Marlborough College

Marlborough College

Coordinates: 51°24′58″N 1°44′13″W / 51.416°N 1.737°W / 51.416; -1.737

Marlborough College
Motto Deus Dat Incrementum
(1 Corinthians 3:6:"God Gives The Increase")
Established 1843
Type Independent school
Religion Anglican
President The Rt Revd Dr David Stancliffe, Lord Bishop of Salisbury
Master Nicholas Sampson
Visitor The Most Revd & Rt Hon Dr Rowan Williams, Lord Archbishop of Canterbury
Chairman of Council Sir Hayden Phillips GCB
Location Marlborough
United Kingdom United Kingdom
Students 872 pupils (approx.)
Gender Co-educational
Ages 13–18
Houses 14 Boarding houses
Colours Navy & white          
Publication The Marlburian & The Heretick
Former pupils Old Marlburians

Marlborough College is a British co-educational independent school for day and boarding pupils, located in Marlborough, Wiltshire.

Founded in 1843 for the education of the sons of Church of England clergy, the school now accepts both boys and girls of all beliefs. Currently there are just over 800 pupils, approximately one third of whom are female. New pupils are admitted at the ages of 13+ ("Shell entry") and 16 (Lower Sixth).

Marlborough was, in 1968, the first major British independent school to allow girls into the sixth form,[citation needed] setting a trend that many other schools would follow. The College became fully co-educational in 1989. The College has also been pioneering in other fields, making a major contribution to the School Mathematics Project (from 1961) and initiating the teaching of Business Studies at A level (from 1968). Fagging was officially abolished in the 1920s, and Marlborough was one of the first public schools to do so. However, unofficial fagging did persist beyond this change for some time. In 1963 a group of boys, led by the future political biographer Ben Pimlott, wrote a book, "Marlborough, an open examination written by the boys," describing life at the school. The writer and television critic T.C. Worsley wrote about predatory masters at the school in his critically acclaimed autobiography Flannelled Fool: A Slice of a Life in the Thirties.[1]

The Good Schools Guide described Marlborough as a "Famous, designer label, co-ed boarding school still riding high."[2] The school is a member of the G20 Schools Group.

In 2005 the school was one of fifty of the country's leading independent schools which were found guilty of running an illegal price-fixing cartel, exposed by The Times, which had allowed them to drive up fees for thousands of parents.[3] Each school was required to pay a nominal penalty of £10,000 and all agreed to make ex-gratia payments totalling three million pounds into a trust designed to benefit pupils who attended the schools during the period in respect of which fee information was shared.[4] However, Mrs Jean Scott, the head of the Independent Schools Council, said that independent schools had always been exempt from anti-cartel rules applied to business, were following a long-established procedure in sharing the information with each other, and that they were unaware of the change to the law (on which they had not been consulted). She wrote to John Vickers, the OFT director-general, saying, "They are not a group of businessmen meeting behind closed doors to fix the price of their products to the disadvantage of the consumer. They are schools that have quite openly continued to follow a long-established practice because they were unaware that the law had changed."[5]


School buildings

The college is built beside the Mound. This was used as the motte of a castle. No remains of the castle can be seen today. It is generally accepted that the Mound is actually of much more ancient construction and possibly a similar feature to Silbury Hill; indeed, it is a contender for the prize of Europe's oldest building. Legend has it that the Mound is the burial site of Merlin and that the name of the town, Marlborough comes from Merlin's Barrow. More plausibly, the name probably derives from the medieval term for chalky ground "marl" – thus "town on chalk".

A variety of buildings around Court.

The main focus of the college is the Court. This is surrounded by buildings in a number of different styles. At the south end is the back of an early 18th century mansion, later converted to a coaching inn which was bought as the first building for the school. Next to it are the old stables, now converted into boarding houses. The west side consists of the 1960s red brick dining hall, which boasts the largest unsupported roof in the country, and a Victorian boarding house now converted to other purposes. The north west corner is dominated by its Victorian Gothic style chapel by the architects George Frederick Bodley and Thomas Garner which has an interesting collection of pre-Raphaelite style paintings by John Roddam Spencer Stanhope and stained glass by William Morris.

The listed Science Labs

The rest of the Court is surrounded by buildings in styles ranging from faux Tudor to classical Georgian and Victorian prison. The latter, B house, was (along with the College Chapel) designed by the Victorian architect Edward Blore, whose other works include the facade of Buckingham Palace (since redesigned) and the Vorontsovsky Palace in Alupka, Ukraine.

