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The infamous Marlborough College

21 October 2020

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Marlborough’s eponymous and world-famous College was founded at a turning point in Marlborough’s history, the town’s fortunes having been curtailed when the railway, which GWR routed through Swindon, bypassed Marlborough and destroyed its thriving coaching trade. The Castle Inn had been a stopping off point for gentry flocking from London to fashionable Bath. Ironically, it was the now redundant Castle Inn in which Marlborough College was founded in 1843. It was formerly the Dukes of Somerset’s home whose ancestor Jane Seymour married Henry VIII.

Marlborough was founded by a group of Church of England clergymen with the prime purpose of educating the sons of the clergy. Hearing the Castle Inn at Marlborough was vacant they took a lease and in August 1843 Marlborough College admitted its first 199 pupils. The school’s early history was a little rocky with a rebellion taking place in November 1851 due to the spartan conditions the by now 500 pupils had to endure and the two tier fees with sons of the laity paying 50 guineas a year to subsidise the sons of the clergy who paid 30 Guineas a year.  Pupil numbers unfortunately declined, and the College sank heavily into debt, its future in jeopardy.

Reform was vital if the school was to recover and it appeared in the form of the two successive Heads, both from Rugby School. They brought the kind of reforms that were needed and by 1870 had sealed the school’s reputation for scholarship. Marlborough College continued to thrive, changing Marlborough’s identity and its forward-looking approach continued. In 1968 Marlborough College become the first boys boarding school to admit girls in to the Sixth Form and by 1989 it had become fully co-educational.

Today it has evolved into one of Britain’s top public schools with an impressive list of famous alumni from William Morris to John Betjeman and Chris de Burgh to Jack Whitehall and the Duchess of Cambridge.

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