On Wednesday 29th September, the Shell became only the second year group in the modern era to take part in the tradition of ad Montem, which translates as ‘to the Hill’.
In a ceremony of welcome to mark the start of their time at the College, the Shell processed in their Houses, dressed in House colours, from Court to the bottom of the Mound and then began the ascent around the gently inclining half-mile spiral path. When all the year group were on the Mound, a formal photograph was taken by drone from the Chapel side.
The majestic Neolithic mound, supposedly the place where Merlin is buried, stands at the centre of our campus and has long been a special place for our community and part of the Marlburian soul. Our pupils lead their full daily lives enriched by the shadow of 4,500 years of human aspiration, endeavour and creativity.
The Mound has had a varied and prestigious history: the Normans built a castle upon it that later became a royal hunting lodge and royal connections run deep. The first gold coins minted by an English king were made there and in 1267 Parliament met at the castle when the Statues of Marlborough, the basis of modern property law, were promulgated by Henry III. After a few quiet centuries, the Mound became an aesthetic and cultural haven as the centrepiece of the beautifully landscaped garden of Lady Hertford. She added the spiral path to the top of the Mound and the picturesque grotto at the bottom in the early 18th century.
Since the site became a school in 1843, it is believed that the Mound has played a role in occasions of investiture and celebration throughout the early part of the College’s history. Indeed, there is a fascinating painting from the mid-19th century hanging in the Master’s Lodge showing pupils processing around the Mound in what is thought to be the appointment of scholars.
Over the last 15 years, thanks to the remarkable legacy of Eric Elstob (C2 1956–60), the Mound is being carefully restored to its former glory with the support of the Mound Trust and Historic England. This restoration work is allowing the College to reconnect with the history and significance of the Mound and is facilitating more safe access for this type of milestone event.
It was a beautiful autumnal day and the ceremony was a real spectacle which we hope will form a treasured memory for the Shell of 2021.