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Guide to Christmas in Marlborough  



A very merry Christmas to everyone

in Marlborough, the villages, and to anyone for whom has become an important source of news, our What’s On calendar and information about the area. Since we started in the Spring of 2011, initially as Marlborough News Online, but more recently as just more and more people have come to use the site on a regular basis. We are probably the main source of news and information across the Marlborough area, many thousands read the site on their computer, tablet or smartphone, either directly or via Twitter or Facebook. Many people receive a weekly - and free - newsletter highlighting the important stories featured on the site, events taking place over the next few days, and some of the many jobs that are listed in our very popular jobs section. The Jobs section has grown enormously since it was introduced about three years ago and organisations can place ads for just twenty five pounds that can be read by well over twenty thousand people each month. It works, that’s why many employers in Marlborough use it again and again when looking for new employees. also looks to champion what happens in the town and beyond. We support many of the sports

clubs - Rugby Club, Hockey Club, Cricket Club, Youth Football Club as well as photographing and reporting on key local events and activities isn’t the only site that we provide. Marlborough is a centre for the equestrian world and we publish a site dedicated to the equestrian world across the Marlborough area Most of what appears on marlborough. news is created by our dedicated team of Tony Millett, Neil Goodwin and Sue Round, ably assisted by many specialist contributors who provide particular key insights to the reviews and news that they present, and also Marina Rae who devotes her time to dealing with large group of advertisers. In this guide we’ve enrolled an eclectic group of contributors, all familiar across the Marlborough area, with a brief to tell us about their memorable Christmas experiences. Eric Gilbert, our local weather guru has also given us a piece about the likelihood of snow falling in Marlborough at Christmas, as well as providing the beautiful photograph used for the cover of the River Kennet with snow lying on Rogers Meadow and Town Mill. Thanks for all your support across the past year, we wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a peaceful 2018.


As the leaves start to brown and fall,

we enter the period of remembrance. In the old Celtic tradition, Samhain marked the end of harvest and the beginning of winter and a time to honour the dead. In the Christian calendar, the 1st of November is All Saints’ Day, a time to remember Christian saints and martyrs and the 2nd of November is All Souls’ Day, a time to remember those departed. Hence, on the last day of October, we have All Hallows’ Eve or Halloween as we now call it. In the Mayoral year, our act of remembrance on Remembrance Sunday when we remember the fallen from World War One and all subsequent wars, is a major act of remembrance. As Mayor, this is a good time to pause and reflect as it is half way through the mayoral year, which seems to pass so quickly. This has meant getting to know our military partners at 4MI Battalion and their new commanding officer, Lt Col Puxley, as well as meeting fellow Town Mayors from around Wiltshire at events right across the county. We have seen the opening of a new school, Marlborough St Mary’s, and important Town Council projects have been delivered including new public 4 

toilets and the refurbishment of the Community and Youth Centre. The town played host to the Swindon and Wiltshire games this year, welcoming young people from all over the area to Marlborough. For me, the main highlight was the Puppet Festival celebrating the 70th anniversary of the founding of Pelham Puppets which coincided with our Civic Service in July. We had a really fun parade through the High Street and even a puppet show at the Civic Service itself, a truly unique event. Then, the Mop Fairs, a long-standing Marlborough tradition which take place in October, mark the start of the autumn period. As we come towards the end of November, all thoughts begin to turn to Christmas and children start to get really excited at the thought of Father Christmas and the delivery of presents. This year we mark the start of the festive period with our lights switch-on event on Friday, 1st December. It is also a time to remember those less fortunate than ourselves and to give freely to help those who are ill, lonely or impoverished and need that extra bit of

help and attention in order to get through what can be a difficult time. This year, the Mayor’s Charity Fund is dedicated to the children’s hospice Julia’s House and to HomeStart Kennet which helps young families through problems. One of the things that I get to do, as Mayor, is to meet with the many organisations working so hard to enrich our community and our environment. These depend heavily on volunteers and I say a special thank you to all of those people who freely offer their time, one of the greatest gifts that you can give.

organisations in need.

