Battle of Marlborough: Blue Plaque Blink

Near this place, on 5th December 1642, a Royalist army fought their way into the town and defeated the Parliamentary garrison.

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In 1642 Marlborough's peace was shattered by what was to become known as the First Civil War (1642-46).

After an initial inconclusive campaign period in October and November 1642, the King retired to Oxford which became his new headquarters. Large-scale campaigning was then put off until the following spring, so instead the King turned his attention to smaller targets within easy striking range of Oxford, and the first of these targets was the town of Marlborough.

Despite the inclement weather, the King sent Lord Digby, a courtier and close advisor to the King, to take the town and he led a force of 400 cavalry out of Oxford on 24th November, arriving on the 25th on Marlborough Common, where Digby 'sounded a parley' expecting the town to surrender straightaway.

Vincent Goddard, a local Royalist in Digby's brigade was the King's representative at the 'parley' and the town/Parliament was represented by Sir Neville Poole. Poole was one of Malmesbury's two MPs and had arrived at Marlborough to help organise the town's militia that were about 150 strong.

But by chosing to parley first, Digby gave the town a chance to prepare defences and to recruit more troops and they mustered about seven hundred poorly armed men. The town therefore refused to give in, firing shots into the air at the 'parley' to emphasise what would happen if Digby tried to attack. Digby was therefore forced to retire to Aldbourne for the night and was pursued by the men of Marlborough, who captured Vincent Goddard and forced Digby to march on at night to Wantage.

Digby then retreated back to Oxford where Henry Wilmot, the King's lieutenant general of horse, united his dragoons with Digby's horse to form a combined army of 3,300 men. The King's men then returned to Marlborough with this overwhelming force arriving to the north of Marlborough on the 3rd and 4th December. Then after a number of early skirmishes, the Royalist troops stormed into the town through a passage leading to one of the great inns with the cry, "A town! A town for King Charles!"

It is possible that this 'breakthrough' came through what is now the yard of the Castle & Ball hotel. However any of the back passages leading off the north of the High Street could have been used. "Chandler's Yard", by the White Horse Bookshop, used to be called "Horse-passage Yard" so it could have been this way that the Royalists came. However the Blue Plaque commemorating this 'Battle of Marlborough' is on the wall to the right of the entrance to the Castle & Ball yard.

The town was therefore captured and looted and many buildings were set ablaze and 120 prisoners were marched in chains to Oxford. However the town was later abandoned by the King and took no further part in the war.

Blue Plaque Location:

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Click here for details of a circular walk linking all the Blue Plaques

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MADT would like to thank Eric Gilbert who supplied images for this page.

More information about Marlborough's history can be found at the web site of the "Marlborough History Society" (MHS).

MADT would also like to acknowledge that some of the content of this page may have been abstracted and updated from the MHS material.