barn dance in Priory Gardens. “People seemed to know that the whole country was celebrating a royal event, one that for us had real local links with the town."
Few us ever thought that one of the students from Marlborough College might find herself marrying a royal prince, and perhaps one day take her place on the throne. But I doubt if Kate Middleton did when she was studying here in Marlborough before going to university and meeting Prince William.”
And he added: “Our events were very much a last-minute affair, led by special committee set up by the Town Council, which has never done anything quite like this before. The result was unbelievable because of the combined help of small band of people, who worked extremely hard."
“I want to thank everyone involved for their tremendous support and hard work in making the occasion such a success – a real day of romance, pageantry and fun to remember.”
The day began, writes Pete Davison, with life-sized effigies of Prince William and Kate Middleton greeting visitors to Marlborough Town Hall for the screening of the Royal Wedding and the start of the town's celebrations.
More than 100 members of the public chose to spend the occasion at the Town Hall – and for the town council the event marked the unveiling of its new state-of-the-art cinema screen and sound system.
Most dressed for the occasion - some ladies wore posh frocks and hats, other people were decked out in patriotic red, white and blue. There was much coo-ing at Kate's Sarah Burton dress and a few tears during the vows.
Like any wedding, there were pre-event nerves and a few hiccups – as guests started to arrive at Westminster Abbey, Marlborough's television reception decided to intermittently cut out.
Thankfully, by the time Kate was escorted through the Abbey door by her father, uninterrupted coverage had been resumed.
In town, those traders who had opened were reporting a sluggish trade, but many were doing what they could do entice shoppers through the doors.
In the afternoon, the attention turned to the Priory Gardens where a party was held for the town's children in a giant marquee, with a show by entertainer Roy's Magic.
More than 120 children soon arrived for a bonanza tea party, scoffing Greggs sausage rolls, Tesco provided sandwiches and Waitrose cakes.
They proved more than anything that they had energy galore to go on a royal rampage as they enjoyed jumping down a huge helter skelter and were on their bottoms in a blown-up Bouncy Castle. And volunteer sixth form students from St John’s School helped to make the afternoon a hit.
The same energy was evident in the evening as more than 100 people took part in a royal barn dance after consuming beef burger rolls and queuing for much in demand hog roast baps at a barbecue.
The delicious hog, which had been provided by the Austrian Count Konrad de Goethe, proprietor of Temple Farm, near Rockley, had been slowly roasted all afternoon in preparation for them.
Even the Mayor helped out behind the bar during the royal day. The last two barrels of Ramsbury brewed Will I Do beer were consumed, together with fizzy celebratory wine.
“I didn’t get home until well after midnight – and totally exhausted,” the Mayor revealed.
Main Pic: L to R - Duncan Hames (LibDem, Chippenham), Claire Perry (Con, Devizes), Michael Crick (BBC Newsnight)
There was a BBC satellite uplink van parked outside the Wellington Arms in the High Street on Tuesday evening. The pub was hosting a live section of BBC2’s Newsnight programme for a debate about the referendum on whether voting in general elections should change from ‘first past the post’ to the ‘alternative vote’ or AV system.
The programme’s political editor, Michael Crick, presented a report and a live interview with Claire Perry (Conservative MP for Devizes – against AV) and Duncan Hames (LibDem MP for Chippenham (in favour of AV.)
Newsnight chose these Wiltshire constituency MPs because uniquely in Britain the county’s electors will be going to the polls solely to vote in the referendum. In other parts of the country there are local government and regional assembly elections on the same day.
This means the turnout in Wiltshire on 5 May will be a clear barometer of interest in the decision on the voting system.
Earlier in the day Crick and his team had tested public opinion in Marlborough at the golf club, a pottery class in Wagon Yard and in the High Street.
The future of Marlborough’s grade two listed Ivy House Hotel is in limbo following a clash of views between Wiltshire Council’s top officers over whether it should become a boarding house for girls from nearby Marlborough College.
The result of a planning application by the College for change of use of the 28-bed High Street hotel, one of only three in the town, was to have been decided by the council’s Regulatory Committee last week.
