The Marlborough Mound: prehistoric mound, medieval castle, Georgian garden

Review by Stephen Rippon

Silbury Hill in Wiltshire is one of our best-known prehistoric monuments, but was it unique? It seems not, as a similar – if somewhat smaller – mound appears to have lain ‘hidden in plain sight’ just 8km away in the grounds of Marlborough School. This fascinating book contains four chapters that explore the origins and development of the mound. Jim Leary and Joshua Pollard outline a programme of coring that produced four radiocarbon dates suggesting that the mound was built in the second half of the 3rd millennium BC. Marlborough’s development as a medieval castle is then explored in chapters by Oliver Creighton and Brian Dix: it was a royal seat and a favoured residence of King John. The rich documentary evidence is discussed in detail, but it is a shame that the archaeological evidence is relegated to an appendix. By the 16th century, the castle was in ruins, but it then started a new life as a country house surrounded by elaborate gardens, in which the former motte was transformed into a viewing platform. Overall, this is a fascinating story of just how complex the history of an archaeological site can be. 

The Marlborough Mound: prehistoric mound, medieval castle, Georgian garden 
Richard Barber (ed.) 
Boydell Press, £45, eBook £19.99
ISBN 978-1783271863