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Horse racing: future of training at famed Manton yard secured

20-10-2017

  The trainer of many successful horses for flat racing, Brian Meehan is to buy Manton's famous yard and equally famous gallops and intends to be there "...for the duration".

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Domestic Cleaner & Facilities Support - Marlborough College

20-10-2017

  Domestic Cleaner & Facilities Support    We are looking for a reliable and enthusiastic person to join our team in General Services.  Reporting to the Domestic Services Manager, you will provide roaming assistance (as required for all areas) including: cleaning services around the College campus as well as driving for deliveries and...

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House Domestic Cleaner – B1 (Term Time plus Spring Cleaning) - Marlborough College

20-10-2017

  House Domestic Cleaner – B1   (Term Time plus Spring Cleaning)   We require a reliable and enthusiastic person to join our team of Domestic Staff.  Working within B1 (a boy’s Boarding House), and reporting to the Dame, you will be required to assist with the day to day cleaning operation of the House....

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Marlborough Area Foodbank to relaunch next month with a new vision

19-10-2017 Sue Round

Marlborough Area Foodbank distribution centre at Christchurch will re-launch on the morning of Friday November 17.   With the support of Marlborough Area Poverty Action Group (MAPAG) it is hoped to offer a home distribution service as well as raise awareness of what the Food Bank can offer and who...

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Cheap cigarette fraud - do you recognise this man?

19-10-2017

Do you recognise this man?  Police are appealing for information following an incident of fraud which took place in Marlborough. At 2pm on 25 September, a couple met a man in the Bear Hotel who told them he had a discount code and could get them cheap cigarettes from a wholesalers.  ...

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Nomads come home: Marlborough Nomads reunite on the pitch with Rosslyn Park Nomads after a gap of 107 years

19-10-2017

The Nomads team from Marlborough RFC, the club's second XV keeps alive the name and spirit of the original Marlborough Nomads.  Marlborough, along with several other clubs still in existence such as Blackheath were synonymous with the early development of Rugby as a sport in the latter nineteenth century.  The...

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Members of St Mary’s Church in Marlborough to help people take control of their finances

18-10-2017

  Members of St Mary’s Church in Marlborough wanted to help people from the Marlborough area who are suffering a squeezed household income and in danger of getting into financial difficulties to get on top of their household finances.   So in conjunction with members of the Gorse Hill Baptist Church in Swindon, who...

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Residents' Permit Parking Charge rise - Daylight Robbery!

18-10-2017 Patrick Fox

  Sirs,Looking through letters I am surprised no one has complained about the daylight robbery to be perpetrated on resident parking.It is planned to rise from £394 which is already larger than parts of London to a staggering £720.  It really is daylight robbery with captive victims who have no option...

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White Christmas in Marlborough features on Wiltshire Air Ambulance’s cards

18-10-2017

  The popular ‘Christmas in Marlborough’ card is once again being sold to raise funds for Wiltshire Air Ambulance.Following the success of the card last year, the charity is selling it as part of its 2017 range of Christmas cards - and they can be bought at the St Peter's Church...

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Rick Stein's Marlborough and Crown Water & Coffee unveiled as new kit sponsor for the MYFC U14 and U9 teams

17-10-2017

Coinciding with the first anniversary of Rick Stein's Marlborough restaurant opening, the new Rick Stein sponsored strip for the Marlborough Youth Football Club (MYFC) under 14 team was unveiled on the steps of the restaurant whilst the U9 team secured sponsorship for their new kit from Crown Water & Coffee...

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merlins' mount

 

How Marlborough’s Mound turned out to be Silbury Hill’s little sister

Click an image to enlarge...

The huge and hidden mound that stands in the middle of Marlborough College was called by some of the more fanciful guidebooks “Merlin’s Mount” and has even been described as Merlin’s burial mound.

More reliable sources thought the sixty-two foot (nineteen metre) high mound was constructed by those domineering incomers from Normandy so they could build Marlborough’s castle on top of it and so lord it over the townsfolk down below.  

Then, in 2011, new scientific research confirmed that the mound was built long England had a king.  Carbon dating of pieces of charcoal found deep within the mound proved it was built three thousand and more years before the first Normans rode into town.  

Dated now to about 2400BC, Marlborough’s mound becomes the ‘little sister’ to the world famous Silbury Hill – which dominates the skyline just westwards along the A4 toward Bath. The definitive dating of the Mound has been called the most significant archaeological discovery in Britain so far this century.

