Marlborough is a town in Wiltshire with ancient history – the prehistoric Marlborough Mound, neighbour to nearby Silbury Hill, stands hidden in the present college grounds, only 5 miles from Avebury, the largest of all the prehistoric stone circles. The mound became the site of a 12th century castle, and in the 18th century was home to the Castle Inn, ‘one of the largest in England’ (E. Hutton, 1917), until 1843 when the building was used to found Marlborough College.
The great fire of 1653, which started in a tanner’s yard near the back of the present Wellington Arms, destroyed over 240 buildings in Marlborough, including many of the town’s pubs – some of the present pubs trace their origins to buildings which stood before the fire.
A 1792 directory records “twenty-five inns in Marlborough with signs; besides two other victuallers’ houses and a lodging house, not thus distinguished”, nearly a dozen other signs not recorded in the directory are mentioned in the licensing order of 1782, and “four and forty coaches used to call daily at one or other of the Marlborough inns” (A. Dryden, 1906)
The 1852 Slaters Directory records 5 brewers, 4 Inns, 18 Taverns & Public Houses and 7 Retailers of Beer in Marlborough. Today there are about 9 pubs and bars within a short walk of each other, mostly along one of the widest high streets in England.
The Lamb dates back to 1672. A small pub with two bars and a third room more suited for dining, it can get very busy, such that it’s difficult to reach the bar at times. Bunches of dried hops hang over the bar and along the beams. The main draw is the Wadworth 6X served ‘straight from the wood’, which seemed to bring out more of the autumn fruit flavours – a nice, smooth drop of beer.
Here since at least 1757 when it was the Bear & Castle, ‘luxuriously re-built’ in 1889 and now an Arkell’s pub. We settled down with an Arkell’s ‘Bee’s Organic Ale’ – a pleasant beer, the honey complimenting the mild hop flavour – and had a good look at the football memorabilia which covers the main bar area. The pub is on two levels with the main bar on the lower level, the upper level used for the regular live music. The main room is separated by an open fireplace and has old church pews and a wooden beamed ceiling. It’s a large old hotel with outside seating by the old stables.
Rebuilt following the great fire of 1653, a lovely old pub on two levels with several rooms, each decorated differently with murals on the wall depicting historic events in the town’s history.
A Wadworth pub, beers included their Corvus Stout on keg, a surprisingly good beer, smooth and nutty with a pleasant and lasting ash flavour, and Red, White and Brew, a beer with a strong waft of Citra hop aroma and citrus flavour – probably the best Wadworth beers we’ve tried.
A pub with an emphasis on food, and indeed we’ve enjoyed a meal at the Wellington Arms on each of our visits over the years. Good, hearty pub grub washed down with an excellent pint of Ramsbury Gold, we’re sure to eat here again next time we visit. There’s a ceramic plaque on the wall from the defunct West Country Breweries.
The Sun Inn can trace its history back to the 15th century. It was once, according to a late 19th century advertisement, a ‘noted house for genuine home brewed beer’ and in the last century served ales from the now defunct Ushers Brewery. When we visited we enjoyed a fine pint of Stonehenge Danish Dynamite, a well hoppped, floral and fruity pale ale – also on were Sharp’s Cornish Coaster and Wadworth 6X.
It’s a wonderful old pub, a welcoming log fire burning in the large fireplace, the walls and ceiling crossed with thick, dark wooden beams, cushions made from bar towels and a nice beer garden out by the old stables at the rear. Split into three rooms, one of which has tables laid for dining, the main bars are the kind you want to spend an evening drinking in.
Castle and Ball Hotel
We’ve previously stayed at the Castle & Ball, said to date to the 15th century, rebuilt c.1745 with ‘surviving original oak timber that pre-dates the Spanish Armada’, but on this occasion we didn’t visit – it’s a Greene King pub and there are plenty of those in East Anglia where we live.
The Royal Oak is another Greene King pub and a good example of a GK pub with no character, any sense of history long since stripped out during succesive refurbishments, just a line of lager handpumps facing the customer – passing the pub it’s not even obvious they serve ale at all.
There is also the 18th century Crown (formerly Crown and Anchor) on the Parade, although this appeared to be less a pub, more a bar in a hotel/restaurant so we passed that too. We haven’t yet ventured as far as the Roebuck on London Road but it looks like a promising Fuller’s pub, definitely one for the next visit…