On the other side of the Mound is the Science laboratory, built in 1933. It is an early example of shuttered concrete construction and was listed as a building of architectural significance in 1970.[6]


Pupils are assigned to one of the Houses on entering the school. This is where they live and make their home while at school. The Houses compete against one another in sports, but they are not exclusive and everyone has friends from other Houses.

The Houses are divided into In-College Houses which are mostly gathered around the central Court and Out-College Houses which are located around the western side of the town. Unusually, the older In-College Houses were not historically given names but were referred to by an alphanumeric title. A reorganisation a few years ago combined some houses and eliminated some of the older numbered Houses. More recently created Houses have been given names either reflecting their location or commemorating a figure from the school's past.

Names of the houses

Boys In-College Girls In-College Mixed Out-College
B1 Elmhurst Turner (In-College)
C1 Mill Mead Cotton
C2 Morris Littlefield
C3 New Court Preshute
Barton Hill Summerfield

Until 1967, when Turner House and Summerfield became the first all-age houses, all boys entering the school first joined a junior house for three or four terms. There were five out-college junior houses – Priory and Upcot which were both closed in 1967, Barton Hill which became an all-age in-college house in 1974, Hermitage which had closed in 1911 but reopened 1974–77, and Elmhurst which was closed in 1988 and reopened as a girls' house the following year. There were two in-college junior houses (A1 and A2) which shared A house; these were closed in 1989 and reopened as a girls' house renamed Morris House.

At the same time the other senior houses began to take in boys directly from prep schools – Preshute (1970), Cotton (1976), Littlefield (1977) and the in-college houses in 1989. B2 (which had shared B house with B1) and B3 ceased taking in new boys in 1989 and were both closed in 1992.

When the College became fully co-educational in 1989, three girls' houses were opened – Morris, Elmhurst and Mill Mead; New Court was opened in 1991. Morris was moved in 1995 from A house to Field House, which had previously been occupied by B3 and C2. New houses were built to accommodate C3, which had previously shared C house with C1 (in 1989) and C2 (in 1992).

Southern Railway Schools class

In 1933, the school lent its name to one of the steam locomotives in the Southern Railway's Schools class, which were named after prominent English public schools. The locomotive bearing the School's name (no. 922, later 30922) was withdrawn in 1961.[7] Both its nameplates are now on display at the school – one in the Norwood Hall and the other in the Science labs.

Masters (headmasters) of Marlborough

"Marlborough College". Caricature of George Charles Bell by Spy published in Vanity Fair in 1902.
  • 1843–1851 Matthew Wilkinson
  • 1852–1858 George Edward Lynch Cotton
  • 1858–1870 George Granville Bradley
  • 1871–1876 Frederick William Farrar
  • 1876–1903 George Charles Bell
  • 1903–1911 Frank Fletcher
  • 1911–1916 St John Basil Wynne Willson
  • 1916–1926 Cyril Norwood
  • 1926–1939 George C Turner
  • 1940–1942 Arthur Paul Boissier
  • 1942–1952 Francis Melville Heywood
  • 1952–1961 Thomas Ronald Garnett
  • 1961–1972 John Christopher Dancy
  • 1972–1986 Roger Wykeham Ellis
  • 1986–1993 David R Cope
  • 1993–2003 Edward JH Gould
  • 2004– Nicholas Alexander Sampson

Old Marlburians

See List of notable Old Marlburians for details of famous former pupils. Societies for former pupils include The Marlburian Club[8] and the Old Marlburian Lodge[9] (of Freemasons).

School terms

There are three academic terms in the year:

  • The Michaelmas Half, from early September to mid December (new boys, girls and lower-sixth candidates are now usually only admitted at the start of the Michaelmas Half);
  • The Lent Half, from mid January to late March;
  • The Summer Half, from late April to late June or early July.


The Chapel (1886) is a masterpiece of its time.[citation needed] The Memorial Hall (1925) is a theatre and assembly space built in the neo-Classical style. The Hony Centre (2001) provides Drama and Music with modern facilities for teaching and performance and the Art School (2005) offers a contemporary facility for the teaching of the visual arts. In addition, the College grounds provide some of the most up-to-date sporting venues in the country while the Blackett Observatory (1935) is the most significant school observatory in the UK.[citation needed]

Art facilities

On the 21 November 2005 the new Art School was officially opened by the Director of the National Gallery, Charles Saumarez Smith a former student at Marlborough.