In an expensive and delicate operation, probes were drilled into the middle of the mound and surrounding ditch areas, and the carbon dating of the samples was carried out with the help of English Heritage.  Six cores were drilled and four samples taken from different levels within the mound itself provided shards of charcoal that could be carbon dated.

This discovery makes Marlborough’s mound the second largest man-made, prehistoric construction in Britain.  And as Silbury is the largest such mound in all Europe, Marlborough’s mound should in turn become the second largest man-made mound in Europe.

The mound has had three distinct ‘lives’: it was the base structure for a very important royal castle built by the Normans, used at times by Norman and Plantagenet kings and the scene for some historic events such as the general oath of allegiance to King John in 1209.

The castle then passed from the Kings of England to their queens and eventually fell into disuse, before coming into the hands of the Seymour family famous as owners of the local Wolf Hall estate and for Henry VIII’s Queen Jane.  Another ‘life’ started in the eighteenth century, when a house on the site was home to the Marquis of Hertford and his family, and Lady Hertford created a wonderful and extravagant garden - with the mound as its centre piece.  

Lady Hertford gave the mound an extraordinary spiral ramp right round the outside, shielded from the common gaze by a hawthorn hedge.  And she adorned it with several notable features including a shell grotto, a belvedere or viewing point and a water feature at the summit. The Hertford’s home later became The Castle Inn and a meeting place for Tory politicians.  It has since become part of the College buildings.

As befits a scheduled monument, it has long been strictly out of bounds to college students. Although there’s some hearsay evidence that those trees and Lady Hertford’s shell grotto have, in days gone by, provided cover for the occasional illicit smoker.

The groundbreaking exploratory work that led to the Mound’s dating – and the many years of careful conservation still to come – was made possible by initial gifts and a £1,200,000 legacy from former college student, Eric Elstob.  On his initiative, the Marlborough Mound Trust was set up in 2000 and the first investigative work begun.

The Marlborough mound is at the moment covered with trees and voracious ground cover, mainly ivy.  Eventually the trees – some near the summit are thirty-two feet tall - and the ivy will be removed. This must be done very slowly and carefully. Although the vegetation is degrading the mound, too sudden removal would destabilise the whole structure and might lead to collapses of parts of the mound.

The conservation and restoration process could take several decades.  But completion of the work has been guaranteed by the Marlborough Mound Trust.   Its benefactor, Eric Elstob was a student at Marlborough College from 1956 to 1960.  He died of cancer in 2003 aged sixty. He was an enthusiastic conservationist, loved London’s many churches designed by the architect Nicholas Hawksmoor and was instrumental in the restoration of Hawksmoor’s Christ Church, at Spitalfields.
Work to investigate, conserve and restore the mound began ten years ago. Already the twentieth century metal water tank has been removed from the mound’s summit where it had replaced first Lady Hertford’s water feature and had later been used as a reservoir for gardeners and local fire wardens.

The grotto and its shell decoration has already been renovated. This grotto was dug into the side of the mound for Lady Hertford who was a lady-of-the-bedchamber to George II’s wife Queen Caroline. It was once used by college boys as a bike shed.

In 2012, work began to re-establish a section of Lady Hertford’s unique spiral ramp. This will be a test to see whether it will eventually be possible restore the whole feature right around the cone of the mound – as the architect in charge of the conservation has put it, it will be putting “the jelly mould back on the jelly.”  The idea is not to change the mound’s structure but to consolidate it.

However, the mound is on the college’s private property and access for the general public is not possible.  So, unusually for a scheduled monument of such importance, it cannot automatically become a new tourist attraction for Marlborough.

The trustees of the Marlborough Mound Trust have a difficult job on their hands.  Their main aims as a charity are to ‘restore, conserve, preserve and maintain the mound’. But they are also pledged to ‘educate the public about the archaeological and historic significance and merits of the mound.’

And at some point in the future, when the restoration is much further on, access for the public will surely have to become possible - even if only on specific ‘open days’ during college holidays.  But it’s most unlikely people will ever be free to walk up the mound.  Just as tourists must admire Silbury Hill from ground level, so it would be too risky to subject such an ancient structure as the Marlborough mound to the tramp of thousands of twenty-first century feet.

 

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