The Mounds of Wiltshire
Within five miles of each other, west of Marlborough and close to the Bath Road (A4) exist two spectacular Mounds whose origins have spun mystery and conjecture for centuries.
The smaller Mound lies at the heart of Marlborough College and has recently been radiocarbon dated to be more than four thousand years old. It has long been associated with the legendary wizard Merlin and Marlborough town’s motto ‘ubi nuncsapientis ossa Merlini’ (where now are the bones of wise Merlin?). Was indeed Marlborough – named as the site of Merlin’s Barrow? Fifty years after the Norman Conquest a stone castle developed that was centred on the Mound and was regularly visited by English monarchs in the 12th and 13th centuries.
By the eighteenth century much of the stonework of the now disused castle had been carted off to be incorporated in the construction of Marlborough properties and the Mound was transformed into an ornamental garden. In the nineteenth century the land became part of Marlborough College property and was, and is, strictly ‘out of bounds’. Although the remains of the mediaeval moat, which became the college’s curved swimming pool, enticed teenage boys to ‘skinny dip’ on warm summer evenings. (An English Baby Boomer: My Life and Times by Neil G M Hall Page 89)
The larger Mound – Silbury Hill - is some five miles west of Marlborough where the Bath Road (originally Roman) swerves to avoid it. A stunning vista for the approaching traveller, the hill also dates from around 2400BC and stands at 131 feet from base. Its purpose has been the subject of debate and no firm conclusion has ever been reached. There is much published research material but access is prohibited except to woolly sheep who graze on the smooth grassland of Silbury Hill.
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