Tracy Spiers sends us a post­card

Cotswold Life - - CONTENTS - Tracy Spiers

In­ter­est­ing start to the day. Car won’t start. Flat bat­tery as I ac­ci­den­tally left light on all night. Leave hus­band, who is about to fly off to Nor­way, to sort out car while I drive off in his ve­hi­cle fol­low­ing Sat Nav in­struc­tions. It wants to take me to Sal­combe. Hus­band has pro­grammed in Mal­bor­ough by mis­take. Come across a cow on Minch­in­ham­pon Com­mon. He won’t move, re­mains in mid­dle of road and re­fuses to budge. We even­tu­ally ar­rive in Marl­bor­ough an hour later than an­tic­i­pated.

We start our post­card in Mus­tard Seed, a quaint lit­tle café and book shop on edge of the River Ken­net where I chat to Ali­son An­dré and deputy man­ager Mike Ea­ton. It is an oa­sis of peace and al­lows lo­cals and vis­i­tors time for quiet re­flec­tion, to read, re­lax and en­joy a mo­ment of tran­quil­lity.

Ven­ture on to Marl­bor­ough’s im­pres­sive high street. It’s fresh in Emily’s mind. “We walked through here feel­ing tired, with sore backs and had to walk past all the cof­fee shops and great clothes shops with­out hav­ing the chance to stop and look around one of them!” This time she can en­joy her high street favourites and I treat her to the iced drink she longed for with ruck­sack on back. In­ci­den­tally there are over 200 shops in Marl­bor­ough, most of them based on the High Street or just off it. Big chains like Joules, Seasalt, Jig­saw, Mon­soon neigh­bour are a shop­per’s dream, but I also en­joy the small in­de­pen­dents and ex­plor­ing al­leys and court­yards off the High Street. By do­ing so dis­cover Marl­bor­ough Con­fec­tion­ers and I give into a teenager’s plea for Amer­i­can Jolly Ranch­ers. Also note art and an­tique pres­ence in Marl­bor­ough – great for cre­atives like me.

I pop in­side the Mer­chant’s House, which at 350 years old is the jewel of the town’s High Street. The House of Thomas Bayly, Silk Mer­chant, was built fol­low­ing the Great Fire of Marl­bor­ough in 1653. It’s a bril­liant place to visit for any­one in­ter­ested in fine old build­ings and crafts­man­ship – there’s cer­tainly plenty of in­spi­ra­tion here. The Mer­chant’s House Trust set up in 1991 to re­store and re­fur­bish this his­toric house. It now has over 400 friends, al­most 100 vol­un­teers and eight part-time staff. The Mer­chant’s House Shop sells a wide range of qual­ity gifts – china, pot­tery, glass, sil­ver, toi­letries, toys and sta­tionery.

Walk into St Peter’s Church which, al­though his­toric on the out­side, fully em­braces the 21st cen­tury in­side with a ter­rific com­mu­nity feel. St Peter’s Cof­fee Shop serves a full English break­fast, hearty lunch menu and af­ter­noon teas; whilst Bram­bles & Bows Craft Shop is a feast for the eye in terms of crafts, jams and choco­lates - all set be­hind a fan­tas­tic stained-glass win­dow back­drop. Take note of the tower tours which are on Satur­days and Bank Hol­i­days in the sum­mer. Will re­turn to Marl­bor­ough to climb the 137 steps on an­other oc­ca­sion.

In­stead march up Hyde Lane to see if I can get a glimpse of Marl­bor­ough Col­lege. Emily re­fuses to re­trace her D of E ex­pe­di­tion steps and waits for me to re­turn. I do man­age to get a glimpse of ten­nis play­ers in ac­tion as well as a very re­laxed cricket match. Back in the 11th cen­tury, the royal cas­tle of Marl­bor­ough, lo­cally known and recorded in his­tor­i­cal doc­u­ments as The Mount used to be here. To­day it is a tree-cov­ered mound at the col­lege’s cen­tre. In 1843, a group of Church of Eng­land cler­gy­men, backed by the Arch­bishop of Can­ter­bury, wanted to set up a board­ing school for ed­u­cat­ing sons of clergy. They took lease of the empty Cas­tle Inn at Marl­bor­ough and started the col­lege in Au­gust 1843 with their first ad­mis­sion of 199 boys. The first ma­jor in­de­pen­dent school to go co-ed, start­ing with its 1968 sixth form, the col­lege has fa­mous pupils in­clud­ing the Duchess of Cam­bridge and Saman­tha Cameron.