Many organisations struggle to get enough volunteers and I see it as a personal challenge to help encourage more volunteers and to match them with

So, on behalf of your Town Council and staff, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year.




How good is your memory when it

comes to remembering snowfall in recent years? What is the reality when records are analysed? You can probably remember the odd snowfall, but as a rule we don’t remember details such as the quantity of snow or the frequency of snowfalls The year of 2008 is the only year in the past ten when no snowfall of any type sort fell in Marlborough. By contrast, in 2010 (November and December) and 2013 (January to April) there were 10 and 18 days when snowfalls were noted. Not only were these ‘snow days’, but it was covering at least 50 per cent of the ground at nine in the morning each day for 16 and 9 days respectively. However, snowfall days can take several forms such as snow flurries to snow grains and snow pellets. When any of these are observed they often do not build into any quantity of snow over the ground and are likely to melt away quickly. Snow grains are up to 1mm in diameter whereas snow pellets are from 2-5mm and can be formed into balls unlike hail. We can also experience dry snowflakes that do not stick together - whereas wet snow sticks easily and is formed when the temperature is above zero centigrade. The snowiest winter in the UK was 8 

in 1947 when snow fell every day somewhere in the country. I remember well the winter of 1963 when snowdrifts were 2 - 3metres in depth and local rivers froze solid for a number of weeks. What do the records reveal for a white Christmas in Marlborough past? In 2001 and 2004, snow flurries were observed but were very light in nature and transitory. Whereas we did have a ‘white’ Christmas in 2010 as snow was on the ground from December 16 to December 28. To classify a Christmas as ‘white’ a snowflake has to be observed falling in the 24 hours of 25 December, somewhere in the UK. This has happened 38 times in the last 54 years. Detailed records for Marlborough show that the mean temperature for December has fallen about 1C since the 1980’s, conversely the January mean has shown a rise of around 1.5C since that time. However, there is just 0.5C separating the mean temperature for the two months with January the coldest. So the odds having a white Christmas in 2017 are stacked against us. With only one such occurrence in the past ten years and two years with just a few flakes floating down, with no quantity, it is likely to be a snowless Christmas. BUT, several forecasters are predicting that it is will get colder this December!

What are the conditions for snow to form? According to the Meteorological Office snow is formed when temperatures are low and there is moisture in the atmosphere in the form of tiny ice crystals. When these tiny ice crystals collide they stick together in clouds to become snowflakes. If enough ice crystals stick together, they'll become heavy enough to fall to the ground. Snow can form when the air temperature falls below 2C and the oft-repeated phrase that ‘it is too cold for snow’, is a myth. Snow in the UK usually

forms when the ambient temperature is between 0 and 2C. Let’s wait and see....




While living in Dubai I organised a

Christmas holiday to visit India’s ‘Golden Triangle’: Agra, Jaipur and Delhi. As long-term expats the children were used to Christmases spent in warmer climates and we were keen to explore other cultures. We loved our English Christmases when we flew ‘home’ to Marlborough, but were equally used to Christmas lunch in the desert or on the beach in 30 degree heat and this Indian trip offered a wonderful opportunity for discovery and adventure. On Christmas Day we set off by manpowered cycle rickshaw to Downtown Delhi and around the old bazaar – three vehicles between the family of five. Monkeys running along overhead cables, a maze of wires the likes of which we’d never seen before, sellers of all kinds of fruit and vegetables and savoury snacks cooked at the roadside and smelling delicious, children playing in the gutter, wild dogs, squirrels, glittering haberdashery in every colour imaginable and, oh, so many people. We were surprised to witness two very different processions - one being part of a Hindu festival and the other a funeral procession with the body being shrouded and carried shoulder height through the busy market. This was Indian city life at its most colourful and fascinating. 12 

