The Castle Inn and Marlborough College

By 1745, Lord and Lady Hertford had acquired estates elsewhere, including Percy Lodge at Windsor, which had a handsome garden. Lord Hertford wrote to his agent at Marlborough instructing him to lease out the Marlborough garden on a twenty-one-year lease. After his death in 1750, the house was also leased, to become the Castle Inn. As it was on the main road from Bath to London, it flourished until the coming of the railway from London to Bristol in 1841 threatened its business. It was at this point that the house became the home of Marlborough College, one of the country’s leading independent schools. A picture painted within a few years of the school’s foundation, which shows only the house, (with the eighteenth-century offices and stable yard to the left), also depicts the Mound as in reasonably good order. A detail (not visible in the image above) shows groups of pupils walking behind the hedge bordering the spiral path.  

From this point onwards, successive drawings and photographs of the Mound are a record of creeping neglect and invasive structures, including a chimney for the College laundry and a large iron water tank replacing an early reservoir for the water supply to the house. Lady Hertford’s ‘little wilderness of flowering shrubs’ in 1741, became a wilderness of random buildings and trees; the name remained, but with a very different meaning. The dining hall of the College was placed on the very edge of the Mound, and it was gradually hemmed in by buildings and covered by an uncontrolled growth of trees until it was almost invisible.