Marlborough House and Garden

When Edward Seymour was given Marlborough Castle, there were virtually no buildings left. At some point in the following decades, a house was built there; in 1621, Sir William Seymour gave the castle to his brother Francis, who already had a house there. The Mound was on the Bath Road, and was shown as a landmark on maps. But it was no longer the old motte of Marlborough Castle. It had become a fashionable garden feature, a prospect mount or ‘snail mount’, quaintly described by one writer as ‘writhing about with degrees like turnings of cockle-shells, to come to the top without pain’, an elaborate way of explaining the spiral paths. Here at Marlborough, in 1654, John Evelyn noted that ‘we ascended by windings for near half a mile’; and he admired the ‘universall prospect not only of the gardens but of the whole country’ visible from the top.  

The gardens were probably laid out in the years before the Civil War. Ten years later, Sir Robert Moray, one of the founders of the Royal Society, described it in detail, including the belvedere and an octagonal building at the top. The views of the house and ‘Mount’ were drawn by another visitor in 1723, William Stukeley, whose drawings are carefully dated, but not always totally accurate. By this time, the owner of Marlborough House was Lord Hertford, whose wife Frances was an enthusiastic gardener: she wrote that ‘almost every little ornament had been made either by my lord’s or my own contrivance’. Stukeley also added her plan of the garden to his description of it. Twenty years later, Lady Hertford’s future son in law, Sir Hugh Smithson, called the Mound ‘one of the noblest and most surprising works he ever saw’.