The building has huge curved glass windows reflect the sun and to encourage the passer-by to look in. From the inside, it is equally spectacular. Steel pillars and beams support a vast uninterrupted space illuminated by natural light. The new Art School houses six teaching rooms, one library and a computer room. Below, and accessible by lift and stairs, is a basement lecture room, a new video editing and animation studio, a photography dark room and storage. In addition, there is a staff room, a sculpture room and toilet facilities. The new building is located next to the existing ceramic department, the woodwork area and the Mount House Gallery.[10]

Drama facilities

The Bradleian Theatre

The Bradleian is named after George Bradley who was appointed to succeed Bishop Cotton as Master of Marlborough in 1858. Today, it is a theatre and home to the Drama Department although this was not its original function.

The Bradleian and part of its adjacent arches were built between 1871 and 1873 as a result of an appeal to create a fitting memorial to George Bradley's achievements at Marlborough. The sum of about £1,000 was raised and the Hall was opened with a dinner on 22 December 1873.

The Bradleian was first used as a place of study for scholars and later on functioned as a History Library and as a room for debates and lectures. From 1874 the building was also used for the so-called Penny Readings. These were entertainments organised by the boys during which pennies would be thrown onto the stage while the Senior Prefect gave a dramatic reading.

In 1958 The Bradleian was converted into a small theatre – an appropriate use since the Penny Readings were to evolve into the major theatrical production of the Lent Term. The Bradleian Theatre was much used for the staging of house plays during the period 1960–1990. During the 1990s it was given a major face-lift and an extra building was added onto its eastern side. It is now a modern and flexible drama workshop and theatre in which much of the work of the Theatre Studies Department is centred.[11]

The Memorial Hall

The Memorial Hall is the College's principal memorial to the 749 men who gave their lives in World War I. Their names are inscribed on the wall at the back of the auditorium. College members who died during World War II are named on a memorial panel in the entrance hall. It was opened by H.R.H. The Duke of Connaught on 23 May 1925. It stands to the west of the Court and is linked to the chapel by means of stone steps leading down to the hall's brick-paved forecourt.

The Memorial Hall was designed to have a maximum capacity of about 800 and so today, even with extra chairs placed around the ambulatory, the whole College can only just be squeezed in. Thus, apart from short whole school assemblies at the start and finish of each term, it is more usual for the hall to be used for Lower or Upper School assemblies. It is also used for concerts and theatrical productions where the whole school is not expected to attend.

Architecture of the Memorial Hall

The hall was built by Messrs Holloways of London at a cost of £53,000. The design was the result of a competition between Old Marlburian architects, the adjudicator being Sir John Simpson, President of the Royal Institute of British Architects. The winning design was that of William Newton.

The hall itself comprises a semi-circular auditorium of stepped seats with an ambulatory at the rear to allow inspection of the 749 names carved in alphabetical order and without reference to rank around the inside of the back of the hall. The large hanging curtains at the back of the hall, together with the cork floor of the ambulatory, serve to deaden noise. At the back of the building, there is a separate entrance giving access to a series of music practice rooms located under the ambulatory.

The stone-paved terrace immediately in front of the Hall is in York stone, with a single square of green Connemara marble in front of each of the two entrances. The façade of the hall towards the forecourt consists of two large entrance lobbies linked together by eight massive stone columns which screen the back wall of the stage and give a monumental character to the whole building.

In the centre of the hall's forecourt there is a hexagonal flower bed surrounded on each side by a large flower pot. The six flower pots represent the six years (1914–1919) during which the 749 men died. Originally, the flower bed was a pool of remembrance, paved with blue and gold mosaic. It was converted in the 1980s after serious leaks developed.[12]

The Memorial Rose Gardens

Close by and to the east of the Hall is a Memorial Rose Garden. This is entered via a small brick Loggia over the entrance of which is an inscription in Greek which can be translated as: Within this quiet garden-close, Though o`er all lands our graves lie spread, Still do we live and walk with those Whose thoughts are with the dead.

The College Chapel

College Chapel

The "new" Chapel, dedicated to St Michael and All Angels, was erected on the site of the old. It was built by Stephens & Barstow at a cost of £31,000 under the direction of the architects, George Bodley and Thomas Garner and was consecrated on 29 September 1886 by the Bishop of Salisbury.


The chapel, measuring 154 feet long, 54 feet wide and 60 feet high, is fashioned in the Late Decorated Gothic style. Amongst its noteworthy architectural features are the apsidal form of the East end and the strikingly large reredos in the Anglo-Catholic style, which was gilded much later, in 1951, by Sir Ninian Comper at the same time as he painted the inside of the apse.