The final decision had been adjourned in February to allow its economic impact assessment officer, Peter Wheelhouse, to prepare a report following protests by Marlborough’s jazz and literary festival organisations that it would be a disaster for the vitality of the town to lose essential tourist accommodation.
His report recommended the rejection of the planning application for the Georgian property to house 50 girl students from the College, in direct contradiction to the recommendation of planning officer Mike Wilmot to give the hostel project the go ahead.
The committee had agreed to seek an economic impact assessment following representations from Marlborough Chamber of Commerce and the North Wilts Economic Partnership.
But when the committee met in Devizes last Thursday committee chairman, Councillor Charles Howard, revealed that the application had been taken off the agenda on the advice of the council’s legal department and was now “in abeyance”.
Jazz festival founder Nick Fogg, a Marlborough town councillor and also a member of Wiltshire Council, had led the protests against the conversion, was present at the meeting.
“The planning application is in limbo for the moment, kicked into the long grass with little chance of its revival,” he told Marlborough News Online. “I suppose the College could take some form of legal action or go through the whole process again with a different planning officer involved. We shall have to wait and see.”
He revealed: “I talked to the committee chairman after the meeting and it appears that what has happened has put the application legally out of order. The council’s legal department has said that this is because there is a direct conflict of interest between the views of the two council officers involved.
“The chairman has asked Mr Wilmot to try to resolve the issue between himself and Mr Wheelhouse, but this can’t be done unless one of them backs down and suffers some humiliation to their professional status.”
And he added: “One of the difficulties is that Mr Wilmot is said to have passed on to the College the contents of the economic impact assessment report in advance of the meeting and allowed the College to put in an addendum to their application.”
At the previous hearing, Peter Bryan, director of corporate resources and deputy master at the College, had pointed out that Ivy House started life as a school. He said the purchase of the hotel was part of a plan to increase the size of the College, which would help the vitality of Marlborough.
Following last week’s meeting, Mr Bryan told Marlborough News Online: “Clearly Marlborough College will need to consider its position and take advice before deciding upon what to do next.”
Mr Howard later told Marlborough News Online:
"Would you please note that the application to the Eastern Area planning committee has been deferred for consideration at a later date. The announcement that I made to the committee, as chairman, and word for word, was as follows:
As many of you already know, item one on the list of applications has been deferred for consideration at a later date. This is following legal advice about some of the material in the report prepared by the council's economic development team.”
Steam buffs gathered along the Bristol to London Paddington rail line on Easter Sunday to watch a former Great Western Railway express locomotive pass through the Marlborough area.
The Great Britain IV was pulled by various locomotives through Scotland, Wales and the west country as part of a nine-day tour of the UK.
It's final leg, from Bristol Temple Meads to London Paddington, saw it pulled by the 5029 Nunney Castle.
The Nunney Castle has a strong local heritage. It was built at the Swindon Works in 1934. When it retired from service in 1964 it became the last last steam loco delivered to Barry Scrapyard by rail. It was rescued in 1976 by the Great Western Society at Didcot.
It passed through the Marlborough area at lunchtime on Sunday, and was captured by our photographer at a local steam landmark – Crofton Beam Engines – which were pumping for the first time this year.
The beam engines, one of which is the oldest working beam engine in the world, will be in steam this coming weekend – April 30 to May 2 – too.
Both the 1812 Boulton and Watt and the 1846 Harvey engine are in working condition, and are steamed publicly on several weekends through the summer months from a coal-fired Lancashire boiler.
When the pumping station is in steam, it actually carries out the job for which it was built. The electrically powered pumps that now normally do the job are switched off.
For a faith based upon Resurrection, it is a striking irony that it is Crucifixion that Christian artists, sculptors and poets have found easier to portray. The hymns and paintings which contribute to worship on Good Friday out number those whose subject is Easter Day.
We should not be surprised by this, however. The Cross is rooted in human experience, whilst Resurrection is always ahead of us and images of suffering are more concrete than those of joy and new beginnings.
The Church has long been aware of this challenge and one of the first ways it gave expression to the Easter hope was to worship facing east - facing that is the rising sun and the new day.
