The hugely smart market town of Marlborough is a pretty peachy place to call home (it’s got a Space NK, a Rick Stein restaurant and the poshest branch of Waitrose outside Belgravia). Less than half an hour south of the M4, backing onto gorgeous Wiltshire countryside, the school itself sits just off the eastern end of the high street in 286 acres of grounds. Its compact centre is focused around Court, with its imposing original school buildings and gothic-style chapel.
A skip across busy Bath Road takes you to some of the boarding houses, playing fields, music and art schools and a clutch of other extensions built to keep up with the school’s growth. Having the town on the doorstep counts for a lot – it prevents cabin fever and the urge to escape to London at weekends, and locals are both pupils’ best friends and biggest critics (you can guarantee any public slips in standards will swiftly make it back to the powers-that-be). Pewsey and Swindon are the nearest train stations.
Team sports rule and everyone is encouraged to represent the school, irrespective of ability. Rugby is big for the boys (we hear Radley and Teddies are the grudge matches), while girls scoop up silverware in hockey, lacrosse and netball. There’s no shortage of space or playing fields, and the swanky facilities include a Wattbike studio used for rehabilitation and pre-match training, a flash hydraulic-bottom swimming pool for scuba diving and a sleek health-club-style fitness centre, heaving with sixth-formers slurping smoothies. Other options are fishing on the River Kennet, polo, fives, rackets and golf on the Marlborough Downs.
Co-curricular is key and this lot hardly draw breath. Budding musicians benefit from masterclasses and workshops led by eminent composers and performers, while thesps are mentored by a director-in-residence and welcome visiting touring companies to the school’s two theatres. Art takes place in a modern, purpose-built studio, plus there’s an annual visual arts week and an artist-in-residence.
There’s a strong outdoorsy tradition, with heaps of climbing, canoeing, mountain biking and clay-pigeon shooting, and expeditions to places such as Nepal, Kilimanjaro and Iceland. CCF is compulsory for a term. Clubs and societies are both academic (20th-century drama, medicine, Shakespeare) and light-hearted (racing, retro book club, tug of war) and the ‘Life after Marlborough’ lecture series is a must for sixth-formers.
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