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The aim of the Merchantís House Trust is to restore and refurbish this historic house to the highest standards, rolling back time for our visitors to around 1680, when Thomas Bayly, silk merchant and leading citizen of Marlborough, lived here with his family and servants, This multi-layered project also aims to provide stimulating educational, social and creative activities for its many volunteers and the local community.
The Trust, which is a company limited by guarantee and a registered charitable trust, was set up in 1991 with the specific aim of conserving and restoring 132 High Street, Marlborough, the major part of the house built by the silk merchant, Thomas Bayly, in 1656. Thanks to the farsightedness of the Marlborough Town Council, which purchased the freehold of no. 132 in 1991 and is represented on the Board of Trustees, and to its generosity in leasing the property to the Trust for a peppercorn rent, the Trust has over the years been able to restore most of no. 132, employing conservation experts and craftsmen who work to the highest possible standards. Also, as part of its obligation to the Town Council, the Trust has agreed to devote part of the premises to museum exhibitions of items of local interest as soon as space permits.
In 1992, the Merchant's House Shop, operated by the Trust's subsidiary trading company, opened. By keeping to a policy of selling good quality, imaginative giftware it has built up a substantial loyal clientele and has consistently been able to contribute a healthy profit to the project.
In 1999 the Trust purchased the freehold of no. 133, being the remainder of Thomas Bayly's original building. This is currently let but in due course will be taken back into possession by the Trust and integrated with no.132.
In 2002 the Trust purchased the freehold of the old Print Works, an 18th cent building to the rear of no.133, which it has converted into two ground floor offices, one occupied by the Trust administration, the other let to the Marlborough Jazz Festival. The first floor flat, currently let, will in due course house the Trust's Library and Archives as well as a meeting room for the Friends of the Trust.
The Trust is governed by a Board of Trustees, elected by members of the Trust Company. Four committees, Interpretation & Curatorial, Building & Maintenance, Finance & Trading, and Development deal with specific aspects and are answerable to the Board. Support is provided by a Trust Manager, who reports to the Board, and an Administrator, both part-time, and by Volunteers. There is also a part-time Historical Adviser.
With over 420 Friends, nearly 100 Volunteers and 8 part-time Staff the Trust is a thriving and busy organisation which makes a substantial contribution to the cultural, historic and touristic life of the Town.
Thanks to generous grants and donations, to constant fundraising over the years and to careful management of its finances, the Trust's financial position is relatively healthy although because of the nature of the project it has little in the way of cash reserves and continual fundraising will be necessary for the foreseeable future.
If funds are donated for a specific purpose, such as restoring wall paintings in a particular room, then under UK charitable law they can only be spent for that purpose and the Trust accounts will reflect this. Trust income and expenditure is constantly monitored. Budgets for expenditure are agreed at the commencement of each year and there is no unauthorised expenditure.