Arrival Of Industrial Era

In 1750, with the death of Lord Hertford (known as 7th Duke of Somerset since 1748), the house at Marlborough Castle was leased out as a very fashionable coaching inn that served the gentry flocking from London to Bath at the peak of its fame in the Georgian period. In February 1767, William Pitt the Elder, Earl of Chatham, Prime Minister in the Seven Years War, stayed for a fortnight at the ‘Castle Inn’. Horace Walpole, Earl of Orford, records the occasion thus in his Memoirs of the Reign of George III:

“The Earl of Chatham, having been driven to Bath by the gout, at a time when his presence was most necessary at the centre of affairs [Townshend tried to reintroduce the Stamp Act in America], had a relapse on his return journey, and lay ill for a fortnight at the Castle Inn, still inaccessible and invisible, though surrounded by a crowd of domestics that occupied the whole inn and wore the appearance of a little court.”

Over the next ninety years, famous visitors at the Castle Inn also included another illustrious warmonger and prime minister, the Duke of Wellington. During this period, the Mound and its associated pleasure grounds seem to have entered a period of slow, gradual decline. Depictions of the late 1700s and early 1800s, such as that of Colt Hoare in 1821, imply that the Mound and the surrounding gardens became overgrown. Whether this was a product of benign neglect or intent to create a more informal landscape, a ground plan of the 1780s confirms that the Mound was still included in an area recorded as ‘Castle Gardens’.

The building of the railways in the early 1840s led to the rapid demise of the coaching business on which the Castle Inn depended for trade. The Inn, therefore, closed in January 1843, prior to the foundation of Marlborough College. By the late 1840s, the development of the College began to force change on the Mound and its surrounding gardens. Increased numbers of College buildings, the construction of a water tank on the summit of the Mound, and the progressive infilling of the moat all assaulted its position. The beginning of the twentieth century saw further pressure on the Mound from College development. By 1923, a chimney for the nearby Laundry had been built into the Mound and the adjacent ‘Wilderness’ retained little evidence of the historic formal layout of the Castle bailey. While the Mound is not neglected intellectually today, as it continues to fascinate historians, it retains only a very marginal role in the College landscape, and has fallen far from its prominence as Merlin’s Barrow, or as a royal castle, or even as the Seymours’ garden mount. The Mound Trust intends once again to elevate the Castle Mound’s position as a site of great historical importance and interest.