Debi Evans with Rolo, star of many books

What struck me was that even in a large jostling crowd, India is a friendly and non-threatening place. We enjoyed the hustle and bustle and were amused by the good-natured way everyone tried to

sort out the rickshaw traffic jam we found ourselves in. We indulged in a very grand Christmas lunch at the Imperial Hotel’s 1911 restaurant, where for the first time ever, I had prawn jhinga (curry) for Christmas lunch! And very good it was too. Nobody complained about missing our usual ‘turkey and all the trimmings’. The rest of the tour was just as interesting, Jaipur for its architecture, and the memorable elephant ‘taxi’ ride to the Red Fort. Highlight for me was visiting the Taj Mahal. No photograph can do justice to that first tantalising glimpse of shimmering white marble through the red arch as you approach the famous mausoleum. We tacked on a trip to Ranthambhore in the hope of seeing tigers. The road south was very long and sometimes little more than a single track full of potholes. Driving is erratic and anything goes – as long as you use your horn to signal that you’re coming through! The city gave way to flat countryside, rice fields and other food crops. Oxen roam at will with beautiful smiles on their faces; they literally hold up the traffic. Pigs snuffle about in the gutters, cleaning up the rubbish and children play in the dirt. The women of Rajesthan wear

Nathan and elephant Jaipur

brightly coloured silk over their heads. We saw camel carts, many street dogs and hardworking people carrying all manner of things on their heads; firewood, cardboard, water containers. At intermittent standpipes, families would bathe or gather water. We spent the night in a game lodge close to the National Park. Despite an early morning jeep safari, alas no tigers were to be seen! A most unusual and memorable Christmas. Debi Evans, local author


With ith Christmas fast

approaching, I began to think of my childhood Christmases in the 1950s. How things have changed over the decades. Today the true spirit of Christmas seems to have disappeared completely. Now it is an exercise by retailers and manufacturers to releave you of as much of your hard earned cash as possible. With expensive advertising campaigns making everyone feel a failure if they don't buy the lastest and the best. How can you have a Merry Christmas with such pressure? I am the eldest of five children, so Christmas was a large family affair. In the early fifties turkey was only for the rich, we had chicken which was a treat. Each of us had one main present, a box of soldiers, a doll for my sister etc, no presents that needed batteries.

Roger Grant, Impressario and Chair of MantonFest

Other small, but useful presents, would come from our Grandmothers. The dreaded hand knitted jumper or socks, a packet of handkerchiefs, and and occasionally a festive card with a ten shilling note inside - which had to be saved. 14 

The Catholic Church played a big part in our celebrations. From the age of seven I became an altar boy. This meant I spent a lot of time in church on these important days. I can recall that when I was eight years old I was chosen to carry the baby Jesus in procession to the crib.

My cassock was too long and after a few nervous steps I tripped and dropped the said infant on the floor altering the shape of his nose. They never asked me to do it again. As I got older and the family expanded we went every Christmas to my uncle's house in Biddeden. It must have been about this time I really went off Christmas. My father had an A35 car. With one sister and three brothers plus a rather large grandmother there was no room for me. I had to cycle all the way from Tunbridge Wells to Biddeden

and back again in mid-winter which was about a 30 mile round trip. If it snowed or rained (it did frequently) I had to use a yellow cape and hat. It kept the top half dry but not the bottom and if it was windy I had no hope. All this for a packet of white hankies. The spirit of Christmas was gone for ever. Despite the loss of the true meaning of this festive time, it is a time to celebrate, whether you believe in it or not. Christmas often brings out the best in people and has shaped our society today. Happy Christmas





On Christmas Eve in 1914, the 1st

filled with sausages and chocolates.

Battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment was ordered into the line on the Wytschaete Sector in Flanders.

In return he threw the Germans a Christmas pudding. Suddenly ‘a complete Boche type’ appeared on the parapet.

There is no evidence that they participated in the famous “Christmas Truce” that began that evening along parts of the Western Front.

"It didn’t take 'Our Bert' long to be upon the skyline. This was a signal for more Boche anatomy to be disclosed, and this was replied to by all our Alfs and Bills, until, in less time than it takes to tell, half a dozen or so each of the belligerents were outside the trenches and were advancing towards each other in noman’s land…."