Bodley & Garner's colour scheme of greens and browns, much loved by John Betjeman, dominates the Chapel interior, together with a series of 12 large murals by the late Pre-Raphaelite Spencer Stanhope. These depict Biblical scenes involving angels, six on the north side from the Old Testament and a like number on the south from the New. Other artistic features of note are the Scholars' Window on the south side (a green window featuring the boys Samuel and Timothy which was designed by Burne-Jones and made under the direction of William Morris) and Eric Gill's sculpture of "The Virgin and Child" above the outside of the West Door.[13]


As the College was founded in 1843 with the prime purpose of educating the sons of Clergy, building a Chapel was an early priority.

The first Chapel, designed by Edward Blore (1787–1879), was opened in 1848 to accommodate 500 boys. It was, however, a rather plain building and by 1880 the College community had, in any case, grown to over 600.

An initial scheme of enlargement by lengthening the walls and raising their height had to be abandoned when it was discovered that Blore's foundations were insufficient to bear the extra weight and the decision was taken to salvage everything possible before Blore's Chapel was completely demolished in 1884.

The College Chapel was closed due to problems with the structural integrity. It has now been declared safe to use, although scaffolding is still present on it.[14]

The Carlos Gracada Design Technology Centre

The facility is relatively compact and provides two dedicated design studios that open directly onto two linked multi–material workshops. Glazed partitions are used extensively within the structure of the building to ease the transition between the design areas and the workshops. Pupils are encouraged to move between the different zones according to need. One design studio is dedicated to work of a graphic nature whilst the other also includes extensive resources for work in electronics.

Whilst traditional workshop activity is catered for, the College has made a significant investment in equipment for CAD/CAM (Computer Aided Design and Computer Aided Manufacture). Workshops include two computer controlled routers, a CNC lathe, two CNC vinyl cutters and a CNC engraver. However, it must be noted that the CNC lathe is yet to be made operationally available to the pupils as the correct post processor has proved difficult to acquire. A bank of CAD equipped computers sits in an air conditioned, glazed room at the heart of the building.[15]

Music facilities

Officially opened by Sir Nicholas Goodison in October 2001 and named after Henry Hony, a former benefactor of the College, the Hony Centre for music and drama contains a variety of teaching, practice and performance areas.

Teaching facilities

The Henry Hony Centre contains around twenty standard music teaching rooms. Each is equipped with a piano and is soundproofed and designed to acoustically enhance a player’s sound. An advanced keyboard lab also contains a digital organ. There are two purpose designed and fully equipped drama classrooms as well as workshops for the manufacture of stage scenery.

Performance areas

The Ellis Theatre can be converted into a variety of stage formats for the performance of music or drama, or for talks and lectures. In a conventional end-stage configuration the theatre accommodates just over 200, as a thrust stage it holds 360, and as a theatre-in-the-round it seats nearly 450 including almost 100 in the surrounding balcony. The Goodison Hall provides a smaller and more intimate environment for performance.

All music halls and performance areas are fitted with sound proof windows which prevent sound from escaping, even while open, as well as walls engineered to prevent sound crossing at right angles. The floors of the centres also float on a bed of air, so as to maintain good soundproofing.

Music technology

There are over 20 MIDI/Audio Computer Workstations in the Hony Centre running Cubase SL, Reason and Sibelius 3. All computers are loaded with MIDI and audio plug-ins, software and hardware instruments, effects and editing tools. The Music Department maintains its own network, MusicNet, which allows pupils the flexibility to work from any machine.

In addition, the Music Technology classroom contains a 24 track digital recording studio with a 72 channel, fully automated digital mixing desk. In addition to a substantial rack of outboard equipment, the mixer incorporates audio effects, editing and mastering plug-ins.

This studio is linked to many other rooms in the Hony Centre by video, analogue tie-lines and a fibre-optic Digital Audio Network. Thus performances in the Ellis Theatre or Goodison Hall can be patched straight through to the studio with minimal fuss. A Soundfield MkV microphone has recently been installed in the Ellis Theatre to give pupils the opportunity to make live ambient recordings to professional standards.[16]

The Observatory

The Blackett Observatory, is named after Sir Basil Blackett, one time President of the Old Marlburian Club; its telescope (the Barclay) is the largest in full time use in any school.[citation needed]

The Blackett Observatory

The observatory is used today to support the GCSE Astronomy course and space modules in the Physics syllabus. All Shell (Year 9) pupils visit the dome in House groups over the first two terms of their time at Marlborough and 'Outreach' encourages use of the dome by those outside the College community. Sir Patrick Moore is president of 'Friends of the Marlborough Telescope', a group of some eighty local observing enthusiasts.

