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Town Hall, Trowbridge.jpg
Trowbridge Town Hall, as seen from Fore Street
Grid reference: ST8557
Location: 51°19’1"N, 2°13’1"W
Population: 28,163  (2001)
Post town: Trowbridge
Postcode: BA14
Dialling code: 01225
Local Government
Council: Wiltshire
South West Wiltshire

Trowbridge is a town in Wiltshire, standing on the River Biss in the west of the county, approximately 12 miles southeast of Bath, Somerset.

The Kennet and Avon canal runs to the north of Trowbridge and played a large part in the development of the town as it allowed coal to be transported from the Somerset Coalfield. The town was also a major centre in the textile industry in south west England in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and was described as "The Manchester of the West".[1]

Name of the town=

The origin of the name Trowbridge is uncertain; one source claims derivation from treow brycg, meaning "Tree Bridge", referring to the first bridge over the Biss,[2][3] while another states that the true meaning is the bridge by Trowle, the name of a hamlet and a common to the west of the town.[4] On John Speed's map of Wiltshire (1611), the name is spelt Trubridge.


Early history

There is evidence that the land on which Trowbridge is built was being farmed more than 3,000 years ago. In the 10th century there is clear evidence of Trowbridge's existence and in the Domesday Book the manor of Straburg, as Trowbridge was then known, was recorded as having 100 residents.[3]


The first mention of Trowbridge Castle was in 1139 [5] when it was besieged, but when the castle was built is not known.

The castle is thought to have been a motte-and-bailey castle, and its influences can still be seen in the town today. Fore Street follows the path of the castle ditch,[6] and its name is given to Castle Street and the Castle Place Shopping Centre.

Wool industry

From the 13th century onwards Trowbridge developed a clothing industry, increasingly becoming industrialised from the 17th century onwards. However increasing mechanisation was resisted by workers in traditional trades and there were riots in 1785, 1792 and in the era of luddite machine-breakers at the introduction of the flying shuttle;[7] Thomas Helliker, a shearman's apprentice, was hanged at Salisbury in 1803.

Notwithstanding the depridations of the machine-brakers, in 1820 Trowbridge was being described as the "Manchester of the West" for it had over 2,000 wool-producing factories; comparable to Northern industrial towns such as Rochdale.[8]

The wool industry declined in the late 19th century with the advent of ring-spinning and this decline continued throughout the 20th century. The last mill, Salter's Home Mill, closed in 1982 and is now the home of Trowbridge Museum,[9] integrated into The Shires Shopping Centre. Clark's Mill is now home to offices and the County Court; straddling the nearby River Biss is "The Handle House", formerly used for drying and storage of teazles used to raise the nap of cloth. This is one of very few such buildings still known to exist in the United Kingdom; another example can be found at Bowlish near Shepton Mallet.

1800s to present

In its place a bedding industry developed, initially using wool cast off from the mills – the company now known as Airsprung Furniture Group plc was started in the town in the 1870s. Food processing also developed in the town when Abraham Bowyer started his business in 1805 which eventually, as Pork Farms Bowyers, became one of the largest employers in the town until its closed in April 2008 and work moved to the Shaftesbury and Nottingham factories.

Bureaucracy set its heart on Trowbridge in 1889 when a new county council was created and sought a home with good railway connections from the north and south of Wiltshire.

The brewing company Ushers of Trowbridge opened in 1824, and developed the brewery in the town – this was finally shut in 2000 following several changes of ownership. Food works continue in the town though through one company, Apetito, which is one of the largest employers in town.

Sights of the town

The River Biss and the Town Bridge
Holy Trinity Church
Drinking well, Frome Road

There is much of architectural interest in Trowbridge, including many of the old buildings associated with the textile industry, and the Newtown conservation area, a protected zone of mostly Victorian houses. The Town Hall is in Market Street, opposite the entrance to the pedestrianised Fore Street. This "imposing building" was presented to the residents of the town by a local businessman, Sir William Roger Brown in 1889, to celebrate Queen Victoria's fiftieth year on the throne.[10] It is currently used for inquests, including military inquests.

The town has six Grade I listed buildings:

  • St James's Church
  • Lovemead House
  • 46, 64, 68 and 60 Fore Street


The town centre is compact, and the focus for shops is the ancient Fore Street; the more modern Shires]] and Castle Place shopping centres provide a wide variety of outlets. The Shires Gateway, situated by the entrance to the Shires shopping centre car park, was opened in 2009.

Leisure and entertainment

  • The Arc Theatre
  • The Civic Hall provides a conference and entertainment venue
  • The Town Park

Trowbridge is part of the historic West Country Carnival circuit, and has also given its name to the Trowbridge Village Pump Festival, originally held in the old stablehouse of The Lamb Inn public house but now held at Stowford Manor Farm.



  1. "Wiltshire Council - Wiltshire Community History Get Community Information". Retrieved 2011-03-04. 
  2. Town Official Guide, Trowbridge Town Council, 2008
  3. 3.0 3.1 Origins of the name Trowbridge: website. Retrieved on 25 January 2008.
  4. Lewis, Harold (1978). The Church Rambler, Volume 2. Hamilton, Adams & Co.. pp. 199–226. 
  5. First mention of Trowbridge Castle: Local Authority Publishing website. Retrieved on January 25, 2008.
  6. Graham, Alan H., and Susan M. Davies (1993). Excavations in Trowbridge, Wiltshire, 1977 and 1986-1988: The Prehistoric, Saxon, and Saxo-Norman Settlements and the Anarchy Period Castle. Salisbury: Wessex Archaeology. pp. 1. 
  7. "Machine-breaking in England and France during the Age of Revolution". Retrieved 2008-03-16. 
  8. "Economic History". Retrieved 2008-03-16. 
  9. The Trowbridge Woollen Industry as Illustrated by the Stock Books of John and Thomas Clark, 1804-1824, John Clark & Thomas Clark & R. P. Beckinsale, Wiltshire Record Society/Biddles Ltd, 1973.
  10. Architecture - Trowbridge Town Hall: Local Authority Publishing website. Retrieved on January 25, 2008.

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Trowbridge)