Churches of course are built on an East-West axis and on Easter morning many Christians gather for a sunrise service. Marlborough Churches Together start their Easter celebrations at 5.30am on Martinsell Hill when we greet the risen Jesus as the sun rises. Watching the sun rise is a simple but powerful symbol of the new life and possibility that Easter represents.
In the morning we then worship in our different church buildings.
The outdoor theme is continued at the end of the day when we congregate on the College Playing Fields (access off Leaze Road) at 4.00pm to fly kites. In certain parts of the world, notably the Caribbean, kites are flown as a symbol of the Resurrection and here in Marlborough we like to do the same.
The kites dancing in the sky speak of freedom and spontaneity, borne aloft by an invisible wind which powers their every movement. The fact that we fly them next to the Town Cemetery gives an additional edge to celebration!
The rising sun and the dancing kites - two symbols of the hope and possibility that Easter represents, two ways of giving expression to the God who is always ahead of us.
Do join us at any or all of these celebrations!
Rector of St. Mary's Church
Come and enjoy yourself. That was the message put out today by Marlborough’s mayor, Councillor Andrew Ross, in a bid to boost the sale of tickets for the town council’s royal wedding celebrations.
So far 123 children are planning to attend the kid’s tea party in Priory Gardens on Friday afternoon and just 60 people have booked for the evening barbecue and barn dance at the same venue.
The town council has under-written the cost of the events but hoped that support for the celebrations would make them at least self-supporting, if not provide a small profit.
“This is a great day for Marlborough and now is the last time to buy tickets for these two events,” the mayor told Marlborough News Online.
“Do come along and celebrate a truly royal romance that has direct links with Marlborough, where Kate Middleton was a student at Marlborough College. You won’t be disappointed, no matter the weather.
The wedding will be shown on a big screen in the Assembly Room at Marlborough Town Hall from 10am to 1pm. Visitors will be able to purchase a glass of sparkling wine to toast the royal couple.
The children's tea party takes place from 2pm to 4pm in Priory Gardens.
The Royal Wedding Barn Dance takes place from 6.30pm to 11pm in Priory Gardens, with entertainment from the Marlborough Ceilidh Band.
Tickets are available at the Town Council offices in the High Street, the White Horse Bookshop and Sound Knowledge.
That new garage for Marlborough is on its way – but it is going to take longer than expected to arrive at the Business Park because of planning changes and delays.
The Fraser Garage Group, which has won the UK title of Forecourt Trader of the Year three times and been highly commended too, now hopes its pumps will be busy in the new year.
“We believe we can provide a fantastic service for the people of Marlborough and are looking forward to opening there,” Mark Wilson, the group operations manager of the family business, told Marlborough News Online.
“We have built our reputation in providing the best offer prices possible with the best customer service possible. We have not yet decided on our shop partner, but it is almost certain that the fuel brand will be BP or Esso.”
The company, launched more than half a century ago, already operates six garages, including one in Calne, Wiltshire. It first made a bid a decade ago to buy out Deans, Marlborough’s current sole petrol supplier, but has been consistently unsuccessful in taking it over.
“Many years ago I used to work for an oil company and Marlborough was part of my patch,” Mr Wilson recalled. “And I remember at least three petrol stations in the town. There used to be one where Majestic Wines are and another on the Vauxhall dealership, in George Lane."
“But the industry has been decimated in the last 10 years with the number of sites being reduced from 15,000 to 8,800 – and still dropping each year now. So a new industry site is a rare thing.”
The delays are partly due to changes in the size and design of the new petrol station, which will provide state of the art car wash facilities, jet and car vacuum services, and a slightly larger shop than the one originally proposed, which aims to compete with the new Tesco supermarket in the Salisbury Road Business Park.
“The whole planning process has taken longer than anticipated, which may have a knock on effect to when we open the site,” he explained. “It was all arranged for us to start building in the summer. Now we hope it will be before the end of the year.”
The first details of how the proposed major – and highly controversial – changes to the NHS planned by the coalition government will affect this area have been revealed to Marlborough News Online in an exclusive interview with Dr Jonathan Glover of the Marlborough Medical Practice.