Things were different down the line, where one of my heroes, Capt. Bruce Bairnsfather, of the 1st Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, found himself. A graphic artist, he doubled as the electrician at Stratford’s famous theatre. As a result of a brief spell in the army, which he had found boring, he was amongst the first to be recalled to the colours that August. He was soon put in charge of a Maxim gun section in the Ploegsteet (‘Plug Street’) sector. His Battalion had been ordered back into the line on December 23, the day before the Wiltshires. On Christmas Eve, on a freezing night, he heard Stille Nacht being sung in the German lines. The British response was the singing of ‘irreverant songs’. A boot flew through the air and landed in his trench. It was 18 

Later Bairnsfather was astonished to see one of his Battalion’s machine-gunners, a barber in civilian life, cutting the long hair of a docile German, who was patiently kneeling on the ground while the automatic clippers crept up the back of his neck. For his failure to prevent this fraternisation, Bairnsfather was investigated with a view to a Court Martial, but for once, the authorities had the sense to back off trying a valued officer. The following April, Bruce was a victim of the first German gas attack at the Second Battle of Ypres. After being treated at a field station, he was conveyed to King’s College Hospital, where he was diagnosed as suffering

from shell-shock. On his recovery, he was sent to the Isle of Wight to train recruits. From there he started to send cartoons to The Bystander magazine, inventing his character, 'Old Bill', who features on his 'Well if you knows of a better ‘ole, go to it', one of the most famous cartoons of all time. Nick Fogg, author, founder of the Marlborough International Jazz Festival and County Councillor for Marlborough West




Christmas and the holiday

season in general is a time when most people’s thoughts turn to giving. This year, as well as planning presents, parties and meals for my own family, I have a new set of children to think about. In May 2017 I was fortunate enough to be elected Unitary Councillor for West Selkley (the ‘donut’ of villages around Marlborough). Since then I have been very busy working with the parishes I represent to support them in achieving improvements for their communities as well as my portfolio duties for Children and Adults with Disabilities. Councillors are also kept busy with other responsibilities, such as attending committees on planning, children and adult services, safeguarding and health. In addition, every Wiltshire councillor must agree to become a ‘corporate parent’ to each ‘looked after child’ in Wiltshire. Looked after children are those who are in the care of the local authority. They are likely to have experienced significant disruption in their lives. There are around 400 children in care in Wiltshire 22 

at any one time. They range from newborn babies to older teenagers and groups of siblings. Some children need short-term placements because of a family crisis or the serious illness of a parent, while others need longer-term placements. Fostering is a way of providing familybased care for children who cannot live with their parents or other family.

Foster carers provide day to day care for children, ensuring that their physical, emotional, educational and social needs are met. Foster carers can, and very often do, transform children’s lives. I am a member of the ‘Corporate Parenting Committee’ and we are responsible for ensuring that Wiltshire’s duty of care for these vulnerable children is properly fulfilled. At this time of year we add making Christmas special to our tasks. We will be encouraging all councillors to donate towards the cost of a party held

at County Hall for children and carers and we have planned a fun evening of activities as well as cakes, crackers and presents. I am as excited about the party as our own Christmas at home. Spending time with children who have had very little opens your eyes. Winston Churchill is said to have once observed ‘we make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.’ Jane Davies, recently elected Wiltshire Councillor for the West Selkley division with a portfolio responsibity for Children and Adults with Disabilities


It’s a Family Affair at Marlborough’s Mace Store.

One of the busiest days of the year in Marlborough’s Mace Store, Baylie Acre, is Christmas Day. Owner Mac Leadbitter opens on Christmas Day from 10 to 12 for those last minute emergencies. He told “I’ve had queues round the shop on Christmas Day. Sometimes there can be a queue of six or seven outside the shop when I arrive half an hour before opening. One customer told me, ‘My wife has the whole of Waitrose in the house but no teabags.’” “I’ve had people come in and ask for caviar, not something a convenience store stocks! But the most popular item is batteries. The kids will have opened their Christmas toys and the parents realise there’s no batteries to make them work so they dash down to the shop.” “There’s also a certain amount of panic buying of bread, milk and booze. People look at what they have and panic there isn’t enough.” Other popular Christmas Day items are gravy and headache tablets. “We always order in triple stock of these!” added Mac’s daughter Kelly Scott. Kelly also recalled the Christmas when 24 

