A new attraction in town: Marlborough Museum opens in The Merchant's House
When the Merchant's House was bought by Marlborough Town Council in 1991 the aim was to turn it into Marlborough's Museum. Then it was discovered that the House was itself a museum exhibit of great importance - and in urgent need of expert care restoration.
Restoration and renovation became paramount and experts were called in to save the structure and its unique wall coverings, wall paintings, panelling and its great oak staircase. Plans for the Museum had to be put to one side - though gifts and loans of likely exhibits continued to arrive.
On Wednesday, April 18 the Marlborough Museum will have its official opening - a ceremony to be combined with the annual payment to the Town Council of the peppercorn rent the Merchant's House Trust is charged for leasing the building.
In the presence of the Lord Lieutenant of Wiltshire, Mrs Sarah Rose Troughton CStJ, the Museum will be declared open by Sir John Sykes, who was instrumental in obtaining the Merchant's House for the town when it was being sold by W.H. Smith who had closed their shop there. He was chairman of the trustees until 2016.
Sir John is delighted the Museum will finally be opened for residents and visitors to learn more about Marlborough's history: "When the Town council purchased the freehold of 132 High Street in 1991 and kindly leased it to the Trust at a peppercorn rent, we promised that as soon as it was in a position to do so the Trust would provide a museum recounting the story of the town."
"Having purchased No.133, obtained possession of the upper floors, and with the assistance of a most generous grant from local donors fitted out the museum, the Trust is now able to deliver that promise to the town and to the community."
Clyde Nancarrow is the current Chair of Trustees: "Marlborough has been without a museum for too long. We look forward to it making a valued contribution to the town and the local area."
Guests for the opening will have a chance to see the exhibits. It will then be open to the public at the end of April. Looked after by volunteers, it will normally open on Fridays and Saturdays - 10am to 4pm.
The Merchant's House was built after Marlborough's Great Fire (1653) as home for silk merchant Thomas Bayly and his family.
Among the treasures on display in the Marlborough Museum will be a collection of bells made in the Aldbourne bell foundry, a very large aerial photograph of Marlborough taken in the early 50s and a collection of wheelwright’s equipment and models of the carts for which the wheels would have been made.