Walking up hills in the rain through history day 4

July 21, 2011 at 9:31 pm Leave a comment

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Ah Marlborough….my much loved home town… (well for some of the year)..oozing with history..no minibus today….this afternoon afforded a stroll through the ancient market town which has held a royal charter since 1204 and many new things gleaned from our esteemed leader.

The heavens opened and so we started in Marlborough College Chapel built in the 1840’s and last year, the stone work was washed and restored…its positively gleaming. The green stained glass window was designed by Burne Jones and overseen by William Morris (an Old Marlburian).

First stop, the watermeadows behind Waitrose not very scenic carpark. From the 13th century, rhyls (channels) were dug for the water to flow, and ‘the drowner’ (2nd most important man after the shepherd) would flood these fields to about an inch or two in early Winter to produce rich pasture for lambing.

Most towns have ‘shambles’ which are alley ways for temporary trading.

Marlborough was a Parliamentary stronghold during the English Civil War, with the Royalists camped out on what is now called The Common (formerly The Thorns). The Royalists would charge down the narrow alleyways which still puncture the High Street. There are signs of cannon and musket shot in the walls of St Mary’s Church (Norman). The redundant church (St Peters) is where Cardinal Wolsey held his first gig as vicar (to quote our esteemed leader)…the steep climb up the tower during Summer Saturday afternoons is well worth it for the views of Marlborough, hedges and ditches and the 2nd widest high street in the country, which actually curves and is not straight as it appears from street level.

The Common is a misnomer….the only people to have grazing rights on Marlborough ‘Common’ were the Burghers who lived in the town. On top of the common is a cemetry from 1840 (when the church no longer regulated burials)..yew trees symbolised everlasting life and kept animals away (poisonous) – nothing to do with making bows it seems. Facing  the top of the Common is the 1837 Workhouse which then became a childrens’ sanitorium and now the splendid buildings are enjoying a new lease of life as luxury retirement flats!

The Green itself is the original heart of the Saxon town with 16th century weavers cottages nestling around it and later, cottage industry additions, and the house where William Golding lived most of his life (and grumbled about Marlborough College boys!) The town is a ‘standard’ with a High Street, Back Lane and Cross Street. We peered along some enchanting alleys, (the very same the cavaliers would have charged down!) We ended out walk at The Mound, in the college grounds, just this year declared a World Heritage Site as it is of the same age (2500BC) as nearby Silbury Hill. This was the site of Marlborough Castle (begun in 1068)…or certainly a small tower…the keep would have been on ground level and the Castle was one of the most famous in the country in Medieval times…during the reign of Stephen and Matilda and King John (he of Magna Carta fame) was born there. The castle has long disappeared during Tudor times but the stones are visible in garden walls all over town, particularly spied from the top of the redundant church tower! When Marlborough declined in trade importance with the demise of the stagecoach (strategically placed on the London road and replaced by the railway in the 1840’s), a lowpoint in the towns history was its sudden reliance on wire and rope making. What is now (unimaginatively named) ‘C’ block was the original Seymour family house, later became  an upmarket and fashionable coaching inn..on the popular London to Bath season route circa 1750. When the town’s popularity declined with the diversion of traffic by railway, the inn closed and became a school initially for sons of the clergy (who couldnot actually afford the high fees!)

Back to Court in College then in time for afternoon tea, and some say highlight of summer school….scones with jam and cream…and at last it has stopped raining!

well earned tea and scones!

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Walking with history day 3 Savernake to Crofton Walking uphill through thistles through along the Wansdyke day 5

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Debi Evans

Debi Evans

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