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Marlborough Mound

Primeval, stepped, penetrated by grottos and failed art projects, this mighty elephant in the genteel room of the College. We tiptoe around it, accessing common rooms and kitchens through its tarmacced moat, criss-crossing Court as if we were legitimate inheritors of the bailey, the coaching inn. Even the road to Aqua Sulis swerves to mark this one; or is it the castle they’re avoiding? Or perhaps that very shifty uncertainty is what makes it so hard to acknowledge, so easy to ignore, barbarian and uncomfortable at the heart of all this order. Even the grotto has shifted: from gothick hermitage to classical cavern, within a real feast of shell-like spaces and deep lapis blue. I climbed it once: at the top, some brickwork and a tank, and the words ‘Lavinia and Adam made love here’. Or should that be Merlin and Shrek? Names have been changed, history 4 ever 2 gether 4 never 2 part.

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