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13 November 2014

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You are in: Wiltshire > History > Archive Films > Day Out: Avebury and Marlborough

'Day Out: Avebury and Marlborough' opening titles

Day Out: Avebury and Marlborough titles

Day Out: Avebury and Marlborough

Watch a BBC West programme made in 1982, whose presenter spends a day exploring two of Wiltshire's most visited towns and villages - Avebury and Marlborough.

'Day Out' was a BBC West region television programme which ran for a number of series between 1977-1988.

Each half-hour episode saw one of the presenters - Derek Jones, Gwyn Richards or Barry Paine pay a visit to a different town in the South West - explore parts of interest, and reflect upon the area's history.

In terms of historical research, each programme is as valid today as when it was made. And it's fascinating to see how the many Wiltshire locations they visited then looked in the late 70s to early 80s.

Broadcast on 5th November 1982 was an edition of the programme which centred on two of Wiltshire's most visited tourist spots - Avebury, the village inside a stone circle, and the market town of Marlborough. 

Erstwhile presenter Gwyn Richards begins his day out amongst the Sarsen stones on the Marlborough Downs.

It was from the Marlborough Downs where the Sarsen sandstones were dragged to build the largest stone circle in the world, at Avebury.

As Richards notes in his narration set to views of the stones, one school of thought is that the circle was constructed back in the Neolithic period to some precise geometric plan of astronomical significance. Another theory is that the circle was inspired by some unknown religion.

Gwyn Richards among the stones at Avebury

Gwyn Richards among the stones at Avebury

As Richards wanders around the circle he quotes the 17th century writer John Aubrey who wrote of the stones; "It as far surpasses Stonehenge, as a cathedral does a church."

Richards pays a visit to the Alexander Keiller Museum and talks to the Avebury custodian Peter Tate about the skeleton that was found underneath one of the stone megaliths in 1938 by noted archaeologist Keiller himself.

The skeleton was found with coins dating back to the 14th century as well as some scissors and a primitive medical probe. It was deduced that the man who'd been unfortunate to have the stone topple upon him had been a barber-surgeon.

Also whilst in the village of Avebury, Richards finds time to visit the model railway exhibition at Avebury Manor, and witness a street performance outside the Great Barn from a local morris dancing troupe.

The neolithic mound of Silbury Hill

The neolithic mound of Silbury Hill

Before leaving Avebury, Richards discusses the nearby Silbury Hill - the largest man-made mound in Europe and dating back to around 2350BC.

He also pays a visit to West Kennet Long Barrow and ventures inside the barrow's dark catacombs where he remarks; "You really do feel as if you are in the steps of stone-age man."

The next segment of the programme centres on the historic Wiltshire town of Marlborough.

After we see numerous contemporary views of the High Street, Richards stands atop St Peter's Church tower and tells of the Statute of Marlborough - the set of laws passed by King Henry III at a parliament held in the town in 1267.

Marlborough High Street in 1982

Marlborough High Street in 1982

Then follows more shots taken in and around the town centre as Richards in his narration remarks on the varied architecture of the buildings and the gems to be found along the many hidden alleyways.

Richards also visits Marlborough College and reflects on its history. He visits the site of what's left of the once famed Castle Inn, a popular rest point for the many stagecoaches which traversed the Bath-London road. The Inn eventually became the nucleus of the college campus.

Following aerial views of Savernake Forest, Richards reaches the Kennet & Avon Canal and Crofton Pumping Station.

The canal relied on the beam engines of the pumping station in order for its water levels to remain topped up. 

Richards at Crofton Pumping Station

Richards at Crofton Pumping Station

The programme finally ends with Richards in the beam gallery of the pumping station admiring the engine at work.

Day Out: Avebury and Marlborough' is a fascinating programme which delves deep into the history of some of Wiltshire's most well-known towns and villages. It will appeal to anyone with an interest in the county's rich historical heritage or who has ever lived in, or visited the area.

last updated: 23/08/2008 at 10:11
created: 11/08/2008

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