The landscape both in and around Marlborough is a rich archaeological feast which becomes more exciting with every new discovery. The very first evidence of people using the land on which Marlborough now lies stems from a few Palaeolithic hand axes from the site of the gasworks and from Granham Hill, ephemeral proof that hundreds of thousands of years ago people used this area as they followed migratory herds across the landscape.
After the last ice age, which ended roughly 11,000 years ago, semi-nomadic Mesolithic hunter- gatherers began making temporary camps along the banks of the River Kennet, utilising the river as a routeway and for its natural resources. In doing so, they left large quantities of flint tools behind them; one such camp site is located just off London Road and another on Elcot Lane.
A few thousand years later, during the Neolithic and Bronze age, people were living in more permanent settlements and evidence of early farming communities is still visible on the surrounding hillsides in the form of Neolithic Long Barrows and Bronze Age Round Barrows. A small community of late Neolithic/early Bronze Age people settled on the valley floor, now Ducks Meadow. A ditched trackway was discovered in the grounds of St. John’s School, possibly a routeway for taking their animals to graze up on the hillside, and where they would have probably tended their crops.
Marlborough Mound, a 19 metre high chalk structure which is located in the grounds of the college, has recently been dated to the Neolithic period. The radiocarbon date of 2,400 BC has effectively changed our perception of the Neolithic landscape of the area, making it likely that Marlborough was an important ritual landscape during these times. The mound was built at the same time as Silbury Hill, located approximately 8km west of Marlborough, some 4,400 years ago. In recent years the shape of Marlborough Mound has been obscured by tree and shrub growth, making it diffcult to pick out, even from the top of St Peter’s Church tower. Such growth can also be damaging, but there is now a plan to carefully restore and cut back the unwanted growth. The mound, being within the grounds of Marlborough College, is not often accessible to the public.
Frequent discoveries of brooches, coins and pottery found all over Marlborough are testament to the people of the Iron Age and there are many, many finds left behind by the Romano-British people who lived here shortly afterwards, including a settlement with a cemetery at St. Margaret’s Mead and a Villa at Brown’s Farm. In addition, the famous ‘Cunetio Hoard’. The Saxon period shows little evidence of occupation and archaeological fnds are limited to a few coins and shards of pottery; there was however a Saxon burial located near Savernake Hospital.