they opened the shop door to find a naked teenage boy on the doorstep! “He had been at an all night party and had somehow lost his clothes. He was last seen running off in the direction of the common!” Mac has to ensure he has help on Christmas Day, often from another family member, as one year he was trapped in the shop until 1pm. “I had no-one helping me, so I couldn’t leave the till to shut the shop door. People kept coming in and I didn’t have the heart to turn them away.” Mac and his family enjoy Christmas and organize Christmas events in the shop. They have had a Santa Grotto for local children and this year there will be a Santa Postbox in the shop as well as a Children’s Art Competition. All letters to Santa are answered and Santa leaves his replies in a small house in the shop for collection. Entries from the art competition are on display in the shop for a few weeks before Christmas. The winners are chosen by judge Betty Bicknell. Mac, originally from Newcastle, spent 23 years in the army and lived in Germany and Cyprus. He enjoys spending Christmas with his family. “The best thing about Christmas,” says grandson Kaiden, “is being together.”

Mac Leadbitter with daughter Kelly Scott and grandson Kaiden



I love Christmas. An annual season of

reflection. “Can you let me have some words to reflect the work you do in Marlborough?” That was the question. It is always flattering when asked to prepare a few words for others to read. It means you must be doing something good. Or interesting. In my case, I guess because of Marlborough Youth Football Club and Slater Music School, both important parts of my small world, and hopefully big parts of Marlborough Community. MYFC was came to life in 2009. The early days comprised a handful of players, jumpers for goalposts, and we were hopeless. But we loved it! We now have 325 players (U5-U18), 60 volunteers, Girls Football (MYFC Angels) and Walking Football for the over 50’s. (It took me a three-hour drive to come up with, “for those slowed by age or injury” - pleased with that one….). We have cup wins, league successes, academy and county trialists, FA Qualified Coaches, Professional Coaches (linked with Chelsea and Reading FC) and Referee Programmes. We’ve also just announced a four-year deal with Nike. Our football club is remarkable. I am delighted by our achievements. 26 

Slater Music School: another big part of my Marlborough life. We opened in 2003 and have grown to nearly 200 students, supplying weekly tuition in Drums, Guitar, Bass and Theory. We teach weekday evenings privately at St Johns, and during daytimes at our seven schools regionally. SMS’s achievements are also remarkable, only made possible by our tutors, Sean, Ben, Matt, Sarina, Paul, and of course Lindsey! We have a 100% exam pass rate up to Grade 8, numerous students go onto Music Higher Education, we have work placements, we help develop bands, (dispute resolution mainly…) and so it goes. Overall progress across all ages and stages is strong. I’m lucky also because I work on the road a lot as a musician. A drummer playing shows, a music examiner across the UK and overseas, a

With MYFC - holding the recently won RANMAR (Marlborough & Ramsbury) Trophy

music competition head judge doing my best Simon Cowell impression in theatres across the land. The reason I’m lucky is because it makes me realise how special Marlborough is to come home to, especially so at Christmas. And also the part we play. I am very proud of MYFC. And of Slater Music School too. Stuart Slater - behind the kit Moreover, I am proud to be part Stuart Slater, Chairman of Marlborough of our amazing community. May I wish Youth Football Club, and Founder/Owner of everyone a peaceful Christmas and a Slater Music School fantastic 2018.


My retirement is partially taken up with a fascination for finding and restoring original shepherd’s huts.

In the last six years I have discovered and saved ten huts from decay and now they are all fully restored and have found new homes. They are a must for any large garden and ideal for the children to sleep in, or even grown-ups. Lots of people are using shepherds huts as glamping experiences, one of my restorations is being set up for glamping at Liddington Warren Farm. The huts have come to me from a wide variety of places but always local to Wiltshire, where they were extensively used up to 1950 at the latest. Most huts are between 100 and 150 yrs old now and that is why I believe they are worth restoring as an example of our local farming history. During the Christmas period three years ago I had a message to say that there were three huts in a wood near Newbury and that they had been there for a good number of years. After contacting the owner of the Estate I was invited to go and see if they were worth restoring. I must say It was a very exciting prospect to find three huts all in one place, as we 28 