The Barclay equatorial mounting telescope housed in the observatory is a 10" aperture refractor constructed in 1860 by Thomas Cooke and Sons of York. When built, it was one of the largest telescopes in the UK; it was used professionally for 75 years, first in Essex and then at the Oxford Radcliffe Observatory.

When the Oxford Radcliffe Observatory was being re-sited to South Africa, Sir Basil Blackett raised 800 guineas so that the 10" Barclay Equatorial refractor that had formerly been housed at Oxford could be moved to its current location on the Marlborough College playing fields. It was opened there in 1935 by Harold Knox-Shaw, the last Oxford based Radcliffe Observer.

Starting in 1997, the College funded a five year restoration plan to completely renovate, re-motorise and computerise the main telescope. It is now likely to be the oldest telescope in the world to have a 'go to’ function.[citation needed] The Observatory and telescope were re-opened in October 2002 by Savillian Professor, Joseph Silk FRS.[17]

Sports Facilities

Within the College grounds, there are playing fields. These include 11 rugby pitches, 6 grass hockey pitches, 8 cricket squares, 14 artificial cricket nets, 3 lacrosse pitches, 7 soccer pitches, 2 volleyball courts and a golf driving range.

There are two all-weather astro-pitches (one floodlit) for hockey and tennis (12 courts) and further hard court areas for netball (10 courts) and tennis (12 courts). Golfers can play on the Marlborough and Ogbourne Downs golf courses. There are also facilities for sailing, canoeing and polo. Angling is available in the River Kennet or the trout ponds. Under the lee of Granham Hill, stands an all-weather, porous rubber, athletics' track, opened in 2000 and equipped to international standards.

The College has a sports hall complex and gymnasium. This includes a fitness room, teaching rooms, and a fencing salle. There are indoor cricket nets and facilities for a range of sports including indoor tennis, netball, basketball, volleyball and badminton.

Next to the CCF Parade Ground, there is a .22 rifle range.

A 25 metre, competition, indoor swimming pool was opened in 2003. This has eight lanes and a hydraulic bottom which alters the depth from 0.8 to 3 metres making it equally ideal for squad training, water polo, sub aqua, canoeing or recreational swimming.

Indoor facilities also include 2 rackets courts, 5 squash courts and 6 fives courts.

The campus has an outdoor activities centre, the Kempson Centre, with dedicated storage, teaching space and an indoor climbing wall.[18]

See also


  1. ^ Worsley, T. C. (1967). Flannelled Fool: A Slice of a Life in the Thirties. London: Alan Ross. 
  2. ^ "Marlborough College, Marlborough – The Good School Guide". Retrieved 16 November 2010. 
  3. ^ Halpin, Tony (10 November 2005). "Independent schools face huge fines over cartel to fix fees". The Times (London). Retrieved 12 May 2010. 
  4. ^ "The Office of Fair Trading: OFT names further trustees as part of the independent schools settlement". Retrieved 16 November 2010. 
  5. ^ "Private schools send papers to fee-fixing inquiry". The Daily Telegraph (London). 3 January 2004. Retrieved 2011-15-03. 
  6. ^ "Listing of the Science Block by English Heritage". 28 January 1971. Retrieved 16 November 2010. 
  7. ^ Bradley, D.L. (October 1975). Locomotives of the Southern Railway: Part 1. London: RCTS. pp. 26,27,41. ISBN 0 901115 30 4. 
  8. ^ Official website of Old Boys' Club.
  9. ^ Official website of Old Boys' Lodge.
  10. ^ "Marlborough CollegeNew Art School". 28 January 2010. Retrieved 16 November 2010. 
  11. ^ "Marlborough College Bradleian". 28 January 2010. Retrieved 16 November 2010. 
  12. ^ "Marlborough CollegeThe Memorial Hall". 23 May 1925. Retrieved 16 November 2010. 
  13. ^ "Marlborough CollegeChapel". 28 January 2010. Retrieved 16 November 2010. 
  14. ^ "Notice of closure of the Chapel". 1 December 2008. Retrieved 16 November 2010. 
  15. ^ "Marlborough College Design Centre". 28 January 2010. Retrieved 16 November 2010. 
  16. ^ "Marlborough College Hony Centre". 28 January 2010. Retrieved 16 November 2010. 
  17. ^ "Marlborough CollegeThe Blackett Observatory". 28 January 2010. Retrieved 16 November 2010. 
  18. ^ "Marlborough CollegeSports Facilities". 28 January 2010. Retrieved 16 November 2010. 

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