He says doctors in our region are being encouraged to set up a consortium covering most of East Kennet and North Wiltshire – on a ‘bigger the better’ basis. It will have a budget from NHS headquarters to commission hospital services and other treatments for at least 180,000 people.
The Wiltshire Primary Care Trust (PCT) which it is partly replacing, covers about 455,000 people.
This is despite the clear aim in the government’s health White Paper to bring the NHS closer to patients with “local consortia”. The slogan was to ensure the reorganisation put “patients at the heart of the NHS.”
Dr Glover is somewhat disappointed the consortium will be so large.
Dr Glover said his colleagues were told they had to go along with the plans to become commissioners for the NHS. These are not yet law, but they are continuing their planning even though the Bill’s progress through parliament was ‘paused’ by the prime minister so doubts can be heard.
No one knows if after this ‘pause’ major changes will be made to Health Secretary Andrew Lansley’s scheme. But Dr Glover expects people other than GPs to be drafted onto the consortia - councillors, other health care professionals or patients.
As yet there’s no mechanism for GPs to consult patients on the changes which include greater access to NHS funds by private companies. The fear expressed by many health professionals and politicians is that this is backdoor privatisation of the NHS.
In Dr Glover’s view this part of Lansley’s plan “needs reining in a little bit.”
Dr Glover also revealed that part of the costs of setting up the consortium will be met by a payment from central funds of £2 per patient. In addition some savings GPs are currently being required to make will pay for start-up admin costs.
Before the consortia take over the budgets from PCTs (scheduled for April 2013) they will have to have staff in place and find a headquarters. Some staff will come from GPs and their existing support staff, others will come from the PCTs.
On Savernake Hospital, Dr Glover confirms that no one knows yet what its future will be, but he and his practice colleagues want to see greater use made of it. He adds: “I don’t think we’re going to be given the free rein to run Savernake.”
Read the full interview with Dr Glover in Marlborough News Online – Features.
No fanfares, no flags, no fun, no welcoming speeches of delight.
Marlborough’s new million pound Pewsey Road bridge, the bane of business and residents’ lives since May last year when traffic chaos hit the town, finally opened yesterday (Thursday) lunchtime.
More than 100 traders were emailed by the Chamber of Commerce and invited to be there at 8am when a BBC radio team was due to be present to record the occasion – and people’s reactions to a controversial scheme shopkeepers claimed to cost at least £200,000 a week.
Nick Fogg, former Marlborough mayor and a member of Wiltshire Council, which paid for the project, was there to welcome cars cross the River Kennet two-way once again and give it his local government blessing.
But he was politely told that the opening had been delayed – until 6pm.
Yet, when a reporter and photographer from Marlborough News Online returned 10 hours later, they again found the bridge deserted – because it had already quietly opened at lunch time and traffic was running smoothly.
Perhaps Wiltshire didn’t want to make a fuss given all the ill-will the replacement project created. It was carried out by contractors Osborne after the old bridge, built circa 1925, had been assessed as sub-standard because the steel reinforcement within its concrete frame had rusted badly.
Traders declared that the economic impact of the road’s closure had never been considered by Wiltshire Council, which said they could claim a reduction in their business rates, a fact that proved untrue.
And nobody had the nerve to challenge the council in court with a claim for compensation.
But, as Mr Fogg declared: “The council’s down in Trowbridge and to them this is some insignificant bridge in an obscure part of the county – and it’s been a bit of an embarrassment to them.
“They obviously didn’t want any more publicity. For them, it’s been something of a bridge too far.”
Meanwhile, we can reveal that this is not the first time that the Pewsey Road bridge has been the centre of..........
Dr Peter Davison, the celebrated George Orwell guru who lives in Marlborough, tells us:
“After almost a year of diversions, disturbance, and loss of trade to Marlborough, it looks as if Pewsey Road bridge is almost finished – at heaven knows what cost".
