Marlborough, a mid-sized market town in Wiltshire, is a great destination for tourists looking for a quiet weekend, a fun marketplace and a town with an amazing history reaching back to Neolithic times. Marlborough is located along the Old Bath Road between London and Bath. Its high street is the second widest in all of England.
A Neolithic burial mound on the grounds of Marlborough College is considered to be the oldest marker of civilization in Marlborough. Locals say that Merlin is buried there and that the name of the town is derived from the term “Merlin’s Barrow.” The motto of Marlborough is Latin for “Where now are the bones of wise Merlin.”
Other Iron Age artifacts have been uncovered in Marlborough including a decorated bronze burial bucket. Roman artifacts and bones have also been discovered within two miles of the town at Mildenhall. After Roman occupation, Anglo-Saxons settled the area. In 1067 William the Conqueror constructed a motte and bailey castle in Marlborough. Originally built of wood, the castle was later fortified with stone in 1175. William minted silver pennies in the town as well which refer to the town by the name “Maerlebi.”
The castle and hunting grounds William established in Marlborough were enjoyed by many other monarchs after him including Henry I, Henry II, Richard I and King John, who established a treasury in the town. John also gave Marlborough a charter for a yearly eight-day fair and a weekly farmers’ market for Wednesdays and Sundays. Tourists in Marlborough can still attend these farmers’ markets.
Henry III was married in Marlborough and held Parliament there in the year 1267. The groundbreaking Statue of Marlborough was passed in that Parliament which granted rights to land owners and took away the King’s right to claim their land. The statue remains in effect to this day.
In Marlborough you can enjoy shopping in the markets and the high street and also see the famous Merchant’s House, open on Fridays and Saturdays during the summer months. The house was rebuilt after it burned in the Great Fire of 1653 and is currently undergoing restoration so that it can later be opened to display daily life as it existed in the 17th century. You can also see Chandlers Yard on High Street, which has remained more or less unchanged in four centuries.
Another famous landmark in Marlborough is the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, originally erected by the Normans and later rebuilt during the Cromwellian era. In the countryside surrounding Marlborough you can occasionally see crop circles which pop up regularly in the area. There is a stone circle six miles outside of town to the west in Avebury. The circle is larger and more ancient than the more famous Stonehenge.
There is much of historical and legendary consequence in Marlborough. The High Street is one of the most delightful in Britain. Marlborough’s environs are as interesting as the town itself and this is surely a lovely stop on any tourist’s trip through the Cotswolds.
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