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More plausibly, the town's name probably derives from the medieval term for chalky ground "marl" – thus "town on chalk".

Further evidence of human occupation comes from the discovery in St Margaret's Mead of the Marlborough Bucket, an Iron Age burial bucket made of fir wood with three iron hoops, a top bar and two handles; it also sports bronze bands decorated with human heads and mythical animals, and is now on display at the Wiltshire Museum in Devizes.

Ms Philp added: "Given the fragility of these examples and climate change now and then, it is incredibly important to obtain as much information as possible whenever the opportunity arises." The analysis was funded by the Cambrian Archaeological Society and the Gower Society and further research is now under way to better understand the ancient environment and the people who lived in it.

The Norman font is carved with different designs on all four sides, and would have originally stood at the back of the nave.

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On John Speed's map of Wiltshire (1611), the town's name is recorded as Marlinges boroe.

The town's motto is Ubi nunc sapientis ossa Merlini - Where now are the bones of wise Merlin.


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