SACRED and Ancient Celtic Sites 


Marlborough, Wiltshire, England

Marlborough's history :

The pre-historic Mound in the grounds of Marlborough College is the first visual evidence of human occupation in the area, probably of the same age as the larger Silbury Hill five miles to the west. Further evidence of people living here comes from the discovery of the "Marlborough Bucket" an Iron-age Burial Bucket with decorations of human heads and animals on sheet bronze found near to the entrance of St. Margaret's Mead.

The Romans lived two miles to the East of Marlborough at Mildenhall (Cunetio), which lay at the junction of several important roads. Roman coins have been found near Tinpit (to the east of Marlborough), The Parade, Herd Street and near The Mound. The Roman Legions were recalled in 410AD. The first written record of Marlborough dates from 1087 when the Doomsday Book was finished.

A Saxon settlement grew up around The Green and two early river crossings were made at Isbury Lane and Stonebridge Lane. In 1067 William I took control of the land around Marlborough and he set Roger, Bishop of Sarum the task of building a wooden motte and bailey castle on the pre-historic mound. This was completed around 1100, (stone was first used to update the Castle around 1175) and when William I set out to conquer the West Country in 1068 he would have travelled through Marlborough. He imprisoned Agelric, Bishop of the South Saxons in Marlborough in 1070. William also established a Mint in the town, which coined the last six types of William I and the first of William II silver pennies. The name of the town shown on the coins is Maerlebi or Maerleber.

William I established the neighbouring forest as a favourite Royal hunting ground and the Castle became a Royal residence and the court often came to Marlborough. Henry I kept his Easter here in 1110 and Richard I gave the Castle to his brother John in 1186. Henry II was at Marlborough Castle for talks with the King of Scotland. King John, apart from being married here spent much time in Marlborough and even established a Treasury, later Henry III was also married here and held Parliament when the "Statute of Marlborough" was passed, this gave rights and privileges to small land owners and limited the right of the King to take procession of land. This seven hundred year old law states that no one shall seize his neighbour's goods for alleged wrong without permission of the Court.

The Castle fell into decay by the end of the 14th century but remained the property of The Crown, Edward VI then it passed to the Seymour family, his mother's relatives.

The 1204  Charter of King John gave the Borough an annual eight-day fair commencing on the vigil of the Assumption of Our Lady in which all might enjoy the liberties and quittances customary in the fair at Winchester. He also established that weekly markets may be held on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The hiring fairs at Marlborough are first noticed in 1831 but the fact that they are held on the Saturdays before and after Old Michaelmas Day shows that their origin is from well before 1751. They are now pleasure fairs.

Marlborough has developed since then as most other small towns and villages, building and re-building often brought about by fire but in 1642 this peaceful existence was shattered by Civil War. The Seymours held the Castle for the King but the Town was for Parliament, as the Kings headquarters were in nearby Oxford he could not allow this to continue. "A Town the most notoriously disaffected of all that Country, otherwise, saving the obstinacy and malice of the inhabitants, in the situation of it very unfit for a garrison…this place the King saw would prove quickly an ill neighbour to him, not only as it was in the heart of a rich County, and so would straighten him, and even infest his quarters."

The King sent George, Lord Digby to take the Town. He left Oxford at the head of four hundred horse on the 24th November for Marlborough. When he arrived he chose to talk first, thus giving the inhabitants a chance to throw up defences and to recruit fellow countryman until they had about seven hundred poorly armed men. At this point the Town issued a reply to Digby. "The King's Majesty" he declared, "providing he were attended in Royal and not in war like wise, should be as welcome to that Town as ever was Prince to People; but as to delivering up the good Town of Marlborough to such a traitor as Lord Digby… they would sooner die". Eventually after initial skirmishes Royalist troops infiltrated the Town down its small alleyways, the Town was captured, looted and many buildings burned, one hundred and twenty of the defenders were taken prisoner and marched in chains to Oxford. The Town was later abandoned by the King and took no further part in the war.

On April 28th 1653 The Great Fire of Marlborough burnt two hundred and fifty houses to the ground. Fire swept through the Town in 1679 and again in 1690. This time an Act of Parliament was passed "To prohibit the covering of houses and other buildings with thatch in the Town of Marlborough".
The Chamberlains' accounts can give a glimpse of the day-to-day administration of the Town.
Public Whippings were a common occurrence until the early 19th century. The stocks and whipping post are still held at the Town Hall.

1692. 1 shilling paid to the Constable for whipping Coleman's boy
1771. John Hillier was publicly whipped for an error that he had fallen into about a silver pepper-box.
One day five culprits also received a whipping, two for stealing iron, another for stealing a brass pot, another for converting butter to his own use, while the fifth was found in the hand of another man's pocket.
Even women did not escape whipping. Mary Price who was publicly whipped for stealing an apron. In 1807 eleven prisoners for transportation were sent from our Town Gaol to Bristol to embark for some of his Majesty's plantations in the Colonies.

By-Laws in former times:
All inhabitants shall sweep before their houses every Saturday night.
An inn holder shall not entertain in his house any Townsmen on Sundays or Holy Days during the time of Common Prayer or sermon, on pain of a fine of ten shillings. Any Townsman found in such a place shall be sent to prison at the pleasure of the Mayor.
Every inhabitant shall have continually in readiness Clubs, Bills or Pikes for suppressing outcry, breach of the peace, or outrage and assisting the Mayor and other officers of the Borough in executing their duties.

Town Crier
1804….Paid Town Crier for crying the donkey not to run on the Green.
Paid Town Crier for crying Mad Dogs twice.
Paid Town Crier for whipping two Irish Men, one stealing shurt, the other for telling a lye to the Mayor.
Paid the Town Crier for crying the cows not to run the streets by night.



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