“It so happens that I am at this time reading Bill Bryson’s At Home: A Short History of Private Life, published last year. His first chapter starts with an interesting story that makes a striking comparison with the bridge saga. ‘In the autumn of 1850, in Hyde Park in London, there arose a most extraordinary structure’. It covered nineteen acres and had ‘enough room for four St Paul’s Cathedrals’ and there was an avenue of full-grown elms within it".
“At the time it was the biggest building on earth, so a mite larger and more imposing than Pewsey Road Bridge. This was the Palace of the Great Exhibition, opened in 1851. It was 1,851 feet in length, so celebarating the year of the opening of the Exhibition, 408 feet across and some 110 feet in height".
“It required nearly 300,000 panes of glass and its final cost was £80,000 – something like £4,500,000 in today’s inflated currency. Punch dubbed it ‘The Crystal Palace’ and the name stuck".
“The exhibition ran for only six months and then the whole structure was taken down and rebuilt in a different configuration in south London, near Penge. I am old enough to have seen it burn down in 1936 but, of course, the name given it by Punch has survived for that part of London and a football team.”
Dr Davison adds: “I don’t know what will be the cost of Pewsey Road bridge but at least in one important respect, in addition to its size and magnificence, the Crystal Palace can beat the building of the new bridge hands down".
“According to Mr Bryson, ‘It had taken just five months to build’”.
Wiltshire Council has never revealed in any of its progress and press reports on the bridge project actually how much it is costing – and whether delays have caused any additional fees.
With the new Pewsey Road bridge about to be opened after months of traffic chaos, Marlborough is to be hit by further turmoil as other road works are about to take place.
Traders who have complained bitterly about the loss of business, especially in the run up to Christmas, are now to face traffic queues again as new gas main work restarts on the London Road and roundabout improvements also take place.
“It’s heartbreaking,” says the mayor, Councillor Andy Ross. “We thought we had just got our roads back. Now the euphoria of having a new Pewsey Road bridge open to traffic at last has been dissipated."
“But it may well be a case where we should grin and bear it until it is all over, rather than seek further delays.”
Traders were specifically told six weeks ago by Dick Tonge, Wiltshire Council’s transport spokesman, that there were no further roads works in the pipeline.
But then the Traffic and Network Planning Department announced that gas main work in London Road and Salisbury Road, deliberately delayed when work on the new bridge began, will be resumed on May 3 and continue until May 30.
During the first weekend – and possibly others – a one-way order will operate on the eastern end of George Lane, allowing traffic to travel only westbound between Salisbury Road and Culvermead Close. This is because excavations at the mouth of George Lane to connect up the new gas mains.
And it revealed too that this would be followed by resurfacing and traffic island works at the A4/A346 mini roundabouts in Barn Street on June 6 and last for two to three weeks. This is part of the planning gain obtained when Tesco was given permission for its new out of town supermarket – and is being paid for by the store.
The “good and bad news” was revealed to members of Marlborough Town Council’s planning committee on Monday by its chairman, mayor-elect Councillor Alexander Kirk Wilson.
“Unfortunately it is something Wiltshire Council can do nothing about as it has no control over the major utilities and when they carry out their works,” he explained.
An attempt to delay the works, which will clash with the freedom of the town being given to No 4 Military Intelligence Battalion in June, is to be made by town clerk Liam Costello, but there is a more general feeling that it is best for all outstanding works to be completed as soon as possible.
Councillor Nick Fogg, who is also a Wiltshire councillor, pointed out that that BT, gas and electricity companies, in this case the Wales & West Utilities, were given carte blanche by the last government to carry out essential works according to their own timetable, something necessary in cases of emergency but not always at other times.
Wiltshire Council has consulted other local authorities and is making representations to current coalition transport minister.
“Perhaps we should suffer all the pain in one go,” Mr Fogg told Marlborough News Online. “The problem is that everyone suffers because we have a two-way cross traffic system in the town, and if one route is closed or reduced then congestion becomes chaotic. Perhaps it is better to get it all over with.”
One trader protested: “There is evidence that Wiltshire Council gave no consideration to the economic effects of the Pewsey Road bridge replacement in the first place. We ought to seek some form of compensation.”