entered the first wood where two huts were parked, I could see the outline of a very large waggon and a smaller shack. On closer inspection we found the large waggon to be a living van as used by the steam ploughing teams in the late 1800s to the early 1900s. The waggon was in good condition below floor level considering it age, it was made by Fowler who also made the steam engines. Later on I found out about is history, it had been made in1903. The upper part of the van - that’s the living part - was badly decayed in some places and not bad in others. I quickly decided that I could restore the vehicle. Alongside the living van was the remains of a shepherds hut its wheels completely sunk in the ground. The structure was beyond repair but with original running gear I reckoned I could recreate the hut. The Estate owner then took me to another wood where we came across another shepherds hut of the type built by Watkins and Naylor, later taken over by Taskers of Andover. This hut was in fairly good condition as it had been parked in the same place for forty years and used by the gamekeepers as a store. This was exactly what I was looking for. A deal was struck where by I would restore the living van for a fee, and return it to the Estate. I would also have the two shepherds hut in part payment

although one of them was of not much value. As Christmas was fast approaching we agreed that I would go and collect all three in the new year. I had to make two journeys, on the first I collected the living van and wheels on the decayed shepherds hut. Just as I was preparing to collect the most interesting hut (for me) the owner rang with some news. ‘Good news first!’ he said... ‘I am pleased to tell you the wind has died down and its stopped raining. The bad news is although the

good hut has been stood by a big ash tree for forty years it is now under the fallen tree.’ A Christmas magazine is not the place to print my words, needless to say I was a trifle disappointed with my luck. On inspection the roof was ruined. one side was pushed out and the axles were broken. Not in a condition to be restored, unfortunately, but two out of three huts is a welcome Christmas Surprise all the same.

John Errington


Christmas Events 1st December: Marlborough Christmas Lights Switch on / Festive Fair & Christmas Market - 15:00 - 20:00 Woodborough School Fair - 14:30 - 17:00 Chilton Foliat Primary School Christmas Market & Grotto - 15:15 - 17:45 2nd December: Winter Works Open Day - Crofton Beam Engines - 10:00 - 15:00 The Avenue Day Nursery Christmas Fayre, Savernake - 13:00 - 16:00 Preshute Primary School Christmas Fayre, Manton - 16:00 - 19:00 Marlborough Concert Orchestra Winter Concert at St Mary’s - 19:30 5th December: Marlborough On Screen Events Presents The Nutcracker, Town Hall - 19:15 6th December: Festive Christmas Coffee Morning at The Merchant’s House - 10:00 - 12:00 7th December: Willow Wreath Workshop, Avebury - 10:00 -12.30 - 01380 871012 8th December: Christmas Fayre, Marlborough St Mary Primary School - 16:00 - 19:00 9th December: West Overton Church Christmas Bazaar - 10:00 - 16:00 Marlborough Christmas Craft & Gift Market, Town Hall Burbage Christmas Tree Sale - 09:00 - 16:30 Carols by Candlelight - Marlborough Choral Society at St Mary’s Church - 19:30 10th December: Marlborough Christmas Craft & Gift Market, Town Hall Burbage Christmas Tree Sale - 09:00 - 14:00 Chamber Recital, St Peter’s Church - 18:30 Christmas Concert - Avebury Vocal Ensemble, St James Church, Avebury - 19:30 14th December: Beers & Carols, St Mary’s Church - 18:00 - 19:30 16th December: A Marlborough Christmas, Norwood Hall, Marlborough College - 10:00 - 16:00 Christmas Carol Concert, Marlborough College Chapel – 16:00 Tickets available from David Dudley Jewellers or Kim Vine or call 01672 562777 Craft & Gift Market, Marlborough Town Hall - 10:00 – 18:00 St Agnes Fountain - Marlborough Folk-Roots at Christchurch, New Rd - 20:00 17th December Santa Fun Run, St Johns Academy – 10:30 Christmas Workshops Craft Studio, Pewsey – various dates 30 


32 Christmas Guide 2017  

marlboroughnnews guide to Christmas in Marlborough