Back on flat land, I walk down Sil­ver­less Street, past the Old Bak­ery to Gold­ing House near The Green. Here we find an­other blue plaque, this time pay­ing tribute to English nov­el­ist, play­wright, and poet who won a No­bel Prize in Lit­er­a­ture, Sir Wil­liam

‘It was in 1204 that the town was granted a Royal Char­ter by King John to en­able Marl­bor­ough to achieve mar­ket town sta­tus’

Ger­ald Gold­ing (1911 – 1993). He of course is best known for his novel Lord of the Flies, which GCSE English Lit­er­a­ture stu­dents, in­clud­ing Emily, are cur­rently study­ing.

Must men­tion Marl­bor­ough Blue Plaque Trail, a gen­tle cir­cu­lar 2.5km walk start­ing at the Town Hall which un­veils the town’s his­tory through nine Blue Plaques dis­played. This can be down­loaded via the main Marl­bor­ough web­site. It cel­e­brates im­por­tant events and peo­ple such as Thomas Wolsey, later to be­come Car­di­nal Wolsey, who in 1498, Thomas Wolsey was or­dained in St Peter’s. On the li­brary wall, a blue plaque pays tribute to Eglan­tyne Mary Jebb (1876-1928) founder of Save The Chil­dren Fund who taught here when it was St Peter’s School.

Talk­ing of town hall, we stop to ad­mire this im­pres­sive build­ing. Work be­gan dur­ing Queen Vic­to­ria’s reign and it was com­pleted in 1902 af­ter Ed­ward VII came to the throne. Built in the Dutch style pop­u­lar with Ed­war­dians, it is now Grade II listed and con­tains a court room – where pris­on­ers were once held in the base­ment cells - coun­cil cham­ber and an assem­bly room. To­day con­fer­ences, wed­dings, film shows, plays and of­fi­cial civic events take place in this build­ing. On the mat­ter of his­tory, Marl­bor­ough was recorded in the Domes­day Book as “Mer­leberge” – which refers to the marl or chalk hills in the area. In Nor­man times it was a place where coins were minted, Tu­dor kings hunted for deer and where coaches stopped to feed and wa­ter their horses. To­day, those coach­ing inns are still a sig­nif­i­cant part of the High Street land­scape and add char­ac­ter and charm as well as much sought af­ter places to dine and drink. These in­clude The Lamb Inn, orig­i­nally a coach­ing inn dat­ing back to 1672 and The Bear at Marl­bor­ough dat­ing back to the 15th cen­tury.

We visit on a Tues­day so miss the busy Satur­day and Wed­nes­day mar­ket, hosted in the High Street. Dur­ing the sum­mer months, con­ti­nen­tal mar­kets also take place here. It was in 1204 that the town was granted a Royal Char­ter by King John to en­able Marl­bor­ough to achieve mar­ket town sta­tus.

We end our visit at St Mary’s Church, which to­gether with St. Peter’s, act as book ends to Marl­bor­ough’s wide High Street and per­haps a sanc­tu­ary to the hus­tle and bus­tle that goes on in be­tween. In April 1653, the Great Fire of Marl­bor­ough burned the Guild­hall, St Mary’s Church and the town’s ar­moury. Fur­ther fires in 1679 and 1690 caused an Act of Par­lia­ment to stop houses or other build­ings be­ing cov­ered with thatch.

It’s a great town to visit for shop­ping, din­ing and for walk­ing. I didn’t dare ask Emily to join me on a hike on this oc­ca­sion, but it is worth vis­it­ing the Vale of Pewsey, just 20 min­utes away, or the Forestry Com­mis­sion logo Walk through the old For­est of Sav­er­nake. Marl­bor­ough is also a pop­u­lar place for golfers and on our way home, I visit Marl­bor­ough Golf Course, es­tab­lished in 1888 to catch a golfer in ac­tion.

We re­turn to Stroud to find the car bat­tery is charged, no cows are be­ing stub­born and any ex­pe­di­tion nig­gles Emily may as­so­ciate with Marl­bor­ough are now re­placed with good mem­o­ries. Marl­bor­ough, it took a while to get to you, but we are glad we came.

The cricket pavil­ion at Malmes­bury Col­lege

Marl­bor­ough Town Hall Blue plaque ded­i­cated to Eglan­tyne Mary Jebb

Emily out­side Wil­liam Gold­ing’s house

St Mary’s Church, Marl­bor­ough

Marl­bor­ough High Street

St Peter’s Church, Marl­bor­ough

Ali­son An­dré and Mike Ea­ton of The Mus­tard Seed

Marl­bor­ough, Wilt­shire

in 1888 A golfer at Marl­bor­ough Golf Club, es­tab­lished

Marl­bor­ough, Wilt­shire

The bustling town of Marl­bor­ough

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