About Marlborough History Society

The Marlborough History Society was formed to research the history of Marlborough, Wiltshire and its surrounding area and to make that information widely available.

The rich history of the area starts with the Neolithic era and the sites at Avebury Henge, The Avenue, The Sanctuary, Silbury Hill, West Kennet Long Barrow and Windmill Hill, some of which are over 5,000 years old. There are Bronze Age round barrows, Iron Age hill forts, Roman settlements, Saxon remains, Viking battlefields and the Wansdyke linear earthwork from the Dark Ages.

Marlborough itself is not thought to have existed until the Normans came and built a castle, shortly after 1066, on the Neolithic mound, now in the College grounds. The possibility of earlier Saxon settlement has not been discounted but has yet to be proven. The town is associated with King John, who granted the charter in 1204. King John spent 135 nights here and had links with the Knights Templar who had established a preceptory at Rockley in 1155. Marlborough has also been the home of the Seymour family whose fortunes seemed secured when Jane Seymour married Henry VIII. Queen Elizabeth I granted a Charter of Incorporation to the town in 1576.

During the Civil War, the town supported Parliament and paid a heavy price when it was taken by the Royalists under Lord Digby in December 1642. Marlborough suffered further misfortune with the great fire of 1653, after which Cromwell set up a national subscription to help rebuild the town. One of the best examples of this re-building is the Merchant’s House on the High Street. Marlborough thrived during the golden age of coaching from 1750 but also saw extreme poverty among agricultural workers, witnessing the Swing Riots of 1830 and the building of the Marlborough Union Workhouse in 1837 (now converted to luxury flats).

The coaching trade was killed off by the opening of the GWR Railway through Swindon in 1841. In 1843 Marlborough College was founded in what was the largest of the coaching inns and previously the Seymour’s mansion, opening a new chapter in the Town’s history. Both World Wars had their impact on the town; there are several war memorials to both wars including the impressive Memorial Hall at the College. During the Second World War the area played host to American forces with the 101st Airborne billeted in Aldbourne and Ramsbury, an ammunition dump in Savernake Forest and a large field hospital on Marlborough Common.

Today Marlborough is a thriving market town with a population of just over 8,000 and well worth a visit.