Wiltshire magazine gives ten good reasons to visit... Marlborough
PUBLISHED: 12:01 08 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:40 20 February 2013
Peter Davison talks in superlatives about his home town Marlborough in Wiltshire.
Ten Good Reasons to Visit... Marlborough
Peter Davison talks in superlatives about his home town
Norris McWhirter, best known to many from his years co-presenting the childrens TV show Record Breakers in the 1970s, 80s and 90s, spent his school days at Marlborough College. Perhaps its no wonder then that when he left education he founded the Guinness Book of Records, surrounded as he was during his school years by so many places that claimed to be the widest, the longest, the oldest or the highest. Surely there is no other market town in Britain with so many claims to record-breaking fame? This article touches on just a few.
1 Britains widest High Street
Marlborough has the widest high street in Britain and dont let the residents of Stockton-on-Tees tell you otherwise. High Street is built along the Great West Road (or the A4 if you prefer), at the midway point between Bristol and London. Until the construction of the Great Western Railway in the 1840s, and the M4 in 1971, it made Marlborough a very important town its where horse-drawn coaches would stop for the night and, later, where the passengers of petrol-driven conveyances would disembark for a cup of tea and a wee. Of course, its not the half mile of asphalt and white lines that continues to bring in the visitors today, but the beautiful and historic buildings, and the shops that occupy them.
2 Last of the independent record shops
In this age of clone towns, Marlborough has more than its fair share of local independent retailers. The retail scene is particularly strong on womens clothing and there are some great cafs in which to drop after youve shopped. A prime example of the towns independent retail offering is one of the last two remaining independent record shops in the West. Sound Knowledge, in Hughenden Yard, sells CDs and vinyl, and unlike its supermarket competitors, its knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff sell music from outside the Top 40. www.marlboroughlive.com
3 Britains longest avenue
The Savernake is the only privately owned forest in Britain. Fully accessible to the public, its a great place to visit on foot, bike or horse, and there are dedicated camping and barbecue sites. Running through the middle of the Earl of Cardigans 4,500-acre forest is The Grand Avenue, planted by Capability Brown in the 1740s, which, at 3.9 miles long, stands in the aforementioned Guinness Book of Records as the longest avenue in Britain. www.savernakeestate.co.uk
4 Unique decorations at historic house
The Merchants House, in High Street, was built by silk trader Thomas Bayly in 1653, just after the Great Fire of Marlborough, which destroyed 250 properties in the town. Open to the public, the house boasts a 17th-century-style garden and unique wall paintings. The building is owned
by the people of Marlborough and run by the Merchants House Trust, which every year pays the town council a peppercorn rent of 1 and a bag of peppercorns.
5 The worlds biggest stone circle, and the largest man-made mound in Europe
Avebury stone circle is the biggest in the world and, said the 17th-century writer John Aubrey, far surpasses Stonehenge as a cathedral does a parish church. Again, its fully accessible: you can walk around and touch the stones. Nearby is mysterious Silbury Hill, as old as the pyramids of Egypt and at 130ft high with a five-and-a-half acre base, the largest man-made mound in Europe.
6 The largest tributary of the River Thames
The River Kennet meanders for 45 miles through the Marlborough countryside. It is the largest tributary of the River Thames and in summer months contributes to half its flow. In the 90s, Action for the River Kennet restored the chalk stream habitat, and theres a good example of a restored stretch at the Priory Gardens. www.riverkennet.org
7 The worlds oldest working beam engines
The Kennet and Avon Canal was built in the 19th century to link Englands east and west coasts, eliminating the need for a long sea journey to deliver goods and materials. In 1812 engineers built a pumping station at Crofton, lifting water back to the canals summit. Until 1958 the beam engines, which lift a tonne of water at every stroke, were powered by steam, and on selected weekends throughout the spring and summer coal is used to power these mighty engines again. www.croftonbeamengines.org
8 The first state school to be rebuilt without public funds
The new 26.5 million St Johns School, which opened in December, is the first state school in England to be entirely rebuilt without public funds. Previously, staff of the split-site school had to travel 1.6 miles between campuses to teach, and the timetable had 20-minute gaps between lessons to allow for this. Now all the pupils learn in a stunning new school, with a 450-seat professional theatre, and a 6,000 sq ft grass-covered roof, which helps insulate the building. www.stjohns.wilts.sch.uk
9 A very, very good name indeed
There cant be many towns in Britain whose name is shared with so many communities abroad. The Marlborough region in New Zealand is famous for its wines, which are available in the UK. Marlborough is also a suburb of Auckland. There are at least eight Marlboroughs in the United States: in Connecticut, Massachusetts (which also has a New Marlborough), Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Marlborough is a suburb of Harare in Zimbabwe, and Fort Marlborough, built in 1714, still stands in Bengkulu in Indonesia. Theres a Marlborough in Queensland, Australia, and, for 11 days in 1993, there was a Principality of Marlborough (population 2) in the state, after a farmer declared his land an independent nation.
10 The biggest jazz festival in the country
In 2008 Liverpool celebrated its status as European City of Culture. Meanwhile, a fledgling arts and culture organisation, We Love Marlborough, decided there was so much going on here including the biggest jazz festival in the country that it should be declared Market Town of Culture. The We Love Marlborough website has a year-round calendar of events, as well as information for visitors and an interactive virtual tour, and so is a great place to log on when planning your visit to the town. www.welovemarlborough.co.uk